AAFP releases updated guidelines on care of senior cats

According to the American Association of Feline Practitioners, understanding the changing needs of each and every older cat is critical for both veterinarians and cat owners.

On June 29, the AAFP announced the release of the updated AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines 2021, which will appear in the July issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. This update covers emerging advances in feline medicine related to the aging cat. The guideline task force provides an up-to-date overview of feline medicine that focuses on the individual elderly patient.

“Focusing on each cat encourages and empowers the owner to become a part of cat care at every step,” the executive summary reads. “A comprehensive discussion during the physical examination and history taking enables the approach to be tailored to both the cat and the family involved in caring for it.”

The task force recommends veterinary visits every six months for cats 10-15 years of age and every four months for cats over 15 years of age. Cats with chronic health problems may need more frequent examinations.

In the AAFP announcement, Dr. Michael Ray, task force co-chair and medical director of the Cat Clinic of Roswell in Roswell, Ga., Said the guidelines introduce the emerging concept of frailty in cats and how clinicians can incorporate that concept into senior cat assessments.

According to the document, “Frailty is a syndrome that is more common with age and in which the patient has decreased functional reserve, leading to a decline in physiological and cognitive performance and a greater susceptibility to adverse medical outcomes.”

Dr. Ray said the guidelines also outline common issues in aging cats such as pain management, diet and weight management, diseases and conditions, quality of life, and end-of-life decisions.

The document includes a discussion of how quality of life and health-related quality of life affect the aging cat and stresses that veterinarians should work with cat owners to make informed decisions for the individual elderly cat.

“It is important to consider the effects of a cat’s disease on the owner,” the guidelines say. “The Task Force recognizes that cat owners have four budgets to consider when creating treatment plans, including euthanasia: financial, temporal, emotional and physical.”

The AAFP provides the veterinary teams with additional resources in addition to the guidelines. Resources include information on tools for measuring quality of life and health-related quality of life, videos on myofascial exam techniques and cat-friendly tips for dental exams, and a printable customer brochure.

The 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines and supplementary resources can be found on the AAFP website. For resources for cat owners, including the new brochure, visit the Cat Friendly Homes website.