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August 15, 2021

AAFP releases updated guidelines on care of senior cats

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Understanding the changing needs of each individual senior cat is critical for both veterinary professionals and cat owners, according to the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

On June 29, the AAFP announced the release of the updated 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines, appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. This update covers emerging advances in feline medicine with respect to the aging cat. The guidelines task force provides a current review in feline medicine that emphasizes the individual senior patient.

“Focusing on each cat encourages and empowers the owner to become a part of the cat’s care every step of the way,” according to the abstract. “A comprehensive discussion during the physical examination and history taking allows for tailoring the approach to both the cat and the family involved in the care.”

Long-haired senior cat resting on the floor

The task force recommends veterinary visits every six months for cats 10-15 years old and every four months for cats over 15. Cats with chronic health issues may need to be seen even more frequently.

In the AAFP announcement, Dr. Michael Ray, co-chair of the task force and medical director of the Cat Clinic of Roswell in Roswell, Georgia, said the guidelines introduce the newly emerging concept of frailty in cats and how practitioners can incorporate this concept into the senior cat assessment.

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

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

The document includes discussion on how quality of life and health-related quality of life impact the aging cat and emphasizes that veterinarians should partner with cat owners to make well-informed decisions for the individual senior cat.

“It is important to consider the impact of a cat’s illness on the owner,” according to the guidelines. “The Task Force recognizes that cat owners have four budgets that must all be considered when making treatment plans, including euthanasia: financial, time, emotional and physical.”

The AAFP provides supplementary resources to veterinary teams alongside the guidelines. Among the resources are information on instruments to measure quality of life and health-related quality of life, videos on myofascial examination techniques and on cat-friendly tips for dental examinations, and a printable client brochure.

The 2021 AAFP Feline Senior Care Guidelines and supplemental resources are at the AAFP website. Resources for cat owners, including the new brochure, are at the Cat Friendly Homes website.