Old Pets on the Block

This week here at SLVC we were kindly given a mention on another blog. And not just any blog – oh no, this is the blog of the most senior feline in our care, Ollie the cat (AKA Mr Ollie). Ollie is 25 years old and – let’s face it – a bit of a legend around here. His owner reports that he’s recently ‘relearnt’ how to jump! It’s great to hear that his quarter of a century isn’t slowing our feline friend down at all as Ollie continues to leap around causing entertainment and more than a little mayhem at home. Well done Ollie!

This got me thinking about the oldest known pets …

A Golden-Oldie Goldfish

In 2019, George – thought to be Britain’s oldest goldfish – sadly passed away at the remarkable age of 44. He outlived his fishy friend Fred, who’d been won at the same fair in 1974, by two years.

Remarkable Rubble

Last year saw the sad departure of Rubble from Exeter who, at 31, was Britain’s oldest cat. While Rubble was believed to be the oldest living cat in the UK at the time, he didn’t break the world record. The world’s oldest known cat was ‘Crème Puff’ from Texas, who died aged 38 years and 3 days! Crème Puff makes our Ollie seem like a kitten – there’s plenty of years of leaping about to be enjoyed yet, Mr Ollie!

Three Twenty-Six Year Old Terriers

Last year, there were reports of two Yorkshire Terriers from Leicestershire – Tom and Candy – who’d celebrated their 26th birthdays! They lived together with the same owner, but weren’t related. I’m not sure whether the pair are still around to celebrate their 27th birthdays this year, but let’s hope so! Prior to news of Tom and Candy, the oldest dog in the UK had been another Yorkie, Jack, who died in 2016 aged 26. The average lifespan of a Yorkshire Terrier is usually 12-15 years, so these three had done exceptionally well.

The world’s oldest recorded dog was an Australian Cattle Dog called Bluey, who lived to the ripe old age of 29.

Tremendous Tortoises

As you may expect, the oldest known pets are indeed tortoises. Britain’s record-holding tortoise, a female named Tommy, is 123 years old. Bought aged 11 from a market in 1909, she has outlived two owners so far! However, Tommy is a mere spring chicken compared to Jonathan, who, according to the Guinness World Records in 2019, was the oldest land animal at 187. Originally from the Seychelles, Jonathan has spent the majority of his life on the remote island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. Maybe living on a paradise island is the secret to his longevity! I’d certainly be willing to test that theory…

 

Caring for older pets:

If you have a pet of, how shall I put it, more advancing years, how should you look after them? Do you need to alter your pet care in accordance with their age? Well, just like humans, more senior pets do sometimes require some adaptations as their needs change over time.

One of the key things to keep an eye on as your pet gets older is their weight. Changes to their activity levels as well as their body processes can mean that they don’t need as much food or quite the same diet as they’ve previously enjoyed. Putting on weight can put additional unnecessary pressure on joints as well as their heart and other organs, so it’s important to keep their weight in check. Your vet will be able to advise you on whether they’re an appropriate weight for their age and breed, and will also give you some tips on the right kind of diet to provide all the nutrients they need at this stage of their life. On the same note, if your pet suddenly loses weight or their appetite dwindles then have them checked over by your vet as these could be symptoms of other health problems that need addressing.

Also, just like people, pets can experience problems with their teeth as they get older. While proper dental care needs to begin earlier on in life (because you can’t reverse tooth decay!) it’s important to keep an eye on your pet’s teeth as problems can cause lots of pain and discomfort, as well as leading to difficulty eating which in turn brings about further issues. You can use special toothbrushes and toothpaste for pets or, if they’re not keen on this (it’s often an unpopular pastime for Fido and Kitty) then you can buy dental chews and special toys that are effective, too.

While it’s inevitable that your pet will slow up a bit in their twilight years you should still encourage them to keep moving. Although Fido may not dash about as much as he did as a pup, it’s important that you still take him for walks to keep those joints moving. Maybe adapt the route and allow a little more time for a steadier pace, but keep him active. Likewise, Kitty should still be encouraged to go out and explore or, if you don’t like to let her roam free outdoors, consider a ‘run’ to create a safe area for fresh air and exercise. You can also help your pets to keep their brains sharp by playing with toys and puzzle balls – they’re the pet equivalent of doing the crossword in the Sunday paper!

Again, as with older humans, you might need to make some adaptations in the home for your pet. If they can’t manage stairs then bring their bed downstairs, but make sure it’s still comfy and inviting with blankets to keep them warm and cosy. Dogs might need a ramp to help them into the car, or on steps in the garden to keep this area accessible.

If, at any age, you notice a very sudden decline in their physical ability or change in behaviour, energy or activity levels then get your pet to the vet for a check-up ASAP. We’ll do our best to resolve any health issues … and hopefully keep your pet fit and healthy for many years to come. You never know, you might have the next Guinness World Record holder!