By nature cats are known to be independent animals, and even pet moggies will often spend days away from home prowling around the neighbourhood and climbing trees.

But just because our feline friends seem self-sufficient doesn't mean that owners can afford not to take responsibility for their cats and ensure that they are happy, healthy pets.

This becomes especially important as cats get older and their healthcare requirements change, as they become more susceptible to certain conditions such as arthritis and chronic pain.

However, a recent survey commissioned for Cat Awareness Month has revealed a worrying lack of knowledge when it comes to our pet cats, with almost a quarter (24 per cent) of owners polled admitting they are unaware of their cat's age.

In addition, more than half (59 per cent) of the owners said they do not take their cat to the vet for regular check-ups and 82 per cent revealed they had not given thought to taking their feline for an old-age check.

"Just like humans, cats' behaviour and healthcare requirements can change dramatically as they get older," explains Clair Bessant, CEO of the charity Feline Advisory Bureau.

"It is important that owners take their cat for regular check-ups, ideally at least once a year, particularly if they are unsure of their age or health."

Another consideration worth bearing in mind as is your cat's diet, since felines' nutritional requirements also change with age and it may be with switching to a brand such as Hill's cat food which provides food specially designed for older pets.

Clair also recommends that owners learn to understand signs that their pet is suffering from chronic pain, as the survey showed that three-quarters of people with cats are currently unable to recognise these symptoms.

"The main signs include a change in temperament, such as becoming withdrawn, reduced grooming and reduced activity," she says.

"If owners are concerned that their cat might be in pain, then they should always consult their vet."

Written by: Adrian