How to Care for Your Senior Cat
They may be a kitten in your eyes forever, but your cat will eventually get older. You may be noticing small changes in your cat’s behaviour already. Here is what you can do as an owner make your cats comfortable in their golden years.
Stages and Signs of Aging
Cats are considered senior when they reach 10 years of age. Before you get worried, domestic cats regularly live into their early 20s so you still have many years with them.
Between 10 to 12 years, you may notice your cat start slowing down. They may no longer be the high-energy kitten that they once were and stop climbing or jumping as high. Regular checks at the vet become more important, as this is the age that they may start developing health problems such as arthritis or diabetes. A change in eating patterns and body weight may also happen, which can indicate more serious health issues. The quicker these health conditions are identified, the faster treatment can start to improve their quality of life.
Between 13 and 15 years, vision and hearing loss becomes more common, along with the onset of other cognitive dysfunctions. While cats sleep a lot in general, senior cats get tired easily and will become a marathon napper. Their movements and thoughts start slowing down, so any abrupt changes to their environment can cause stress and confusion. Look out for signs of confusion, such as loud meowing as if they are lost or difficulty recognizing their owners.
When your cat become 16 years or older, she is truly a senior citizen. As an owner, you should be looking out for any signs of pain or discomfort. Common signs of pain include hiding, panting, loss of appetite or a reluctance to move. If there are any mobility issues, consider aides which can help them get around, such as strategically placed ramps or pillows.
Caring for Your Senior Cat
In addition to regular vet visits to check and track your cat’s general health, there are many things you can do to help your cat age comfortably at home.
Diet and Nutrition
You may be noticing changes to your cat’s appetite, eating patterns and preferences. Nutrition becomes extremely important as it supports both physical and cognitive function. Try including foods which are high in nutritious omega-3 fats and antioxidants. Feeding your cat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day will also improve their digestion. If your cat is either over or under their ideal weight, now is the time to get them within a healthy weight range. A few extra pounds can put unnecessary stress on sore joints and bones, so monitor their food intake and get recommendations from your veterinarian.
Getting your cat to drink enough water may already be a struggle, but for senior cats, the risk of constipation or kidney disease is much higher if they are dehydrated. Older cats also may forget to drink water, so constantly remind them by placing multiple water bowls or fountains around the home. This will give them easy access to water for when they feel thirsty throughout the day. In addition, consider switching over to wet foods at meal time to increase their water intake.
Your cat may be slowing down but regular exercise can keep both their brain and body healthy. Schedule play time every day to encourage them to be active, being mindful of their physical limits. For mental exercise, consider puzzles or treat-release toys to keep those minds sharp.
Your cat may have mobility issues or other health considerations which need to be managed. As mentioned above, a carpeted cat ramp can help them comfortably reach beds or couches for cats with arthritis or joint pain. In addition, having a soft and supportive cat bed in a warm location creates a cozy environment for your feline friend to rest.
Don’t forget to check their teeth! Dental diseases, such as broken teeth or gum disease, are very common amongst senior cats. These diseases can cause unnecessary pain and infections for your cat, sometimes leading to a loss in appetite and weight. An at-home dental hygiene routine can be established, including regular brushing of your cat’s teeth and teeth inspections. Ensure that their teeth are checked during your regular vet visits.
Litter Box Behaviour
A change in your cat’s litter box behaviour can be a sign of a more serious medical issue, such as urinary infections, constipation or arthritis. Making a few changes to the litter box environment may make it more comfortable for your senior cat. Ensure the litter box is easily accessible for your elderly cat to get in and out of. Consider the placement of their litter box in the home, ensuring there are no stairs or obstacles which your cat will need to maneuver around to get to their litter box. The litter box should be placed in a quiet environment, free from anything which may startle your cat. These small adjustments can make a huge difference to your cat’s comfort levels.
Grooming and Bonding
Cats are generally very self-sufficient when it comes to grooming. However, as they get older, they may not be able to groom as well as they once did, leading to knots or mats in their fur. Give them a hand by gently combing through their fur and trimming their nails, so they remain comfortable.
This is also a great time to bond with your cat. Senior cats may prefer to spend more time alone, bundled up in their favourite hideout. However, regular interaction and stimulation with their humans is important so enjoy your special bonding time with your cat, through low-impact play time or gentle pets. Feel free to smother your cat in affection – they deserve it!
It may not be easy to see your cat aging, but with proper care and attention, your cat can age with comfort and grace. They have been with you through thick and thin so now is the time for them to enjoy their golden years.