It’s tough getting old! Aches and pains, changes in mood, sleeping and eating habits, and even loss of memory are all issues that can arise from the natural aging process, something cats share with their humans. But cats have a secret weapon as they reach their golden years- their loving owners!
Since we know our kitties best, we can see when they are slowing down, or going through physical or mental changes as they age. Helping our furry felines navigate these changes can mean all the difference between a scared and confused elderly feline, and one who feels safe and confident.
In this guide, we’ll explore some simple tips that can help
your elderly cat be more comfortable, while addressing their changing needs.
But first, let’s take a look at what can happen to an aging cat.
Kittens sure do have a lot of energy! Grown cats are usually still playful and energetic, but as they hit their senior years between 11 to 14, they may behave quite differently. Due to beneficial changes in pet nutrition and health care, some cats are even living into their early twenties! That’s like 80 to 100 years old in human years! These geriatric critters often experience decreased energy levels, increased sleeping times, and even some new behavioral issues.
Some people may think that their cat is just getting older, but any changes in eating, sleeping and eliminating could point to a medical issue. Your elderly cat could be experiencing conditions such as:
- Dental disease
- Kidney disease
- Urinary infections
- Digestive problems
- Muscle weakness
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Loss of bladder and bowel control
While you can’t stop your cat from the natural aging
process, you can help them get through age-related issues safely by taking a
few extra steps.
Even if your cat sleeps a lot more, has trouble getting up the stairs, or sometimes forgets where they are, they are still the same loving furiend you know and love, and would surely appreciate a helping hand. Make life easier for your pal with these simple steps.
#1 Make the Litter Box More Accessible
If your cat is eliminating outside the box, they could be suffering from arthritis, kidney disease or digestive issues. They could also furget where the box is due to cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Help them access their bathroom by keeping the walls of the box low to make getting in and out easier, put litter boxes on every floor of the house, and find quiet areas that won’t startle your cat when using the box.
Cleaning litter boxes more frequently can also encourage your cat to keep going there, and gives you an insight into their health. If urination is more frequent, it could be a sign of diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure, while changes in bowel elimination could alert you to constipation and other digestive issues.
#2 Make Stairs and Jumps Easier
The loss of mobility is common in older cats, and can range from mild to severe. The pain of arthritis is often the cause, although some cats can experience muscle weakness too. These issues can stop a cat in their tracks and limit where they can go.
Help your furry bestie get to his favorite chair or windowsill perch by buying or making carpeted ramps or pet stairs to make the journey less painful. If stairs are the issue, build extra stairs or small ramps on one side of the steps to give them secure footing that’s easier to navigate.
#3 Choose Bedding for Comfort
Arthritic and mobility-challenged kitties may also need some extra padding and warmth to be comfortable enough to get their rest, so take a look at your cat’s bed and sleeping areas. Ideally, providing cushier beds and bedding can give them the comfort they seek. Memory foam cushions bones and muscles to allow a deeper and more satisfying sleep.
Older cats are often more sensitive to cold too, so while you are placing their beds in easy to reach places, be aware of drafty areas to avoid. Adding another blanket can help them retain more heat, but steer clear of electric blankets as they are not only dangerous if chewed on, but can get too hot for cats.
#4 Provide the Right Nutrition
As your cat ages, they may need special diet considerations, especially if they are dealing with a medical issue. They also are more at risk of dehydration due to lack of mobility, a dry food only diet, and certain conditions, such as deteriorating kidney function.
Talk with your veterinarian about the right diet and nutritional needs for your cat and their particular situation, and consider adding in wet food that is higher in moisture to combat the risk of dehydration. Senior cat formulas often have fewer calories along with extra fiber, fatty acids, vitamins, and sometimes probiotics to help support their bodies. Create several food and water stations in easy to access areas, such as on each level of the house, or in the same room as their bed or litter box. Monitor how much they are eating and drinking to gauge their changing health needs.
#5 Lend an Extra Paw for Grooming
If you’ve ever been to a nursing home, you’ve seen how some older folks are unable to take care of themselves. Cats can also suffer from medical issues that stop them from basic grooming too, such as painful arthritis. If your cat stops grooming, lend a helping “paw” by gently brushing, bathing and grooming your cat. Regular grooming and petting not only improves their circulation, but it also deepens your bond and can help your cat feel safe.
Longhaired cats can quickly develop matted hair, so creating a routine grooming time can help you stay ahead of the problem. You can also trim up areas around their backend to help keep them clean. And don’t furget to trim those kitty claws so they don’t overgrow into their soft paw pads!
#6 Increase Vet Visits
While veterinarians generally recommend yearly visits for cats, once they hit their senior years, they’ll need more attention. A check-up every six months is recommended for elderly cats to monitor their changing condition. You’ll want to discuss any changes in sleeping, eating, elimination or behavior that you’ve noticed with your veterinarian. Routine dental check-ups are also critical as many older cats experience issues with their teeth such as pain or tooth loss that can affect their eating.
The good news is that your vet can often recommend medications and treatments to help any issues that arise, as well as make suggestions to help your cat at home. Catching certain conditions early can even slow down their development and extend your cat’s mobility and years.
#7 Spread On the Love
While some older cats may become more independent, many will savor those cuddle and bonding sessions with you more than ever. Having your support and love can go a long way to reducing your cat’s stress and anxiety, and give them the reassurance they need that they are being taken care of.
This is especially true if your cat has lost their sight, hearing or mental
faculties, as your touch and care can literally be life-saving. Give your cat
all the attention they crave, while providing physical and mental
stimulation with increased petting and playtimes to keep your cat feeling
safe and absolutely loved.
Elderly cats can come with some unusual issues, but with your
support, they can continue to live a happy and fulfilling life with their best