How to care for a senior cat

 


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Some people who are fortunate enough to have a cat companion for over 10 years may be wondering if there are any tips for caring for a senior cat.  Well, there are! And I’m going to talk about a few of those here.

How old is a senior cat?

Most cats over 10 years of age are considered seniors, although some veterinarians now say 12 to 14 years due to that fact that with improved health care our pets are living longer now than ever before. Of course this leads to  dealing with new age-related conditions. As pet guardians it’s up to us to help them develop the good habits that will take the health requirements of old age into consideration.

They may not need hearing aids, dentures or eyeglasses like we do as we age, but there are other needs we on which we need to focus our attention.

Keep your senior cat indoors!

Absolutely the easiest and most important thing we can do to extend the life of our cats is to keep them indoors…exclusively. Even older cats who may have spent a great deal of time outdoors in her youth can learn to be happy and content indoors with  minimal effort on your part. A sunny window seat with view (preferably of birds and squirrels at play) as well as a place for alone time and a clean litter box are about all that’s required.

Keep an eye on dietary needs!

Sadly over 60% of cats are reported to be overweight or obese. Just as with humans, obesity in cats can be detrimental to their health. Overweight cats can suffer added stress on joints and bones, and become more prone to diabetes and liver failure. If your cat has been on a dry kibble diet you may want to start feeding wet food, either in addition or in place of dry at least one meal a day. Cats are not thirst driven like dogs, and need the additional moisture even more as they age to help prevent kidney failure, one of the most common ailments of aging cats.

Maintain regular check ups!

It is common for people to neglect to get their cats to the vet regularly once they’ve had all their vaccinations, especially if the cat is indoors exclusively. Once your cat ages beyond 10 or 12 years it is imperative that a good health baseline exam is done, and regular check ups continued to help with early detection of any problems. This can make all the difference in disease management should something arise, and also insure your cat has the best possible quality of life.

Prevent infectious diseases!

This goes hand-in-paw with regular check ups. Your vet can inform you of the greatest disease risks in your area and  provide the appropriate vaccinations for prevention and/or management should your cat contract a disease. Your vet will also know about the regulations and legal requirements for your city, county and state concerning vaccinations.

Maintain good mental health!

Your cat may not be as active as she once was, but still needs stimulation and low level activity to keep her mentally fit. While crossword puzzles are out of the question, there are other things you can do to reduce stress on kitty and keep her mind healthy. Some common stressors include: changes in environment, introduction of a new housemate, a barren environment that can produce unwanted behaviors out of boredom such as hunting, scratching and territorial marking.

Good dental hygiene!

Regular dental cleaning should be done under the care of your vet, but between visits you can help by learning how to brush your cat’s teeth.  Ask your vet about other ways you can keep kitty’s teeth and gums clean between check ups.

Practice good grooming!

Some aging cats have a more difficult time with their grooming. They may have kept themselves fastidiously clean in their youth, but stiff joints could prevent them from bending and reaching all the places they once had no problem with. You may need to increase brushing your kitty, especially if she is long haired. There are also special wet wipes for their bottoms if you notice that area becoming unkempt.

Keep your senior cat moving but comfortable!

There are toys that may have been her favorite as a kitten, and now she completely ignores them. Attempt to find new and different toys that might catch her attention at this later stage of life. Try to determine what catches her fancy…

  • catnip or care less?
  • textured (rough) or soft (plush)?
  • crinkly (foil/plastic) or quiet (balled up paper)?
  • bags or boxes?

Anything that catches her attention is a good choice, except for string or yarn, which can be swallowed and cause serious problems in an older cat while a young kitty could have easily passed it.

Also consider providing a tower. If her favorite window seat requires a short jump or climb it will give her a reason to continue that activity. One thing you don’t want to make her work for is getting into the litter box. An older cat may need a box with at lease one low side for easier access.

You can also research methods of therapeutic massage and other complementary treatments, as well as anti-inflammatory or pain relief medicines that me be helpful.

Thanks for reading, I welcome all questions and comments!

Kyle Ann

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22 thoughts on “How to care for a senior cat”

  1. Hi!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post and add your valuable comments.

    Yes, just like people a healthy diet and a bit of daily activity are essential to a cat’s health especially as they age.

    I believe all cats (and dogs) deserve to live to be seniors, and be loved by their human companions.

    Feel free to come back soon and see what’s new, or ask a question if something arises.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  2. Hi Jessie!

    Thanks for stopping by to read my post and leave your valuable comments.

    There are some dry kibble foods that are certainly more healthy than others, but adding a wet (canned) food once or twice a day will provide extra nutrition and liquid.

    Any food, canned or dry, should follow a few simple requirements. They should be grain free and the first ingredient should be a high quality protein from real meat, poultry or fish, nothing that says “protein meal” or “meat by-product”.

    Avoid corn and wheat gluten, and food dyes, as well as BHA, BHT and propylene glycol.

    Playing actively with your cat is the best way to keep them fit and trim. A laser pointer, ball of foil, toy on the end of a wand are all thing that may interest a cat and inspire it to give chase. About 15 minutes of play, especially just before bedtime, will help tire out kitty so you can get your 8 hours of sleep!

    A cat should see a veterinarian several times as a kitten to get the necessary vaccinations and deworming (nearly all kittens are born with worms, especially if one or both parents spend time outdoors).

    At about 6 months they should be spayed or neutered. This helps keep hormone levels low which prevents unwanted behaviors such as territory marking and aggression. After 1 year of age only an annual wellness exam should be necessary unless a problem arises.

    I hope this helps to answer your questions. If you think of anything else please feel free to ask.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  3. Hi Anthony,

    Thank you for taking time to read my post, and for leaving your valuable comments.

    I’m pleased that your are now both a cat and dog person, I am too. They each give us something different in the way of companionship and love.

    A couple of suggestions for helping your Mother’s cats become more active are and inexpensive laser toy that you can shine along the floor. Most cats will follow the “red dot” light. You can start out slow and continue to build up speed until they are running to chase the light along the floor and up and down from furniture.

    Another thing many cats like is simply a ball of foil. It is shiny and they can bat it with their paws and chase after it. 

    I don’t know how old these cats are, but cats can be trained to walk outdoors on a harness (not a collar).

    I hope one of these ideas will get the cats interested in becoming a bit more active to help them lose some weight and stay healthy longer.

    Feel free to come back if you have any further questions, I will be happy to help.

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  4. Hi Karin,

    Thanks for taking time to stop by and read my post, and for leaving your valuable comments.

    I’m so glad Mittens found her loving forever home with you! 

    My youngest kitty Misha loves to watch the birds and squirrels at the feeders, which are just outside the large window where I have set up the cat tree. It’s the perfect situation.

    You must be a very good pet parent if your animals live to their senior years. I think all cats (and dogs) deserve to live to be seniors.

    All the best to you, stop by again soon to see what’s new.

    Kyle Ann

  5. Hi Edu!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post, and for your great question.

    Catnip is a plant in the mint family, and was brought to America by settlers from Britain.

    The catnip plant contains a chemical (nepetalactone) which is an essential oil produced when the leaves of the plant are bruised. This is attractive to cats on a hormonal level.They will first sniff it, then rub on it and finally eat it if given the opportunity.

    It is not harmful, and actually has a mild sedative effect.

    I hope this answers your question to your satisfaction. Please feel free to come back again soon to see what’s new. 

    All the best,

    Kyle Ann

  6. Hi Paul!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post and share your comments.

    I think you handled the change to indoors only for your cats brilliantly, timing it with the move.

    And finding a trusted veterinarian is another key factor that is so very important.

    The laser pointer is a great way to engage your cats in active play and will help them shed that excess weight.

    Here’s hoping you enjoy many happy years with your furry companions.

    All the best to you!

    KyleAnn 

  7. Hi  Martin,!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post, and for sharing your comments.

    I completely agree with your evaluation of the internet!

    I appreciate your kind words and wish you many happy years with your furry companion.

    Come  back soon to see what’s new, or if you have any questions.

    All the best!

    KyleAnn

  8. Hi Linda!

    Thanks for reading my post and sharing your comments.

    I’m so pleased you found the information worthwhile .

    While I don’t have a specific brand that I recommend, there are things I feel you should look for when seeking  a quality product. It should be grain free and the first ingredient should be a high quality protein from real meat or fish, not anything described as “protein meal’.

    I hope this helps you find a great canned food your cat will love. You may have to try a few different flavors if your cat is picky, I have one kitty that won’t go near fish!

    I wish you many happy years with your furry companion!

    Come back soon to see what’s new, or if you have any other questions.

    KyleAnn 

  9. Hi Dave!

    Thanks for taking time to read my post, and for sharing your comments.

    I’m pleased that you found the information useful. 

    I wish you many happy years with your senior cat companion. Feel free to stop by again to see what’s new, or to ask a question should anything come up.

    All the best!

    KyleAnn 

  10. Hi Sue!
    Thanks for taking the time to read my post.
    I’m excited that you are both a dog and cat person, I am too.
    Isn’t it funny that you can buy them the most expensive toys and their favorite turns out to be a ball of tin foil!
    If you decide to continue to let him explore outdoors I do hope you have him microchipped just in case he becomes lost or injured and can’t make it back home.
    Thanks for sharing your comments, I wish you many happy years with Moonpie!
    Come back soon to see what’s new, or if you have any questions.
    KyleAnn

  11. Hi Scarlett!
    Thanks for taking time to read my post.
    I’m sorry to hear you lost your 22 year old furry companion last year. They are a big part of our lives when they’ve been our companions for that long.
    Thanks too for the kind words, I’m pleased that you found the content worthwhile.
    Check back for more information soon.
    All the best!
    KyleAnn

  12. As the owner of a senior rescue cat, I just want to say what a beautiful article.

    I agree with the point of keeping them indoors. As the cold weather approaches, it likes to stay inside more. Thank you also for the reminder about good dental hygiene.

    Keep up the good work.

    John

  13. How to care for Seniors – the cat articles very time and IS packed for of helpful hints. I love cats. My oldest one died last year 22 years young. I miss him terribly.
    And as you say he was an inside kitty all his life.
    And taking your cat to the vet for regular visits is just what you. It’s part of being a pet owned. Great advice thanks for sharing. Thank so much for your awesome article. Every cat deserves to be senior.
    Blessings
    Scarlett

  14. This is a very informative post! My pussy cat is only 4 years old but he is the first cat I ever had (before I found him, I always thought I was a dog person) so although I’m experienced at caring for older dogs, I’ve no experience with cats. I did not know that over 60% of domestic cats were overweight or obese! Wow. I guess I’m lucky that although Moonpie loves to eat, he knows when he’s full. But I think he would be very bored if he couldn’t go outdoors, but although we live in a quiet neighborhood with lots of trees, birds, and squirrels, I do worry about him til he’s back in the house.
    When he was a kitten we bought him all sorts of toys but his favorite one was a crumpled up ball of tin foil that he’d chase and bat around!

  15. Hi Kyle Ann,

    You’ve compiled a very helpful list of tips on how to care fro a senior cat that I’m sure your readers will find highly beneficial. We do become incredibly attached to our pets, don’t we? And, it’s difficult to see the signs of aging and feel powerless. I hadn’t considered the need for a cat food with more moisture but that does make sense. Do you have a brand that you recommend? Thanks for the info!

  16. A very informative article. Our furry friend is only 6, but it is always good to know what to look out for.Getting enough water into him is already a challenge. We give him twice daily wet food besides his kibbles. He loves it and will let you know when it is time for feeding.I believe the Internet was only invented to share cat pictures and videos…

  17. Hi Kyle Ann, thanks for your post.  We have two cats that have just ticked over the 10yo mark and your post is spot on the money.  we have had to start purchasing specialised food (my wife won;t let me see the price tag) due to their obeseity.  We also now keep them inside and yes they have adjusted fairly well after spending their lives outside.  We recently moved so that was a good way to make the change as well.  We just didn;t let them outside in the new house.

    A couple of things we found of benefit were a good vet..  one that took an interest in their wellbeing from a day to day ppoint of view and discussed food adjustments and tests we can do with them at home to check health.  The second thing we did was purchase a little laser light on eBay.  We run it over the floor and they go nuts chasing it.  Really gives them some good exercise.

    Thanks again

    Paul

  18. To keep your old cat healthy and happy, you need to know how to take care of your cat. Older cats can be social but mostly they choose and like their own company. Being fit is good for your old cat, just simply put a physical activity that promotes good health. It’s the best way to fight weight gain. An active lifestyle is beneficial for your cat’s mental well-being as well. Great informative article, thanks for sharing.

  19. I didn’t know that dry kibble does not really help with an older cats diet. What about any organic food for older cats? Would it help as far as maintaining a healthy weight in cats? Also, are there preventative measures you can take as far as obesity and your fat getting older?

    How often should a cat owner go to the veterinarian for checkups? Should it be once a month or once a week?

  20. This is very good practical information. I have personally always been a dog person, mainly pitbulls, but since I now have a family I am growing to love cats as well. I am impressed with the details you have given here and this has really given me a lot to think about. 

    My mother has two very obese cats. They are really old and I am worried about their helth. Do you have any suggestions on helping her get them more active? We have tried many different toys but they just seem to ignore everything we try. 

    Thank you for this valuable information. I love animals and I think it is awesome you took the time to address this. We need to be there for our animals like they are there for us. They trust us unconditionally. We shouldn’t let them down!

  21. Because we live on a busy street, and our neighborhood has a lot of BIG dogs, we keep our cat inside the house at all times and have since we adopted her. I found her crying and hungry (skin and bones) in a flowerbed at my parents farm a couple of years ago (she was just a kitten). We named her Mittens—because she has little white “mittens” on each paw.

    Mittens loves to hang out in the window by my work area and watch the squirrels and birds. She will run from my window to the living room window depending on the direction the bird or squirrel went! 

    Most of the cats I have had have lived to ripe old ages and I am hoping to keep Mittens well into her senior years, too! Your suggestions for keeping the senior cat in good health should prove to be key! Thank you so much.

  22. Thank you for your information about senior cats, it made for a very interesting read.

    I have one question for you that leads to more.

    What is catnip, what is it made from and why do cats like or not like about it?  What is the idea behind giving cats catnip?

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Edu

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