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!