Making Special Considerations for Your Senior Cat: 5 Simple Ways to Keep Them Comfortable
Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on August 10, 2018
Posted in Cat Aging
Your relationship with your cat only gets better with time! You spend years bonding—playing, petting and snuggling—as your cat becomes an integral part of your life. After years and years, your bond is like no other. It’s one of the joys of being a pet owner!
But how do you know when the time comes to change the way you care for your cat as he or she ages? Your cat is considered a senior after 7 years old. As they approach this age, it’s important to make adjustments to the way you care for your feline friend. Here are a few considerations you need to start making as your cat ascends into senior status.
Your cat’s food preferences may change as they get older. You want to be sure to always balance good nutrition with what tastes good. When your cat is younger, they may be able to be pickier about what they eat. They might prefer a specific food or eat anything you put in their bowl!
Aging cats aren’t as resilient and need a steady, stable intake of nutrients and vitamins. Variance should be avoided! Consistently feed them proper nutrition, including protein and vitamins, and be sure to monitor portions to avoid excessive weight gain and subsequent lethargy. The more they are accustomed to this diet early-on, the easier it will be to maintain good health through diet into old age.
As your cat ages, he or she may experience some pain in movement for a variety of reasons including arthritis and bone degeneration. It is important to provide your cat with easier access to everything in your home. For example:
- Your cat may be used to sleeping with you in your bed but unable to jump high enough anymore. There are pet stairs you can place next to your bed for easier access.
- The same is true of litter boxes—there are varieties that provide a lower side for easier entry for your senior cat.
- That cat tree your cat used to enjoy has been collecting dust in recent years—buy a scratch post and cat bed instead!
- Lastly, does your cat enjoy looking out the window? Provide a shelf where he or she can see outside without having to jump.
When you take these accommodations into consideration, you provide the same experience for your senior cat as your kitten once had, which means your cat does not need to miss out on any of the little joys as he or she ages.
3. Vet visits/in-home care
In-home care is the first and best step you can take to your cat’s overall well-being. Being sure to provide your cat with routine grooming and brushing their teeth are great ways to put your cat on the path to long-term health success.
Note that your senior cat may need extra help taking care of itself in the way it used to when it was young. Cats are generally pretty autonomous and self-sustaining, but they will be less so as a senior. Be sure to increase brushing during times of shedding and assist your cat in cleaning their face if they are unable to do so as frequently. Even the dreaded bath every once in a while will help!
Vet visits should also increase in frequency as your cat ages. Simple physicals yearly will help your cat stay healthy and help you to maintain your peace of mind about your feline’s health.
4. Mitigating boredom
It is important to be sure to stimulate your cat as they age, to prevent excess weight gain or boredom. Switch out your cat’s toys and spend extra time with them doing what they want to do. Just because your cat is less active does not mean that their brain is! Take the time to engage them daily and more frequently as they age. Walk with them, talk to them and pet them often. Some good old-fashioned catnip may be the best treat and a way to encourage your cat to have fun.
5. Taking the time
The number one thing your cat wants from you is affection and companionship. It is the same thing you want from your cat and likely the reason you own them. Finding the time to spend together as your cat ages is important and special. Perhaps your cat spends more time sleeping as they age? Then have them sleep on your lap while you watch TV. If your cat spends time napping in the sun, lay down beside them with a good book.
There are plenty of ways to make and grow the connection you have with your cat and taking the time to do this as they age will assist them in feeling more comfortable.
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan