You may have a geriatric cat who doesn’t seem to have slowed down one bit or maybe your cat is barely making it to the litter box these days. Just as with people, each cat handles the aging process differently. Some are active all through their senior years and some show obvious signs of slowing down. For many cat parents though, it can be easy to overlook subtle signs that the cat isn’t quite as active and youthful as she once was. Here are 10 reminder tips to help you care for your senior citizen cat.
Pay Attention to Changes in Your Cat
This applies to behavior, eating, water intake, litter box habits, activity level, vocalization, affection, and so on. Since cats are creatures of habit, a change – even a subtle one – can be a potential red flag that something is brewing. If there is an underlying medical problem, the sooner it’s addressed, the better the chance of it being corrected or maintained successfully.
Don’t Skip Veterinary Visits
When your cat was younger you probably brought her for an annual check-up and vaccinations. Now that she’s older, consider bringing her in every six months. And even if you have opted to no longer have her vaccinated, she still needs to be examined. Take advantage of any senior wellness packages your veterinarian offers.
Maintain a Sound Nutritional Program for Your Cat
Your veterinarian may recommend that your cat stay on her current food but he/she may advise switching to a senior formula or even a prescription diet based on a diagnosis of a particular medical issue. Every nutrient counts! If you’re feeding raw or a homemade diet be sure to consult with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to add if any changes need to be made or if you need to tweak things a bit based on your cat’s specific situation.
Don’t allow your cat to become overweight. Obesity isn’t healthy for a cat at any age but for an older kitty, those added pounds put extra stress on joints which can be very painful if arthritis is present. Obesity can also increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
For some elderly cats the problem becomes trying to keep weight on. If your cat isn’t able to maintain a healthy weight, talk to your veterinarian. After a thorough examination, supplements may be prescribed or flavor additives may be recommended. Some older cats lose their appetite as their sense of smell deteriorates. Your veterinarian can advise you on whether to include additives with a strong aroma or taste to entice your cat.
Maintain Your Cat’s Good Oral Health
If you haven’t been regularly brushing your cat’s teeth, it’s never too late to start. If you can’t brush the teeth, talk to your veterinarian about using an oral hygiene spray. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend a professional cleaning. This is done while the cat is sedated. If your cat isn’t eating well, there’s a possibility it could be related to periodontal disease so it’s important to maintain your cat’s oral health. Periodontal disease can also affect the health of your cat’s organs.
Grooming is an Essential Part of Being a Cat
As your cat ages, she may no longer have the desire or strength to maintain her coat. Help out by gently brushing her every day. This will help distribute skin oils. It will also feel like a wonderful massage if done correctly. Grooming your cat is also a time when you can gently examine her body to check for any suspicious lumps or bumps.
Maintain Age-and-Health-Appropriate Activity for Your Cat
Keep those joints lubricated and muscles toned by encouraging your cat to participate in some degree of play and activity. She may not leap six feet off the ground when chasing a toy but any form of exercise is beneficial.
Make Environmental Changes as Necessary for Your Cat
This may include getting a low-sided litter box to make it easier for an arthritic cat to get in and out as well as increasing the number of boxes.
You might also have to create an easier way for your cat to get to her favorite elevated perch. A multi-perched cat tree is a good option. If your cat likes to sleep on the bed she may need stairs there to make it easy to go up and down. And speaking of beds, she may appreciate having a heated bed for those cozy cat naps. You can find heated window perches and beds at your local pet product store or online. You can also find pet stairs there as well.
Minimize Your Cat’s Stress
As we all know, stress can cause havoc with health and as your cat ages she’s less able to deal with the effects of stress. Be aware of potential stressful situations in her environment so you can reduce her exposure. For example, if you’re having lots of company over it might be best to put the senior cat in a separate room where it’s quiet. In a multipet household, be aware of whether your senior cat is becoming the target of aggression or whether she’s getting nosed out of her food bowl or favorite napping areas.
Your Cat’s Temperature Intolerance
As cats age they can become more sensitive to temperature changes. If your cat normally loves to sit in the window in order to watch the outdoor activities it may be too drafty there in winter months. Ensure that your cat’s favorite windows are securely sealed to reduce drafts. You can also find heated window perches in several styles. Look for a heated bed that adjusts the temperature back down to room temperature when your cat isn’t on it. For some cats, just being able to curl up in a donut-shaped or pyramid-style bed can be cozy enough and can help retain warmth.
Time to Move Your Cat Indoors
If your cat has been an indoor/outdoor cat in the past, this is the time to make that indoor transition. A cat with declining senses and limited mobility is at a higher risk of being on the wrong end of a fight with another animal. She is also more vulnerable to injuries caused by accidents as well as being susceptible to disease and parasites. In colder months, being outdoors can aggravate pain from arthritis.
Be Tolerant and Compassionate with Your Cat
Age isn’t easy for anyone – human, cat or dog. As your cat ages she may develop poor aim when in the litter box, she may become less tolerant of things she used to accept willingly, she may not have the best table manners when eating, she may not groom herself to perfection and she may not want to give up her side of the bed in order to make room for you. Help her with the things you can and be tolerant of the things you can’t change. With your help, your cat can have a wonderful and comfortable life as a senior citizen.