The fun. The friendship. The bonding moments. The time when they consoled you when no one else could. You and your feline have been through a lot together. However, as much as you love seeing them around, it’s easy to forget that age is going to take a toll on your pet. If you have old videos of your young feline or spry kitten, you may realize your cat has lost some spring in its step.
The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to help your senior cat stay happy, healthy, and active. Below are some tips on how to care for your elderly feline as she ventures into the golden years of her life.
1. Make an Appointment with the Vet
Although your senior cat may look healthy, she needs to be evaluated by a vet at least twice a year. This is critical because many subtle diseases can go unnoticed. Through timely blood tests and regular exams, the vet can put together a baseline for what is normal for your aging feline. This will help keep you updated with the health of your cat. If you notice any changes in her energy level, appetite, body composition, or behavior, be sure to get in touch with your vet.
2. Give Them Ample Playtime
Elderly felines can still be playful, and light exercise is beneficial for their physical and mental wellbeing. Experiment with various pet toys to see what gets them excited. We recommend using toys that are unlikely to scare them, such as a ping pong ball attached to a string that you wave past them. Any playtime – even just throwing hands up at a ball – offers healthy stimulation.
3. Help Them Reach Their Desired High Perches
Many senior cats still love to climb, but they may struggle to make their way up like they used to, especially if the feline has arthritis or another condition that causes pain. Elderly felines may also struggle to determine surface heights and so are more likely to fall and get injured. You can support your cat’s desires to reach her favorite high perches by setting up a piece of furniture or a ramp as a stepping stool. It’s also possible to offer extra grip by covering the equipment with carpet.
4. Opt for Gentle Grooming
Your senior cat is unlikely to groom herself efficiently so you may need to remove any discharge around its nose, eyes, or bottom using pieces of cotton wool moistened in lukewarm water. Additionally, you may need to invest in a fine comb or soft brush as older cats tend to have minimal padding over their body. While brushing, you can also check for sores, bumps or anything else that merits a visit to the vet. Shorthaired cats only require thorough grooming if any matting is present.
5. Buy the Right Food
If your senior feline is less active, you’ll need to keep tabs on her caloric intake. More than 50 percent of American cats are obese, and being overweight opens the gateway to various diseases and puts more pressure on the pet’s joints. So, try limiting the portion sizes of the food you feed to your cat. There are even special cat foods to deliver essential macronutrients while keeping calories to a minimum. Felines with heart or kidney disease may also need a special diet. Work with your vet to come up with a nutrition plan that addresses your furry friend’s specific calorie needs and includes the necessary cat vitamin supplements (which may include a daily vitamin, probiotics for improved digestion and immune strength, vitamins for joint health, etc.).
6. Keep Litter Trays Inside
Keep a couple of little trays in your home or apartment at all times. Even if your feline has relieved herself outside ever since you brought her home, there will be times when an aging pet will need an indoor litter tray, such as when their regular toileting place is frozen, when it’s raining, or when they feel intimated by the other felines. Put the litter trays in quiet places of your residence so your pet feels secure. Keep in mind that some litter trays may be too hard for a senior cat. In these cases, you can pad the tray with a layer of fine, soft litter that’s comfy for aging paws.
7. Don’t Forget Claw Trimming
Senior cats may struggle when it comes to retracting their claws, and they could get caught in carpets and furniture. Overgrowth may also cause the claws to squeeze into the feline’s pads. A regular trimming routine will need to be performed to help your cat avoid a potentially serious outcome in the form of surgery. Additionally, keep an eye on your cat’s behavior because if she stops using scratch posts to pull off dead claws they can grow into the pad, resulting in a lot of pain.
8. Keep Tabs on Their Weight
Excessive weight can make your senior cat vulnerable to chronic diseases as well as reduce her lifespan. On the contrary, unexpected weight loss is typically a sign that something isn’t right. Some of the common ailments, including diabetes and intestinal disease, happen with an increased or even a normal appetite. While gradual changes in your feline’s weight will be difficult to notice, regular vet visits can help you measure these changes.
9. Aim for a Senior-friendly Home
You don’t need to overhaul your home to accommodate a senior cat, but small tweaks to their living environment can drastically improve their quality of life. For example, if your feline finds it difficult to climb the stairs, then placing most of her needs on a level where she’s spends the majority of her time will remove the element of inaccessibility from her routine.
Don’t neglect the changing needs of your aging cat. Undoubtedly, the biggest requirement when caring for an elderly feline is patience. Older cats may display irregular behavior from time to time. Be sensitive to any shifts in their moods or patterns. Taking the steps mentioned above should help you start off on the right foot.