As your feline friend ages, their needs evolve and the kind of care that you give to them has to change too. Understanding what they need is the first step, bearing in mind that they could be battling ongoing health issues due to their age.
Whether they have any health issues or not, it’s important to make your senior cat feel loved and cherished in their final years. By filling their lives with comfort and care, you are making their golden years as pleasant as possible.
Health issues Just like humans, cats encounter more and more health issues as they age. Common illnesses that befall elderly cats include arthritis, dental problems and kidney disease, all of which come with distinctive symptoms like limping, lethargy, refusal to eat and excessive drinking of water.
If you’re concerned that your cat might be enduring one of these issues, establish a tailored healthcare plan with your vet, ensuring that your cat has all the necessary vaccinations. For increased peace of mind, taking out specialised cat insurance will cover you financially should there be any health emergencies or operations you have to take care of.
Adapting home environment
As cats get older, their mobility decreases. Whilst you might have had the food high up to ensure it’s not scoffed by other pets in the house, it’s best to keep all their basic needs at ground level. That also means choosing a litter box with low sides for easy access, easily reachable cat beds, and ramps to high-up spots so they can still enjoy gazing over the house.
If you are lucky enough to have multiple pets, you might find that your much younger cat or dog is a source of stress for your senior cat, especially since they can’t defend themselves in the same way. Consider creating spots that only your senior cat can move, as well as hiding places that are easy for them to reach.
Adjust their diet
You might also want to think about changing their diet slightly. Older cats generally need less food, but this food should be easy to digest and have all the minerals and vitamins a cat needs in old age.
Consult your vet about any dietary changes you might need to introduce. Depending on what health issues your senior cat has, you might need to buy specialised food that targets specific problems, for example, nutrients that help with joint health or eyesight. Otherwise, you can always find senior cat food in stores.
Playtime and exercise
Although senior cats may not have the same desire for playtime as their younger counterparts, it’s still important for their overall well-being that they maintain regular, gentle exercise. Engage them in low-impact activities like interactive toys, laser pointers, or short walks to help them stay active and maintain muscle tone. Cognitive stimulation is equally as important for senior cats, to keep them mentally sharp and engaged. You might want to reintroduce them to some toys and puzzle feeders that you may have used when they were a kitten, so that they can keep their minds active and engage with new and fun challenges.
Grooming is important for cats of all ages, whether to maintain pride in their appearance or as a sign of social bonding. As an owner, keeping your senior cat well-groomed is very important as they age, as they may struggle with grooming themselves due to arthritic joints or reduced flexibility. A sudden lack of grooming may signal underlying health problems, so you may need to adopt a more hands-on approach to keeping your senior cat looking clean and presentable.
Giving them regular, gentle brushes to remove loose hairs can help to prevent matting and the formation of hairballs, and the motion of brushing their fur helps to stimulate circulation, which can bring some youthful lustre back to their coat.
These are just some examples of ways you might need to make adjustments to your senior cat’s environment and nutrition, so that they can live out their twilight years in comfort and you as their owner can make the most of every moment with your furry friend.