Senior cats make delightful pets. By this stage in their life, most cats have things all figured out and have settled into a good routine. As our cats get older, while they may become more settled and calmer, it is also common for their health to start to deteriorate. Looking after a senior cat can take a little more time and compassion than caring for a younger or middle-aged cat and they sometimes need our support.
What are the signs that my cat is becoming a senior?
The average cat will start to fall into the ‘Senior’ category at about the age of 11 or 12. This depends on their breed, size and lifestyle. You may well notice some subtle changes as they enter their ‘tweens’ and teens including:
- More ‘quiet’ time. This may mean less playing, less hunting and more time spent sleeping (if that is even possible!).
- Slowing down. Inevitably, a 15-year-old won’t be as fast or as sprightly as a 15-month-old. However, it is also important to consider if a stiff and slow cat may have joint disease such as arthritis.
- Declining senses. The older cats get, the less honed their senses become. They may struggle to see, smell and hear things that they used to be able to. A good example of this is a cat who used to come running the second you opened their tin of food but no longer does.
- Longer and thicker claws. As cats are less active, their claws don’t get kept in check like they used to when climbing and running about. It is important to keep an eye on them and keep them trimmed as claws can grow into pads and cause sores and infections.
- Matted and unkempt coats. For some, grooming can become difficult, whether it is due to painful joints, dental disease or general lethargy.
How to keep your cat comfortable and happy during their senior years?
The older our kitties get, the less self-sufficient they will be. So, while they may be proud and sometimes less than willing patients, we often have to step in and give them a helping hand. There are several things that we can do to ensure they remain happy and comfortable, despite their aging body:
- Keep track of your cat’s eating, drinking, toileting etc. as if things change, this may indicate an underlying health issue. For example, a sudden increase in thirst may indicate diabetes or kidney disease.
- Keep up the appointments for your cat’s annual health check and vaccination and have your senior cat checked over at least twice a year.
- Try to keep a predictable routine and environment to prevent confusion and stress. This can be simple things such as not moving furniture and keeping meal times consistent.
- Become more pro-active when it comes to your cat’s grooming. While adult cats can typically take care of themselves, your golden oldie will probably need to be groomed and to have regular ‘mani-pedis’.
- Be considerate. It is important to let your cat rest and have some space when they need it. Expecting a senior cat to tolerate a toddler running after them 24/7 simply isn’t fair. Some like to have access to a room of their own, while others are just happy with an enclosed cat bed.
- Give in at meal times. While we certainly don’t want to create a spoiled pet that only eats organic chicken breast, cats with declining senses may find their regular diet bland and unappealing. Switch to a senior food which is usually more palatable and is also important for their health.
While caring for an older cat can take some extra time out of your day, the satisfaction you get back in return should be well worth it. Your golden oldie may no longer be offering you up the precious mice and shrews they’ve been out catching, but they should still make pretty good lap warmers!