10 essentials for senior cats

Understanding a senior cat’s needs is essential if we want to prolong their lives comfortably and happily. These top 10 tips will help you do just that.

1. Schedule regular wellness check-ups

  • Develop a close relationship with your cat’s veterinarian while your cat is still healthy. This way they get to know your cat and can detect subtle changes that may indicate a health condition or disease.
  • Cats need to visit their veterinarian more often as they age, usually about every 6 months, even if your cat appears healthy.

2. Make the vet’s visit easier

  • Reduce the stress of veterinary visits by getting your cat comfortable with her carrier. Make the carrier cosy with soft, familiar bedding and leave it out a few days before the visit so she gets used to going in and out of it. This makes it easier to get her into it on the day of your appointment.
  • Leave plenty of time to arrive so you are unhurried and calm.
  • Check the waiting room for dogs, crowds and noise. If  your cat has a nervous disposition, ask if they have a cat-only waiting area, or if you can go directly into the consultation room. This helps keep your cat calm.
  • Prepare a list of questions or concerns to ask your veterinarian at your cat’s regular check-up.

3. Pay attention to your cat; watch her closely for subtle changes

  • Cats are masters at hiding illness; signs are often subtle and easily missed.
  • If you notice that your cat is sleeping more, struggles to jump up onto her usual favourite spot, isn’t eating well, is drinking a lot more than usual or is hiding, let your vet know immediately. These are all symptoms of illness.
  • Tell your vet about any changes, even if they are minor. You know your cat and his routines better than anyone.

4. Look out for weight changes

  • Both weight gain AND unplanned weight loss require a visit to the veterinarian.
  • Weight gain can make your cat more likely to get chronic diseases and have a shortened life span.
  • Weight loss in senior cats is usually a sign that something is wrong. Some of the most common diseases causing weight loss – hyperthyroidism, intestinal disease, and diabetes – occur with a normal or even increased appetite.
  • Gradual changes in weight are hard to notice.  Monitoring your cat’s weight is one of the most important reasons for routine examinations by your veterinarian.

5. She’s not just slowing down; she’s trying to tell  you something

  • What we term ‘slowing down’ is often a sign of underlying discomfort or pain.
  • Arthritis, or degenerative joint disease, is present in most older cats. Appropriate treatment can help them remain active and engaged.
  • If your cat has difficulty going up or down steps, or is missing or not using the litter box, tell your vet.

6. Look when you scoop

  • Are your cat’s stools softer, harder, or changing colour? Is she defecating daily? Constipation is a common, yet under recognised sign of dehydration in older cats.
  • Has the amount of urine in the litter box changed? Increased urine output can signal some of the most common illnesses in elderly cats, like diabetes or kidney disease.

7. Keep a close watch on her litter box

  • If your cat is missing the litter box, or has suddenly taken to peeing around the house, there may be a medical issue.
  • Urinary infections, constipation, arthritis, and muscle weakness are just a few of the reasons an older cat can develop litter box issues.
  • Your veterinarian can evaluate these potential medical issues and help you address home or environmental concerns that may be contributing to the change in your cat’s behaviour.
  • Is the litter box easy for your elderly cat to get into (i.e. there isn’t a high step into the box)?
  • Does the location of the litter box make it easy for your cat to access so they don’t have to go up or down stairs?
  • Is the litter box in an quiet area that is protected from other pets that may startle or frighten your older cat?
  • Are you scooping and cleaning the litter box often enough to keep up with that increased urine output?
  • Is the litter gentle on your senior kitty’s paws?

8. Like older humans, older cat’s needs change

  • Your older cat will need a diet change, ask your vet for a recommendation as she may need a diet that complements medical treatment. Older cats often need extra padding and warmth for comfort so provide soft sleeping places. Make their preferred sleeping and resting spots easily accessible by using stepping stools, ramps, and other ways to assist.

9. Watch her diet

  • Cat caregivers are often unaware of how much their cat is actually eating on a daily basis, especially in households with multiple cats.
  • Monitor food intake so you know immediately if your cat is eating less. This helps your veterinarian intervene when there are problems.

10. Relish the time you have together

  • Bonds with our older companions are special and we rely on our cats as much as they rely on us. Elderly cats often crave more attention than they had earlier in life.
  • Continue to provide physical and mental stimulation by petting, playing, and interacting in your special ways.
  • Help out with grooming by gently brushing or combing, and keep nails from becoming overgrown with regular nail trimming. The nails of older arthritic cats sometimes overgrow into the paw pads, and this is painful.