Caring for a Senior Cat

Nov 2, 2020   Tracey Aston   Senior Pet Care

Most indoor cats are considered seniors between 11 and 14 years old age.  Indoor only cats on average live longer than their indoor/outdoor or outdoor only counterparts. As a senior, you cat will have different needs than when they were younger but with a little help they can happily transition into their golden years.

The foundation of good health is nutrition and especially true for cats who are at risk of developing kidney, urinary tract and bladder issues as they age. Raw, fresh or homemade cooked meals are always best.  When considering proper nutrition for cats, moisture content should always be taken into consideration. Commercial kibble only contains around 6% to 10% water content with canned cat food having a moisture content of over 70% water. A kibble only diet won't allow a cat to get all the water content needed to remain healthy.  Though most cats like canned food, if your cat will not eat wet food and will only eat dry, try soaking the kibble in low sodium chicken broth, bone broth or plain water to soften the food and add additional needed moisture content.  This will also be beneficial to cats who are suffering from dental disease due to aging or injury. Always make sure your cat has easy access to water.

Most cats love to jump and climb but as they age, and arthritis begins to set into older joints, they may not be able to get into the places they once enjoyed.  Keep on food and water dishes at a lower level that is easily accessible to an arthritic cat.

Ramps or pet steps with carpeting can help a senior cat safety get into their favorite chair or couch. Box steps can be made to help a cat get to their favorite windowsill or window perch.  Carefully watch your cat for signs of pain when jumping from cat trees or higher places. Repeated jolting to the joints can exasperate already sore joints. Provide a floor level soft cat bed with warm blankets as an option for your cat to relax.

Senior cats still require exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy both physically and mentally.  There are many different mental stimulation games for cats to choose from, it's all a matter of cost and your pet's preference.

As your cat ages, they may be less able to thoroughly clean themselves. You can help by gently grooming your pet with a soft brush or comb. Long-haired cats are more likely to get tangles and mats, which can lead to skin conditions. It's a common misconception that cats clean themselves and won't need a bath – this is simply not true! Cats will still need to visit a groomer or get a home bath. As most cats don't like water, it's imperative to be as gentle as possible when helping a senior cat into water. Don't squeeze, push, or dunk a senior cat in an attempt to get them into water.  If your cat will allow pettings, give them a gentle massage while grooming. Feline massage can help stimulate blood flow and ease the symptoms of arthritis.  Cats still need to have regular nail trimming.  Overgrown nails can cause serious injuries like joint pain and the risk of nails of getting snagged on carpets, blankets and rugs and becoming embedded into their paw pads causing pain and risking infection. To trim the nails of a cat, make sure the cat is comfortable and easily accessible, possibly by sitting them on your lap. A senior cat may be sore and will react poorly to be held too tightly.  Gently apply pressure to the paw pad, massaging forward to push the nail out and gently clip the end of the nail.

If your cat is starting to have little box issues, always check with your vet first to rule out any potential health conditions. If your cat gets a clean bill of health and still is having litter box issues, it may be due to arthritis. Senior cats, overweight cats, cats with joints issues or partially paralyzed cats may find the standard height of a regular litter box too high.  If this is the case, an under-the-bed storage container or even a shoe tray lined with a pee-pee pad and topped with litter can be used as a substitute.

Senior cats may start to develop sight loss and need to be protected. Baby gates can be used to block off stairs and dangerous places.

Cats often give the impression of being overly independent, but as they age they may need more help from their pet parent to continue enjoying their favorite places and things.

 
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