It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that a senior cat has needs that are different than those of a young cat. But how do you know when your cat is a senior?
Generally, cats over 7-10 years of age should be considered seniors. With increasing age, changes in the body occur as well. For instance, in one study, roughly 90% of cats over the age of 12 years were noted to have radiographic evidence of arthritis.
Needless to say, with arthritis comes pain and mobility issues. If your older cat has become less active and is now reluctant to jump on counters and other areas that he used to frequent, it may be because your cat has developed arthritis.
What can you do to help your senior cat? Here are the 9 tips to support your senior cat age gracefully:
1. Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian
Your cat needs to be examined at least yearly if it appears healthy, as many diseases are hidden and not apparent. Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it!
2. Ask for a body condition evaluation during each vet visit
Body condition is crucial to determining whether your senior cat is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. In fact, you should also ask your veterinarian to show you how to evaluate your cat’s body condition at home.
3. Feed your older cat a diet with adequate protein levels
Avoid vegan or vegetarian diets. Cats are obligate carnivores. They require nutrients such as taurine and arachidonic acid that is only found in animal sources.
They also require a higher protein level than dogs, comparatively. Learn to read a pet food label and feed a diet that is appropriate for your cat’s age and lifestyle.
4. Remember that your senior cat is still the top cat
Even if your other cats start agitating for the throne, so to speak, remind them that they should respect their elders. Give her the first shot at treats and affection and make sure the younger cats stay out of her way.
5. Be gentle with her
In her younger years, your cat may not have had any problems recovering when you pushed her off the counter, but that may not be so true now. Even if she ends up on her feet, it could still be a painful landing. Pick her up and put her on the floor with a quiet “no” instead.
6. Give her a lift
Your elder kitty is probably not as strong and agile as she used to be, but she still loves being able to look down on her kingdom. Give her ways to get to her favorite high places, whether through ramps, steps, or even by picking her up and placing her there.
7. Take care of your cat’s mouth
Brushing your cat’s teeth may seem like a silly idea but it can help keep your cat’s mouth healthy. If you cannot brush, consider dental treats that help keep the teeth clean.
8. Lower the barriers
If your cat is going to the bathroom outside the litterbox, watch her while she’s doing her business and see what the trouble is.
If she’s having trouble holding her squat and is, therefore, peeing over the edges of the box, get a box with high sides and a low entrance.
If the box is too small, get a larger one. And if all else fails, invest in some puppy training pads.
9. Enjoy every minute with her
A well-cared-for cat can live into her late teens, or even longer. Don’t check out emotionally or spiritually because you’re afraid she’s going to die soon.
Every creature dies eventually, and your cat deserves your love for as long as she’s alive. If you have fears around death, work on those now so you can be fully present with her until she draws her last breath.
Older cats cherish predictable days more than younger cats do. “Just as we become set in our ways as we get older, cats do too,” Dr. Goldstein says.
“Some cats may need more emotional support as they age and others may prefer to be left alone,” he explains. “They may become more dependent on relationships and require more attention. It may be harder for them to deal with changes.” Sticking to normal routines reassures them, he adds.
Cat sleeping on owners legs”Older cats enjoy spending time with their human family members, Dr. Levine concludes. “It is important to give them the extra tender loving care that they’ll need for many years to come.”