How to Care For Your Aging Cat: Senior Cat Care
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Your cat’s been with you through thick and thin (and shredded a lot of thick things to make them thin). Now that she’s getting older, you want to make sure you give her the best possible care.
You might have noticed that she is sleeping more, doesn’t seem as playful as she used to be, and she may be having accidents outside the litter box.
These are all common signs of aging in cats. The good news is that with a little more care and attention, you can help your senior cat fully enjoy her golden years.
What do older cats need? In addition to giving your fur baby plenty of love and affection, you'll need to:
- Schedule regular veterinary exams — Consider a wellness exam every 6 months instead of yearly
- Groom gently — Older cats’ skin may be more sensitive, and they’re less able to groom themselves
- Pay extra attention to diet — Many senior cats need specialized diets as they age and develop kidney, urinary, or other issues
- Look out for signs of pain — These signs can include changes in sleep, eating habits. litter box habits, or other departures from your cat’s normal routine
- Create a senior cat-friendly home — Create cozy spaces closer to the ground, and add steps or other assistive devices to help your cat reach the bed or couch
The specific care your cat needs will depend on her individual health and lifestyle. However, following these five steps will help you give your aging cat the best possible quality of life.
5 Tips for Caring for Your Senior Cat
Tip 1 - Schedule Regular Veterinary Exams
No one can give your cat the care she needs quite like your veterinarian. Having a good relationship with your vet is one of the best things you can do for your cat at any age.
As your cat gets older, it’s important to schedule regular check-ups — at least twice a year, if not more frequently. These appointments give your veterinarian a chance to catch any potential health problems early, when they’re more easily treatable.
During a typical senior cat exam, your vet will:
- Take a complete medical history
- Check your cat’s weight and vital signs
- Look for any changes in her fur, skin, nails, and teeth
- Examine her eyes, ears, and nose
- Listen to her heart and lungs
- Feel her abdomen for any abnormalities
- Check her joints for pain or swelling
- Evaluate her mental state and behavior
Your vet may also recommend additional tests, such as blood work or X-rays, to further assess your cat’s health.
Tip 2 - Groom Gently
Self-grooming in cats is an instinctual behavior that helps them stay clean and comfortable. As cats age, they may not be able to groom themselves as well as they used to. This can lead to matting, tangles, and an overall unkempt appearance.
Regular grooming can help maintain your cat’s hygiene and comfort, and it’s also a great way to bond with your furry friend.
Gentle grooming prevents painful mats and tangles, stimulates circulation, and helps to remove any dirt, debris, or parasites that may be lurking in your cat’s fur.
Use a soft brush or comb, and take care not to pull on any knots or mats. If you find a tangle, work through it slowly and patiently with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb.
If your cat resists being brushed, start by simply petting her while she’s lying down. Start to include soft brush strokes in between pets. Gradually increase the amount of time you spend brushing her, and give her plenty of breaks if she makes it clear she’s losing her patience!
Tip 3 - Pay Extra Attention to Diet
Senior cats are prone to several digestive issues, such as constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. They are also at risk for developing obesity and diabetes or becoming underweight.
A balanced diet is essential for keeping your senior cat healthy. Talk to your veterinarian about what type of food is best for your cat and how much she should be eating.
Observe your cat’s eating habits and watch for any changes. If she becomes picky about food, loses her appetite, or starts vomiting, make an appointment with your veterinarian. These could be signs of a more serious health problem.
You may need to supplement your cat’s diet with additional nutrition or vitamins. With your vet's approval, you can give your cat a daily multivitamin or fish oil supplement.
Human-grade liquid fish oil supplements from Paramount Pet Health are a great option if you and your vet decide your cat would benefit from supplementation. Easy-to-dose, all-natural, and full of healthy fatty acids, these supplements guarantee comprehensive nutritional support for your senior cat.
Tip 4 - Look Out for Signs of Pain
Cats hide pain very well, so it can be difficult to tell when they’re uncomfortable. As your cat gets older, it’s important to be aware of the signs that she may be in pain.
Here are 8 signs of pain in cats:
- Lethargy or increase in sleep
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of interest in play
- Aggression or irritability
- Panting or heavy breathing
- Excessive grooming
- Hiding or seeking out solitude
- Changes in litterbox habits
Of course, there are many reasons why your cat could be in pain. Some common causes of pain in senior cats include arthritis, cancer, kidney disease, and dental problems — and there are many more possibilities. The important thing is that if you suspect your cat is in pain, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Preventing pain is just as important as treating it. Paramount Pet Health's Liquid Glucosamine for Cats is a great way to keep your cat's joints healthy and prevent pain.
Made with all-natural ingredients, this supplement is safe for long-term use and helps to ease pain associated with arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other joint problems. Learn even more tips on how to ease joint pain in cats with natural remedies here.
"This stuff is magic. My old 18.5-year-old cat walks around like a younger fellow now and is much happier."
👆 All you need to do to get similar results from this glucosamine for cats supplement is to drop 1-2ml into your cat's mouth daily, or mix it into their wet food!
Tip 5 - Create a "Senior Cat-Friendly" Home
You might have noticed that your senior cat is no longer jumping up to her favorite windowsill, perch, or even the sofa. Arthritic pain and other age-related issues can make it difficult for her to move around. This is one of many limitations your furry friend may face as she ages.
To make your cat more comfortable at home, make changes depending on what she’s struggling with.
My Cat Can't Jump
Place a slightly lower stool, footrest, or other object next to any elevated areas your cat likes to rest on, so she can still enjoy the view without having to jump.
My Cat Can't Climb the Stairs
If your cat has trouble going up and down stairs, consider investing in a ramp or set of stairs specifically designed for cats. You can also place a litter box on each floor of your home to help them avoid any unnecessary trips up and down the stairs.
My Cat Keeps Missing the Litter Box
There are several reasons why your cat may be having accidents outside the litter box. As she gets older, she may have difficulty getting in and out of the box, or she may not be able to reach the litter.
Try a shallower litter box with lower sides to make it easier for her to get in and out. You may also want to try a different type of litter, such as pellets or crystals, that are easier on her paws.
My Cat Keeps Bumping Into Things
If your cat is bumping into things or seems disoriented, she may be experiencing feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD), also known as dementia. Or, it’s possible she’s losing her vision.
Make sure your home is well-lit and free of clutter to help your cat navigate her surroundings more easily. Don't change the layout of your home, and try not to move her food bowl, water dish, litter box, or bed.
To avoid disorienting or startling a blind cat, approach her slowly from the front and call her name before you pet or pick her up.
My Cat Sleeps All Day
Just like humans, cats need to stay active as they age to maintain their muscle mass, flexibility, and balance. Unfortunately, many senior cats become less active as they age due to pain, arthritis, or other health problems.
Lack of activity can lead to further physical decline, so it’s important to find ways to keep your cat active.
Here are a few activity tips for aging cats:
- Provide plenty of toys, such as toy balls, feathers, and mice
- Encourage your cat to chase a laser pointer or play with a string-type toy
- Make sure she has plenty of vertical space to climb, such as a cat tree or shelves
- Invest in a set of steps or a ramp to help her get on and off furniture
- Give her a gentle daily massage (you can do this while grooming!)
- Talk to your veterinarian about starting your cat on a gentle exercise program
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some signs and symptoms that my cat may be slowing down?
The exact age when a cat is considered a senior varies depending on which vet you ask, but the signs and symptoms of aging are generally the same. As your cat gets older, she may start to sleep more, move less, and lose interest in playing. She may also have trouble jumping, climbing stairs, or using the litter box.
What are some common older cat health problems?
Some of the most common health problems in senior cats include arthritis (read more on cat arthritis symptoms and treatment), diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, heart disease, and cognitive dysfunction.
What’s the most important thing to know about caring for very old cats?
The most important thing to know about caring for a senior cat is that there are no hard and fast rules. Some cats need or want more attention as they age. Others prefer to be left alone. The best way to care for your elderly cat is to pay attention to her individual needs and preferences, and form a close relationship with a vet you trust.