Discover how to improve your older cats life (and your own!)
It's our dream that our precious feline friends will enjoy long and happy lives. So it's good news that cats are living longer these days, thanks to better healthcare. Cats are considered to be mature at age 7, and senior at age 10. But did you know that although cats are living well into their teens, 90% of cats over the age of 12 are affected by osteoarthritis? Cats are great at hiding signs of pain and illness - it's an instinct that kept them safe in the wild. As your cat gets older, it's time to take a fresh look at their home environment, and consider whether you should make some changes to make their senior years more comfortable.
We all know cats love to sleep high up, but reduced mobility may mean your's cat can't easily access their favourite spots. Think about rearranging furniture, adding a set of cat stairs, a ramp or wall shelves to give them an easy route. Make sure there is a soft surface below any raised areas where they sit, just in case they slip. The non-slip matting you can buy to put under rugs works really well under blankets and cat beds placed on smooth surfaces, and can easily be cut to size, If you have other cats, try to ensure that there is more than one way out of each raised area - an "escape" route if you like. This will make your older cat feel more secure, in case she needs to get away from the youngsters.
Also provide a bed at floor level, in a cosy draught-free spot. A heated pad is a great idea. We've found that both the self heating kind (with a reflective foil layer), and the low voltage electric kind are loved by cats of all ages,
If you have been using a top-entry, or hooded litter tray, consider whether your cat can still access it comfortably, or whether an open tray with shallow entrance would be appreciated.
Older cats often have a decrease in appetite, and drink less. You can try to minimise this effect by making eating and drinking as comfortable as possible. Raised food bowls or stands can ease tension in the spine. A trickling water fountain can help to encourage drinking. Make sure you are feeding a food designed for your cat's age, and try to position water bowls away from food. Puzzle feeders can be fun for older cats, too, and will give their brains some healthy exercise.
Scratching and Playing
Older cats still need to scratch, but they may find that stretching up a tall post is uncomfortable. There are lots of flat scratchers designed to be used at floor level. Our cats love the cardboard ones. And bear in mind that your cat's claws may need trimming if they are scratching less than they used to.
While we're on the subject of cardboard, your older cat will probably love a cardboard box to investigate - put it on the floor with the opening at the side for easy entry. If you cut a few small paw-sized holes in the side, you can have lots of fun playing with a mouse toy on the other side of the box.
For cats, play is a replacement for the hunt - catch - kill - eat instinct they still retain from their wild ancestors. The need to play doesn't diminish with age, and will enrich your cat's life. Playing with a fishing-rod or wand style toy also enhances your bond with your cat. Cats love routine, so try to make fishing an activity you enjoy at the same time every day, and always finish off with a high protein snack so your cat gets full satisfaction from their "kill". Playing also keeps your cat active, and the more they move around, the healthier they will be. But it's worth remembering that even if you have a cat who only sits there following the toy with their eyes, they are still engaging in the hunt - catch - kill behaviour mentally, and that's good for them too. If you can get them to take an interest in one of those large rectangular kicker toys, these are great for allowing geriatric cats to exercise legs while lying on their side - we love the Kong Kickeroo!
Cats may spend less time grooming themselves as they get older, especially if their flexibility is reduced. As a result, even short haired cats who didn't need grooming earlier in life, may now need help to keep their coats mat-free and comfortable. If your cat doesn't appreciate your efforts, a professional groomer may be able to help, with a few sessions to get their coat back into shape. Then you should be able to maintain it yourself between less frequent maintenance sessions with the groomer. You and your groomer can keep an eye out for lumps and bumps, too, and get these checked out. Do your research and choose a groomer carefully; make sure they have had specialist training in grooming cats (knowing how to groom dogs does NOT qualify you to deal with a cat's needs!) and check reviews and social media for recommendations.
Older cats may develop a range of health conditions, so it's a good idea to have 6 monthly vet check-ups so that you catch any problems early. Look out for changes in your cat's appetite, drinking habits, weight, mobility, behaviour, and vocalisation, and discuss these with your vet.
We wish you many long and happy years with your cat.
Cawthorne Cat Hotel is a new kind of cat hotel - with a comfortable and welcoming home-like atmosphere. Our rooms are easily adaptable for older cats, so they can access all the indoor and outdoor areas. We can provide heat pads, raised bowls, water fountains, and help with grooming as required, and will serve your cat the same senior diet they enjoy at home. If your cat is on medication, we are happy to administer it for you, and our vet is on call 24/7. Find out more about how we care for cats here.