Old Cats – Elderly Cats – Pet tip 203
Age takes its toll on all living things and our beloved feline friends can also use a bit of help to make their golden years more pleasurable. When cats enter their golden years, cat owners tend to notice a difference on many levels. In terms of appearance, a cat’s fur may be less lustrous, a cat’s eyes may look duller and sometimes cloudy, and a cat’s belly will often begin to sag. These are only a few common physical signs and there are plenty more. In terms of an older cat’s behaviour, they will usually sleep more than usual, they may begin to suffer from dementia or senility, they tend to like to be near heat sources more often, and their jumping ability is often greatly diminished. By becoming more compassionate with our older cats and by making a few simple changes to the setup of the cat’s space, we can make their sunset years easier on them.
When cats are young they are great jumpers but as they age they may suffer from arthritis and/or other problems that hinder their ability to jump like they used to. They may also become more fearful of heights and become reluctant to jump on their favourite places. By placing step-stools, old crates and/or ramps near places that they used to jump on with ease (beds, cat-trees, window sills), you are really doing your cat a favour. If your cat was an outdoor cat and liked to play outside, now that its senses are diminished, it might well be the time to keep your cat exclusively indoors or leashed outdoors only under your direct supervision. If this was their main source of play, don’t forget to play with your cat indoors. Older cats still like to play games even though they may not be able to play as vigorously as they once did.
In terms of a cat’s personal hygiene routine, that too may begin to suffer. Older cats may have ‘accidents’ and not make it to the litter box on time. They may also not spend as much time self-grooming. Adding an extra litter-box might be a good solution if your cat starts having more frequent accidents. Additionally if your cat now spends most of its time in 1 particular area, moving the litter-box closer to (but NOT in the immediate vicinity of) its sleeping area or eating area might be a nice thing to do. In terms of grooming, make sure you keep brushing your cat’s fur regularly to keep it in good shape. Both of these problems can be the sign of medical problems so do take your cat to see the vet if you are just noticing this problem for the first time.
It makes good sense to bring your older cat to the veterinarian more often as it ages and especially if you notice any abnormal behaviour. Unlike humans, cats keep aches and pains hidden because they are hard-wired not to show their ‘weaknesses’ to predators. By the time cats show obvious signs of pain or discomfort they may already be quite ill. In order to catch potential problems early bring your cat to the vet at the first sign of a problem and every six months for a routine checkup.
Even though old age brings issues to older cats, there are a couple of pluses. On the plus side, many elderly cats become even more affectionate than they were when they were younger. They will tend to want to cuddle for hours and hours. By noticing and responding to your older cat’s needs you will both benefit from the remaining precious years you have left together.