Just like people, many cats start to slow down as they get older. By making a few simple accommodations, you can help keep your senior cat happy, comfortable, and young at heart. By encouraging activity and stimulation, making age-appropriate accommodations, and remaining diligent about your cat’s health, you can help your feline enjoy their golden years.
EditEncouraging Activity and Stimulation
- Play with your cat. One of the best ways to keep your older cat young at heart is to encourage ability-appropriate play. Playtime helps keep your cat’s body and mind active.
- Dangle a toy for your cat to swat at while they’re lying down.
- Drag a ribbon across the floor.
- Purchase motorized toys for your cat to chase (look for items with slower settings).
- Keep a regular routine. Cats thrive on routine. Making playtime a regular, scheduled part of your day helps to keep your cat happy and healthy, while helping them to feel calm and secure.
- Aim to spend 30 minutes playing 1-2 times per day.
- Schedule play time for before you head out for work each day.
- Schedule a second play time for when you return.
- Introduce a cat companion. Cats are very territorial, and may not be initially open to sharing their space with a new cat. Nevertheless, the introduction of a new animal can help to stimulate your cat. The ideal companion will be:
- Younger (ideally a kitten)
- The opposite gender.
EditMaking Age-Appropriate Accommodations
- Announce your presence. Older cats can be hard of hearing or otherwise easily startled. You can prevent a nervous reaction in your cat by calling ahead into a room before you enter.
- You might say, “Alfie, are you in here?”
- You might place a bell on door handles in your home.
- Make your home safe and cozy. If your cat is having trouble getting around, stop to make sure they can access everything they need. Also, providing your cat with a nice, warm place to sleep is a great way to keep them feeling good.
- Provide a stool that helps your cat access a favorite sleeping spot
- Provide a cozy cat bed
- Set up a heating pad to help keep your cat warm
- Keep the temperature in your house at a comfortable level
- Make resources accessible. If your cat is experiencing mobility issues, it may be time to reevaluate your litter box (or boxes). Additionally, if your house is large or multi-leveled, it is important to place cat resources—food/water and litter boxes—in more than one location.
- Choose a litter box with low sides.
- Place litter boxes and food resources in multiple locations.
- Shower your cat with love! Cats are most happy when they receive genuine attention. Continue to show love to your senior cats in the same ways you always have. You can show your cat love by:
- Taking naps together.
- Brushing your cat’s fur.
- Providing treats.
EditKeeping Your Senior Cat Healthy
- Choose a senior-specific diet. Talk to your vet about moving your cat onto a senior specific diet. Additionally, older cats may prefer to eat smaller amounts more often.
- Look for special cat food blends that aim to help with joint pain, urinary tract problems, and other common issues for older cats.
- If your cat has grown picky, try warming up the food.
- Schedule more frequent visits to the vet. Just like humans, older cats are prone to more ailments. As such, frequent vet appointments can help detect problems early on.
- Consult your vet to determine how often to bring your cat in.
- As a general rule, take your cat to see the vet about every six months.
- Watch for changes. Medical issues can develop quickly in an older cat, even despite frequent vet check-ups. So be sure to watch for any sudden changes to your cat’s body or behavior. Look for things like:
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Changes in activity level.
- Changes in litter box behavior.