It's Adopt a Senior Pet Month! Did you know that a 12-year-old cat is the equivalent of a 64-year-old human? And like humans in their senior years, many cats will start to "slow down." And, hey, they deserve it! Their golden years should be enjoyed with as much verve and unequivocal sass as The Golden Girls themselves.
And much like the Golden Girls spoiling themselves with a slice of cheesecake (or two) every few episodes, our senior cats deserve to be spoiled.
1. Give them ALL the comfy places!
Although cats aren't nearly as large as humans, they still suffer from the same aging process, and thus they often suffer from the same ailments that we do. Osteoarthritis is common in older cats and can lead to decreased mobility and make lying on tile or hard surfaces uncomfortable, even painful. Providing your cat with plenty of soft, comfortable orthopedic beds can help ease joint pain and lead to more restful and comfortable sleep.
2. Make room to groom.
Arthritic joints (especially in the spine and tail region) can prevent your cat from properly grooming themselves. Cats are normally fastidious groomers who like to keep their fur clean and tidy and even use grooming as a form of self-soothing and easing stress. So gently brushing your cat's fur will not only help keep your senior's fur shiny and full of that same old luster, but it is a great way to spend some quality time with them as well. If your cat doesn't like brushes, try incorporating grooming into quality petting time with a grooming glove, which fits over your hand and acts as petting but grooms your cat at the same time.
3. Provide fun and games.
Keeping your aging cat active can help keep them fit and healthy. While you don't want to play too rough with them, don't forget that senior cats are often still as ready to play as they were when they were a kitten! In fact, they might even be bored. Try giving them some new toys to pique their interest. Those filled with catnip or silver vine are a great choice, as the strong scents stimulate and encourage exercise - or toys that shake or move on their own may add a new sensation that grabs their attention! . And don't forget the benefits of "brain games" — use food puzzles to keep her body moving and her mind active.
4. Give them a step up.
Help your cat become Stair master / Ramp champ! Cats, like humans, can develop painful arthritis. Install a set of stairs to their favorite sleeping spots that happen to be high up - like your bed or maybe a cat perch they love - to ease the strain and stress on your cat's sensitive joints and bones.
5. Consider raising their food bowls.
If you notice that your cat is struggling to bend down and eat from their normal, flat food bowls, consider giving them easier access to the dishes by getting a raised or elevated feeding platform or tall bowl.
6. Change your cat’s diet to better suit their needs
Speaking of food, as your cat ages, their bodies and needs change, just like humans. Various specialized cat foods designed to fit the dietary needs of senior cats are available, but you should consult your vet before switching foods. Some senior cats might resist dry food because their teeth might be in bad shape and it can hurt to bite. Try mixing their wet food in with their dry food, or adding a puree treat for a snack or to help soften the hard kibbles. Based on your cat's individual needs (such as chronic conditions), they may benefit from supplements. Again, it is important to check with your vet!
7. Increased Veterinary Care
Cats are notoriously skilled at hiding illnesses. But there are a few common issues that senior cats are prone to developing, such as kidney issues, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. Increased visits to the vet can help catch any signs or symptoms ahead of time. It is suggested that senior cats should visit the vet every 6 months.
8. Make their litter box more accessible
If you notice your older cat struggling to get in and out of a high-sided litter box, it might be time to consider lowering the barriers. If your cat doesn't feel comfortable or struggles to get into the litter box, they might start eliminating outside the box (which no one wants, not even your cat!) You might even consider adding additional litter boxes around the house to really spoil your golden-aged feline.
9. Install a nightlight.
House cats are crepuscular, which is why they like to prowl around in the late-night hours while the rest of the house is sleeping. But as your cat ages, their "night vision" might be less effective. By plugging in a nightlight, your senior kitty can safely and confidently navigate the house at night.
10. Keep a regular routine.
Cats thrive on routine: especially senior cats, who, in addition to decreased mobility, may also be losing their vision and hearing. This can cause your cat to feel insecure in her ability to navigate her environment. By maintaining a consistent schedule of feeding and playtime, you can help her feel safer and more comfortable in her environment.