Tips for caring for an older cat

As kittens get older, they need a little extra care and attention to ensure they stay happy and healthy. Kittens are considered seniors when they reach around the age of eleven, but many will continue into their late teens and early twenties. In fact, the oldest reported cat was 28 years old[i].

As cats get older, you will notice their activity levels decrease and they sleep more. This can lead to decreased muscle tone and appetite. Their coat may change as well, and since older cats can’t groom themselves as effectively as they once did, they may suffer from hair loss and infections.

Vision and hearing may also deteriorate, and bowel and urinary system functions may change. Older cats can also develop age-related diseases such as diabetes and arthritis, plus their behavior may change. They may become angrier or louder than usual.

However, for many older cats, you will notice that they slow down a bit and spend more time indoors and less time roaming outside. This can be an amazing time for the cat and the owner, and as long as you keep an eye out for any changes or signs they may be in pain, they will continue to live a happy life.

Sometimes, older cats may need a little extra help around the house. For example, a cat who finds she can’t jump to some of the places she once did could build a small ladder or put some boxes near her to act as steps to her favorite spot. This means they can continue to enjoy looking out the window or hide on top of the dresser keeping an eye on everyone.

If you find your cat is spending more time upstairs, be sure to put fresh water in several locations, upstairs and downstairs so they always have easy access to a drink. Small meals that are lightly fed and often suit older cats better than one large meal.

Sometimes, if a cat seems to be drifting away from her favorite food, it may be because she has a decreased sense of smell. Slightly heating the food can increase the smell, which encourages the cat to eat. However, always have them checked by a vet if they have lost their appetite for more than a few days.

Here are some tips for caring for older cats that are useful for both pet owners and home sitters who take care of other people’s cats:

Monitor changes in appetite and water consumption

Learn what is normal for your cat and note any changes. Cats absorb food less effectively as they get older, so they will often eat a bit more but show no weight gain. However, if they don’t seem to be eating much or much, it could be a sign that something is wrong. It is recommended that they be brought in by a veterinarian.

Same with water – look for any changes. For example, increased drinking or drinking from places like puddles and dripping faucets when they weren’t used to before can be a sign that something is wrong and a trip to the vet is needed.

Be careful in grooming

Most cats are very good groomers but as they get older they may not be as thorough as they once were. Long-haired cats in particular may need a little extra help grooming them, but make sure you’re gentle because they can be more sensitive than they used to be. Watch their claws, too. As kittens get older, they may not wear them out by scratching as well as they once did, and may need to be clipped occasionally.

Look for lumps and bumps

It is important to keep an eye out for any new lumps or bumps. Regular stroking and grooming is the best way to do this. Be aware of what is normal and what is not so that you notice any changes that your vet may need to look at. For people who use household items to take care of their cats and their homes when they’re away, be sure to check out what’s normal as well so they can check while you’re away.

litter trays

Provide a few litter trays upstairs and downstairs so your cat doesn’t have to travel far. Even cats who still use the toilet outside may love the option sometimes, especially when it’s cold and damp to use the litter box instead. Make sure these are large enough for them to move easily and easy for them to get in and out of.

Playing with an old cat

Remember that just because a cat is older doesn’t mean they won’t want to play, albeit for a shorter period of time than when they were younger. Play with them their favorite game or introduce some new ones and see what gets their attention. Playtime is good for their mental stimulation and should be continued regularly as long as the cat enjoys it.

Stick to the routine

Cats like to stick to a familiar routine as much as possible so they don’t make any major changes like moving out of the house or introducing another pet when they’re older. Keeping the house aware of the furniture in the same space is also reassuring, especially if the cat is losing her sight. Also keep in mind that going outside and leaving them alone for long periods of time can also become more annoying as the cat gets older.

Consider using a Homesitter

It can be helpful to use a house and pet sitter when you go on vacation. Even if your cat is used to going to a nursery, the experience of being away from home can still be stressful. For older cats, this can be more than that. It may be nice for your cat to hire a house groomer to come and take care of her in her home.

Cats like a familiar environment and routine which is even more important if the cat has poor eyesight and hearing. Older cats may also be on medication or need regular injections – which many home handlers are happy to do.

If you have an elderly cat, you need to take care of it when you go away and would like to know more about employing a home visit.

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