Maybe you figured that you’ve done enough bonding with your senior cat over her lifetime that your relationship is pretty set now that she’s older, but you might want to think again. Older cats have different needs than younger ones do, and as such, it might take a little adjusting on your part to ensure that your connection stays just as strong as it’s always been.
“Cats begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to 12 years of age,” said Adi Hovav, Feline Behavior Counselor at the ASPCA’s Adoption Center. It’s around this time that you might want to start considering the special needs that your aging cat probably has.
For starters, a senior cat should make more frequent trips to the vet, says Hovav. “At least every year,” she said. “You know your cat best, and certain changes will occur with the aging process, but many people want to know what to look for. Any changes in your cat’s habits or behaviors should be checked out by a vet. Some of the most common issues to look for include increased thirst, excessive urination, weight loss, irritability, excessive meowing, litter box accidents, stiffness in gait, vomiting or diarrhea.”
It’s also common for older cats to start losing their hearing or eyesight. “Some cats may also start to exhibit cognitive dysfunction,” said Hovav. “Take your cat to the vet right away if you notice any of these things. A stable routine and regular vet visits will go a long way to ensuring your senior kitty ages gracefully.”
Health aside, as your cat enters the senior stage it may be time to start considering what you can do around the house to make her life a bit easier. “Senior cats aren’t as agile as younger cats, so it’s important to make sure their food and water are on the ground,” says Hovav. “Also make sure your senior cat has a litter box that he can easily get in and out of. You may need to find a litter box with lower sides if you find your cat is having trouble.” You could also consider increasing the number of litter boxes in your home, and moving them to more accessible locations.
Your cat’s grooming routine could change as well. “An older cat may not be able to groom himself very well, so be sure to periodically brush your cat – this will be especially important for long and medium hair cats who are prone to matting,” said Hovav.
Lastly, it’s important to minimize any stress in your cat’s life. Start by avoiding any major changes. “Avoid bringing a new pet into the household, especially if your cat has been the only pet for most of its life,” says Hovav. “A lot of people mistakenly think that their elderly cat would love the company of a kitten, but that’s usually not the case. With such vastly different energy levels, a senior cat is more likely to become withdrawn by the presence of a bouncy new kitten.”
If you can keep a consistent schedule, keep important resources like food and water and access to a cozy place to nap readily available, and make regular visits to the vet, you can rest assured that you’re doing everything you can to help your senior cat lead a cozy and satisfying life.