There are a number of small changes that can be made to your home which will have a big impact on the quality of your cat’s life. While a number of older cats appear to be ‘as young as they feel’ with many still showing kitten-like behaviours, others can benefit from a few home tweaks that ensure that all their resources are within easy reach.
What you can do to help an older cat
Make sure your cat is microchipped in case they become disorientated or goes missing. A microchip carries a unique number linked to a database holding your contact details, allowing you to be quickly traced should they stray and be scanned.
Allow your cat to reach favourite places to rest by strategically placing boxes or items of furniture for them to climb. Make sure they have a variety of cosy, well-padded beds in safe warm places that can be readily accessed. Your cat may enjoy the hammock-style radiator beds as they are very warm.
Somewhere to perch up high
Older cats can find it difficult to make accurate calculations when jumping and are not as agile as they used to be, especially f they are stiff, in pain or have arthritis. Provide easy ways for cats to access their favourite areas, such as using a ramp or small foot stool to give them access to high surfaces. Make sure it is wide enough and you could also cover it in carpet to give extra grip. It is a good idea to fashion some sort of crash mat underneath the ramp, in case the cat falls. Cushions under windowsills act as crash mats for uncoordinated or wobbly cats.
Litter trays and toileting
Provide several litter trays in the house at all times, even if your cat has toileted outside all of their life. There are many occasions when an older cat will need an indoor litter tray, such as when it’s raining outside, if the normal toileting site has frozen over and is hard to dig, or if they feel intimidated by other neighbouring cats. Place the litter trays in quiet, safe areas of the home.
Providing a large tray gives the cat plenty of space to move around inside. Make sure the tray has a low side so they can get in and out more easily. Some litter types that were acceptable as an adult may be too coarse for older cats. Don’t make any sudden changes, but provide additional trays with 3cm of soft, fine litter that they will find more comfortable under their paws.
Older cats are less able to defend themselves or a territory and as a result may become more anxious or dependant on their owners. Some cats will feel reassurance from owners that accompany them outside so they are protected against the neighbouring cats. If your cat still prefers to toilet outside, provide a newly dug over border as close to the house as possible and maintain it regularly.
Water and food bowls
Place water and food bowls in a variety of easily accessible locations around the house, both upstairs and downstairs so they are easy to find and they don’t have to walk up and down stairs just to get food and water. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate diet for your older cat.
Older cats still like to play, but they need more gentle, brief games than when they were younger. Use toys that are unlikely to intimidate them, such as a feather attached to string that is slowly moved past them. Experiment with different toys to see what captures your cat’s attention. Even if they only watch or slowly swipes the toy with a paw, it is still important beneficial mental stimulation.
As older cats may struggle to look after their coats, additional help and gentle grooming will help to keep your cat’s skin healthy and gives you some valuable bonding time with your cat. Stroking a cat is a great de-stressor and may lower an owner’s blood pressure.
Cats may still want to scratch but can find it difficult as they age. You could provide a
horizontal scratching post or one with a lower gradient and softer material such as carpet, which they may find easier. Remember to check their claws regularly.
Cats are creatures of habit and this characteristic becomes more pronounced as they age. They prefer a familiar, regular routine to provide predictability. Where possible, avoid moving furniture so that your cat’s environment is familiar and they can easily find their way around your home.
Seek veterinary advice early if you are worried. Remember, many of the disorders that affect older cats can be treated and managed to allow your cat a happy and content life, particularly when treatment is sought early. However, inevitably there may come a time when your cat is in continual pain, discomfort or distress, and the most loving and courageous way you can show them how much you care is to end their suffering.
Your elderly cat and you
Caring for an older cat in their twilight years brings a tremendous joy and many owners actively decide to adopt an older cat because of the endearing qualities they can offer. With their wandering days behind them, older cats tend to stay closer to
home and appreciate gentle affection. Owners often comment on the special relationship they have with their older pet, enhanced by some simple measures and an understanding of their needs. (Source: Cats Protection)
If you’re the proud owner of a senior kitizen, show the world just how amazing they are by leaving a comment below or sharing your photos and stories using #MatureMoggies on our Facebook @cpexeteraxhayes, Twitter and Instagram. If you would like to adopt one of our senior kitizens please contact our adoption centre via www.axhayes.cats.org.uk. Thank you.