Caring For Your Senior Cat

Just because your cat is old doesn't mean she is all used up! She may have fewer years left to play and purr and keep you company, but she may still enjoy all the things she always did. The key is to keep her happy and healthy. And you need to be more attentive to her needs as her body changes with the aging process.

As with humans, cats can experience hearing loss, decreased eyesight, cataracts, arthritis, diabetes, heart problems, digestive problems, and a general slowing down of all physical processes. While she may still play and chase a string or a ball, she may not do so as often or as vigorously.

But with proper diet, appropriate exercise and a happy, stress-free environment (preferably indoors), many cats can live more than 20 years. (By contrast, outdoor cats are lucky to make it to their second birthday.)

If kitty develops joint pain, usually due to arthritis, she may feel less inclined to play, or even to move around, and may nap most of the day. If this is due to pain, she will decline faster from inactivity, losing muscle mass, making further movement more and more difficult. This will lead to depression and a faster decline in health, and even an earlier demise. Depressed cats often stop eating, and that alone will lead to death rather quickly.

Be observant, watching for signs of depression, or of pain on movement . If she hurts, consult with the veterinarian about pain medication or other means of relief. Be sure to feed high quality food, and spend quality time with your kitty. Cats not only need exercise, but mental stimulation as well. Play games that afford her the opportunity to run and jump, and to figure things out. Talk to her, groom her and pet her.

If your aging cat finds movement is becoming more and more difficult, try making your home more "senior-accessible" for her. For example, if you have a home with more than one level, be sure she is able to get to her litter box easily and quickly. If she hangs out in a bedroom so she can look out a favorite window, but you keep her litter box in the basement, expect accidents, as she won't always be able to get there in time. Better, keep her box closer. Also, be sure she is able to get into and out of the box. If her old box has high sides, and she has difficulty jumping in, just get a new box, with lower sides.

Be sure there are quiet areas for her to relax in, away from the hubbub of a busy household with lots of feet to dodge. Her foot-dodging abilities are surely slower in her old age, right?

Also, if your home is on the cooler side, be sure she has a warm spot to settle down in when she needs to nap.

The bottom line with any pet's well-being, including their old age needs, is the concept of consideration. When you grow old, won't it be nice if your family is considerate of your new needs? Just do the same for Fluffy, and she will appreciate you for it.

Copyright 2006 - 2007 - RJ Peters 
Dr. R.J. Peters, a retired physician, established an animal rescue shelter in 2002. She has worked with hundreds of dogs and cats and shares much of what she's learned, at The Problem Cat.