Cats are generally considered to be senior when they reach the age of 8 or 9, although it is extremely common for them to reach their late teens! As cats get older, they can experience a number of physical changes, which means these typically independent animals, may require some additional help with their basic needs.
Here we answer frequently asked questions from senior cat owners and provide helpful tips to ensure your cat remains comfortable and happy as they grow old.
What should I feed my senior cat?
Older cats tend to be less mobile and spend more time inside sleeping. Playing and hunting instincts often reduce, which can mean they begin to put on weight. Conversely, senior cats with kidney or thyroid issues may suffer a loss of appetite and lose weight. If you notice a change in your pet’s weight always contact your vet for advice. They may recommend a senior cat diet, which has been specially formulated with the right calorie content and nutrients.
Top tip: senior cats may drink less, which can have an adverse effect on their kidneys. Therefore, it may be beneficial to feed your cat wet food because it has a higher water content.
My senior cat has stopped grooming himself, what should I do?
Cats are typically clean animals who spend a great deal of time grooming their fur. Consequently, it can be a worrying for owners if they notice that their cat has stopped looking after themselves. Although this may simply be a product of old age, it can also be an early sign of an underlying medical condition. For example, a cat may stop grooming hard to reach areas such as the base of their tail because they are suffering from joint problems and find it painful. It could also be an indicator of tooth ache or dental disease. Help your cat with some gentle grooming and contact your vet for guidance and information if you have any concerns.
Should I get my senior cat a litter tray?
As cats get older, they may start going to the toilet inside. This could be because they are anxious of other cats in their territory or because they are more sensitive to the rain or cold. Even if your cat has previously used the garden to go to go to the toilet, we recommend introducing a litter tray for senior cats.
Litter trays should be positioned in a quiet area of your home with at least one tray on each floor. They should be easy to access and the sides should be shallow, so they can easily climb in. Large trays are best and we recommend fine litter, so that it is not abrasive on your senior cats’ paws.
What should I do about my senior cat’s bad breath?
Bad breath can be a sign of dental disease, which is not always visible to the naked eye. Keeping your pet’s teeth clean is a vital part of pet ownership, which is often neglected and overlooked. Older cats can experience a build-up of plaque, which can cause discomfort to the teeth and gums. Your vet will be able to recommend the best plan of action, which is likely to involve regular teeth brushing.
Top tip: we are offering free vet oral health checks at our Weymouth and Dorchester surgery until 31st March 2020.
My cat’s eyesight and hearing have deteriorated, what should I do?
Senior cats can experience sight and hearing loss, which may make them anxious and confused. To help make your cat feel comfortable in their home environment try and set a standardised routine and keep layout changes to a minimum, so that they navigate their surroundings from memory. If your cat struggles to hear, approach them slowly and from the front so they can see you and are not startled.
What can I do to make my home senior cat friendly?
There are a number of changes you can make to your home to make it easier for senior cats to navigate. Cats suffering from sight loss will struggle to calculate height and distances between objects. You can help your cat reach their favourite perching spot by installing a ramp or fashioning some steps by repositioning your furniture.
Senior cats may find it more difficult to regulate their body temperature and may be more sensitive to the cold. Ensure they have a cosy bed with lots of blankets to cuddle down in.
Always make sure they have easy access to ample fresh water, food and a litter tray.
Should I get my senior cat microchipped?
If you haven’t already, it would be beneficial to get your senior cat microchipped. Older cats can become senile and may get lost or go missing. Getting your cat chipped greatly increases your chances of being reunited should your pet wander far from home.
Top Tip: microchipping is free when you sign up to our Pet Health Club
If you would like to find out more about senior cat care please contact our friendly Weymouth or Dorchester team!