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Senior Cats: 10 Tips for Taking Care of an Elderly Cat

As your cat becomes more senior, they may not be as energetic as they once were. You might also notice other behavioral and physical changes that indicate your golden oldie cat needs a little more care and attention to help them stay healthy. If you’re trying to figure out how best to care for your senior cat, check out our 10 tips to help them live their very best life.

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When does a cat become a senior?

Once a kitten reaches 12 months old, they’re officially considered an “adult” cat. This stage lasts until they reach the age of 11. Any cat aged 11 and older is classified as a “senior” cat, and they may need a little more care and attention from their owners to help keep them in the best physical health.

 1. Keep an eye on your cat’s weight

fat cat_Andreas Almstedt_Pixabay
Image Credit: Andreas Almstedt, Pixabay

Changes in your cat’s weight can indicate that they may be suffering from a health problem. These can include gastrointestinal problems, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes. It can be difficult to visually notice subtle changes in weight, so you may decide to weigh your cat once a week to keep a closer eye on things. Your vet can also show you how to assess your cat’s body condition. If your cat loses or gains weight unexpectedly, the best thing to do is book them in for a consultation with your vet.

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2. Monitor their food intake

cat eating_Lenar Nigmatullin_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lenar Nigmatullin, Shutterstock

Check how much your cat is eating, as senior cats will often have a reduced appetite if they’re not feeling 100%. You could switch your cat to a food designed specifically for senior cats or offer them highly palatable wet food to encourage them to eat. It’s best to feed senior cats little and often, as this will help their digestive system work efficiently. Consider using an automatic feeder if you want to make sure your cat has access to regular meals when you’re away from home during the day.

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3. Make sure your cat is drinking enough

cat drinking water_Pixabay
Image Credit: Pixabay

Senior cats may not drink as much as they should, and this can lead to health issues like constipation. Make sure that your cat is drinking enough and that they can comfortably access water whenever they like. If they used to jump onto the counter and drink from the faucet, add a cat water fountain at ground level. You can also feed more wet food to increase your cat’s water intake.

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4. Check for signs of pain

tabby cat_Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nils Jacobi, Shutterstock

Cats are excellent at concealing their pain and can sometimes be in severe pain before showing any outward signs to their owners. Elderly cats can often be suffering from painful joint conditions that their owners have no idea about until they’re x-rayed for a completely different issue. Ask your vet to check your cat at their regular check-ups, and if your cat’s behavior changes, call for advice.

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5. Provide soft and warm beds

cute cat in bed at home_Africa Studio_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

 As your cat ages, their joints can become stiff and painful. Where once they may have enjoyed stretching out on the kitchen tiles for a nap, they might now prefer a softer bed. Make sure your cat has plenty of options when it comes to sleeping spots. You might like to treat them to a heated cat bed for the winter, to help them stay comfortable and warm.

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6. Monitor your cat’s litter box

cat poop in litterbox_RJ22, Shutterstock
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

Keeping an eye on your cat’s habits in the litter box is a good way to assess how healthy they are. Senior cats can easily become constipated, especially if they’re not drinking enough water. Make a note of what’s typical for your cat, and if anything seems out of the ordinary, you may want to speak to your vet. Increased urination can be a sign of certain health problems, including diabetes and kidney disease. Make sure the litter box is easy for your cat to access, without sides that are uncomfortably high for them to climb over.

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7. Watch out for any changes in behavior

red-cat-on-the-couch-opened-his-mouth_Natalia-Kopylcova_shutterstock
Credit: Natalia Kopylcova, Shutterstock

Senior cats can start to suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction, or cat dementia. This can include a few different symptoms:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Reduced interest in food
  • Not using the litter box
  • Excessive vocalization
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8. Schedule 6-monthly vet check-ups

vet doctor checking up the cat
Image Credit: Andrey_Kuzmin, Shutterstock

For adult cats, an annual check-up is recommended, but senior cats should see the vet every 6 months. This allows you to pick up on the early signs of any illnesses and come up with a treatment plan. Your vet may want to run bloodwork and check your cat’s teeth, weight, and overall health. If you notice anything worrying, like weight loss or a dull and greasy coat in between check-ups, call your vet and schedule an appointment.

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9. Encourage your cat to exercise

cat playing with owner_Dora Zett, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

As your cat ages, they might not be as active as they once were, but they still need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Your elderly cat might not be able to jump into their high cat hammock anymore, so consider placing it nearer the floor. If they have a favorite sleeping spot that’s high up, add a ramp so they can still access it safely. Your older cat may enjoy playing with less physically demanding toys, so consider offering them food puzzles or soft kicker toys rather than anything that requires them to chase or pounce.

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10. Give your cat as much attention as you can

calico cat standing up_Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

Senior cats might spend more time sleeping or resting, but they will still appreciate plenty of love and affection from their owners. You may need to groom your cat more often if they have trouble reaching certain parts of their coat or trim their nails more often if they’re not able to stretch out onto their scratching post. After all the joy and love that our cats gave us their whole lives, looking after them as best we can once they’re a senior is the least we can do for our furry friends.

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Featured Image Credit: Katarzyna Kosianok, Pixabay