Older cats often benefit from small changes to your home. These little things can make a big difference to your cat's quality of life and help them cope with any aches and pains they are experiencing.
Your elderly cat might still seem - and act - like a kitten, or they might be showing their age and struggling to do things that used to be easy. Cats that are suffering from an illness or are in pain may find it difficult to reach high places and older cats may feel intimidated by neighbouring cats, which may deter them from going outside.
Monitor your cat and take them to the vet if you notice any changes in their behaviour.
You can make your cat happier and more comfortable in your home by making a few small changes. Keep reading for a few suggestions that might improve your cat's quality of life.
Older cats will appreciate having a variety of cosy, well-padded beds in safe, warm places that are easy to reach. If your cat likes sleeping somewhere high, help them climb up by providing a ramp or a stool. Hammock-style radiator beds are especially warm, which older cats may appreciate.
Your senior cat may find it difficult to look after their coat. Gentle grooming will help keep their skin healthy and provides valuable bonding time. Stroking a cat is a great de-stressor and may lower your blood pressure.
Many older cats still love high places, but they may struggle to climb up the way they used to, especially if your cat has arthritis or another disease that causes pain. Older cats may also struggle to calculate the height of surfaces and so are more likely to fall and get hurt.
You can help your cat reach their favourite high perches by providing a ramp or a piece of furniture to act as a stepping stool. You could cover this in carpet to provide extra grip. It is a good idea to fashion a crash mat underneath the ramp in case the cat falls. Cushions under windowsills make perfect crash mats for uncoordinated or wobbly cats.
Provide several litter trays in the house at all times, even if your cat has toileted outside all of their life. There will be times when an older cat needs an indoor litter tray, such as when it's raining, or if the usual toileting site is frozen, or if they feel intimidated by neighbouring cats. Place the litter trays in quiet areas of your home so your cat feels safe.
Large litter trays give your cat plenty of space to move and low sides make it easy for them to get in and out. Some litters may be too rough for an elderly cat, even if they were fine when they were younger. Don't make any sudden changes, but provide additional trays with 3cm of soft, fine litter that will feel more comfortable under their paws.
Older cats are less able to defend themselves and their territory, so they can become more anxious and more dependent on their owners. By going outside with your cat, you may help them to feel protected against 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.
Is your cat microchipped? Older cats may get lost or go missing - so microchipping your cat will improve your chances of being reunited with your pet if they wander off.
See also: Microchipping
Older cats can still be playful. And a little exercise is beneficial for their mental and physical health. Use toys that are unlikely to intimidate them, such as a feather attached to a string that you slowly move past them. Experiment with different toys to see what captures their attention. Any interaction - even just watching - provides useful stimulation.
Cats love routines. This is even more true as cats get older, when they appreciate familiarity and predictability, such as being fed at the same time. Avoid moving furniture if possible so the home environment remains familiar and easy to navigate.
Older cats may still want to scratch, but they might find it more difficult as they get older. You could provide a horizontal scratching surface or one with a lower gradient and softer material, such as carpet, which may be easier for them to scratch. Remember to check their claws regularly.
See also - Scratching
Place water and food bowls in a few different easy-to-reach spots around your home, both upstairs and downstairs, so your cat doesn't have to struggle with stairs just to eat and drink. Ask your vet about a suitable diet for your older cat.
Visit your vet if you have any concerns about your cat's health. Many conditions are treatable, and your vet may be able to help your cat get more enjoyment from their twilight years.
There will come a time when your cat is in continual pain, discomfort or distress, and the most loving and courageous thing you can do is to end their suffering.
See also - When to say goodbye