By Jessica Remitz
Just like people, cats experience a certain slowdown as they age, making once normal activities—like hopping up on their favorite windowsill or reaching their water dish—a bit more challenging. Learn more about the ways your senior cat is changing and gets tips on how to keep her comfortable around the home.
How Your Cat Ages
As your cat gets older, it experiences many of the same physical challenges that people do, says Katie Watts, a senior feline behavior counselor at the ASPCA adoption center. Senior cats tend to get arthritic and will have problems reaching high places, jumping, or even stepping up into a high litter box. Cats are also prone to having thyroid problems (specifically hyperthyroidism), which can increase irritability and affect their appetite. Diabetes, another common senior ailment, can also affect cats and cause accidents outside of the litter box, Watts said, making it important to monitor your senior cat for changes in both physical and emotional behaviors.
“As they age, most cats become less active and are more sedate,” Watts said. “They may want low-key activities like extra cuddle time with their favorite person and a schedule as close to normal as possible.”
Making Your Home More Comfortable
If you begin to notice these behaviors or your veterinarian diagnoses your senior cat with any of these conditions, try doing the following to keep your cat comfortable at home:
- Keep them from jumping: Try to reduce the amount of jumping or leaping your cat does by making sure her food and water dishes are in an easily accessible place. If mobility becomes particularly problematic, your cat may have difficulty getting into her litter box, so you’ll want to find one lower to the ground or without any high walls around it, Watts said.
- Get cozy: Find comfortable resting places for your cat that are low to the ground and easy for her to access. This may include providing additional bedding or extra padding around her favorite spots to curl up and relax.
- Give them space: If your cat seems to want time alone, be sure to provide her with some places to be by herself, be it a corner of a closet or on her favorite window perch. If possible, Watts recommends avoiding any major life changes that would disrupt your senior cat’s routine and make things more difficult for her.
- Help them get around: Consider providing your cat with stairs or a ramp to get up onto the couch or onto her favorite windowsill more easily, and leave a light on for her to move around your home comfortably at night.
The most important thing you can do for your senior cat, Watts said, is to stick to a routine the cat is used to. Doing your best to keep the schedule as normal as possible will help your cat to stay comfortable and happy as she gets older. And if you do notice any behavior out of the norm—like hissing, growling, urinating outside of the litter box, or urinating with an increased frequency—be sure to see a veterinarian right away.
Learn more about caring for your senior cat with our Pet Health Advisor.
Photo courtesy of the ASPCA. Snuggles is 12 years old and sweet as can be. She’s on a hypoallergenic diet to help with her skin issues, but don’t let that keep you from taking this beautiful girl home with you. Learn more about adoptable cats at the ASPCA.