Cats are currently living substantially longer than they did 20 years ago thanks to advancements in nutrition, veterinarian care, and home care. Old cats are defined as those who are above the age of 11, senior cats as those who are between the ages of 11 and 14, and super-senior cats as those who are over the age of 15. Cats are now divided into distinct age and life-stage categories. When caring for senior cats, it can be useful to consider their age in human years.
The equivalent age can be calculated using the formula below:
The first two years of a cat’s existence are comparable to 24 human years, and each subsequent year is equivalent to four extra human years. For instance, a 16-year-old cat is equivalent to an 80-year-old person.
Visit our page for instructions on how to determine your cat’s age in human years.
Numerous physiological, behavioral, and susceptibility to particular diseases changes occur as cats age. Only a few physiological changes include diminished hearing, immunological function, skin elasticity, skin odor, and the capacity to digest fat and protein.
Changes in conduct
As cats get older, their behavior frequently changes, frequently as a direct result of the physiological changes taking place. Because the elder cat adapts to these changes gradually, you might not notice it unless you are specifically looking for signs of aging. Overall, older cats are less active, spend less time outside, hunt less, and sleep for longer periods of time. They may speak more, eat more slowly or selectively, and exhibit less interest in playing or grooming. They also tend to lose confidence and become more dependent on you as a result.
As a direct effect of illness, other behavioral changes can be seen, such as heightened appetite or thirst or antagonism connected to pain.
Elderly people at home
This is the period more than any other when your cat needs some fundamental care. Inspecting your cat on a regular basis will help you identify any problems that need to be taken care of immediately away since as cats become older, they will find it harder to keep themselves clean.
For example, check your cat’s nails each week. Senior cats may get their claws stuck in carpets and furniture because they can’t pull them out as easily. Additionally, they could outgrow their pads and stick to them. Regular trimming will be necessary, and with the right advice and training from your veterinarian, it can be easy for you to complete this important chore and avoid the need for a potentially anxious trip to the operation.
Use several pieces of cotton wool dampened in warm water for your cat’s eyes, nose, and anus because your old cat could want assistance wiping away any discharge. It can be necessary to brush and comb your cat, but you should be gently since older cats often have less padding around their bones and are consequently more sensitive to pain from rough brushing. Additionally, keep an eye out for any lumps, bumps, sores, or other conditions that right now call for veterinary attention. Shorthaired cats only need thorough brushing if there is any matting. This can frequently occur on the lower spine and hindquarters as your cat may be less flexible and unable to reach particular regions to self-groom.
If your cat has long hair and has trouble keeping itself clean, trimming the coat around the anus, the underside of the tail, and the hind legs may be useful to prevent soiling or matting. If you find any matts, tease them out instead of cutting them out with scissors because doing so might easily damage the skin. If your cat suffers from a condition that causes increased thirst and urination, it could be essential to fill the tray to a depth more than the recommended 3 cm—possibly even as much as 5 cm.
For further information, see How to Groom Your Cat.
Hairballs are a common problem for senior cats since they typically have poor digestions and may inhale hair when being groomed. Constipation or frequent vomiting are examples of these effects. You can purchase specialist vitamins or diets to aid your cat if it struggles with hairballs.
Using the restroom
It is a good idea to have an indoor litter box even if your senior cat has access to the outdoors since there will undoubtedly come a time when your cat just doesn’t feel like going outside in the damp, chilly weather to relieve itself.
For activity and movement in general to be easier on your elderly cat, she needs to feel comfortable walking.
Find out how to pick your cat’s optimal litter box.
Because old teeth and mouths can cause problems, check your cat periodically for any growths, gum reddening, or indications of dental illness. Consult your veterinarian if you are uncertain. Dental sickness may include bad breath, drooling, a “chattering” jaw, appetite loss, and mouth-pawing.
Routine medical checkups
Your veterinarian will advise the number of checkups that are ideal for your cat based on its age and general health. Although it’s reassuring to know that your cat will have regular checkups, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from being a little extra vigilant at home to catch the earliest signs of a problem. There are a number of generic danger signs that need your individual veterinarian’s attention, such as:
- Diminished appetite
- Gain less weight
- Increasing consumption volume or frequency on a daily basis
- Difficulties jumping up or overall stiffness
- Any bodily lumps or bumps of any kind
- Balance problems
- Excrement or pee passage problems or toilet disasters
- Uncertainty or discomfort
- Unusual behavior, such as hiding, being hostile, or talking excessively
Your cat’s sense of taste and smell may decline as it gets older, which could result in a decrease in appetite. Your cat can also require some encouragement at times. There are many ways to stimulate hunger, including:
- To prevent your cat from being distracted by noise and activity, choose a peaceful setting. Give out food frequently, preferably four to six times each day as a beginning point. To sate your appetite, try both familiar and unfamiliar foods.
- Your cat might prefer a wide, shallow bowl or one with a rim, for example, while receiving food.
- Serve food at room temperature or, to make it more appealing, slowly reheat it to a temperature just below that of body heat.
- Play with the offered food’s consistency. Some older cats, especially those with dental concerns, prefer soft food to lumps or dry biscuits. After adding a little water to the food, you might try mashing it with a fork.
- Raising the food bowl onto a box, for example, may make eating more enjoyable for a cat suffering from neck osteoarthritis.
- Wet food should not be left out unattended for more than an hour, and you should resist the impulse to stock up on a variety of meals because doing so might be overwhelming.
- Sitting with your cat and conversing with her while touching her will increase hunger. Even better, try feeding your cat by hand.
Older cats are more prone to dehydration, especially if they have medical conditions like chronic kidney disease, so always make sure that there are plenty of water bowls available in the house in easily accessible locations away from the regular areas where food is eaten. The type of container, such as glass, ceramic, or drinking fountain, as well as the type of water, such as spring, filtered, boiled, or tap water, may require some experimentation. It might be advantageous to include even a small amount of water in your senior cat’s wet food. If you raise water bowls off the floor, they can end up being more comfortable for the elderly cat to use.
Senior-friendly home with cats
All the recommendations for a cat-friendly house are also applicable to older persons with a little modification. It is rare that you will need to make significant changes to your home as your cat ages, but even small changes to the cat resources that are already in place can have a significant impact on your cat’s quality of life. For instance, if your cat struggles with stair climbing, it may spend most of its time on one level, either upstairs or downstairs. By ensuring sure all of your cat’s needs are met at that one level, you can lessen the likelihood that it won’t be able to reach essential supplies. If you give your cat a litter box, you can keep an eye on its bowel movements for sickness symptoms including blood in the pee or feces, changes in the consistency of the stools, or other symptoms of illness. Older cats may get shaky on slippery flooring options like laminate, tile, or wood, which would reduce their likelihood of being active. Your cat’s claws, which can readily elongate without frequent stropping and remain extended as the muscles weaken, can also become entangled in carpet. Install cut pile runners throughout the house if your flooring is loop pile as a workaround so your cat may move around comfortably. Cats find cut pile carpets to be more comfy than loop pile. Additionally, this is the greatest surface to utilize if your cat enjoys lying down while playing.
If it is one of your cat’s favorites, there is no reason to get rid of it as he gets older. Your senior cat can learn to lie on its side, grab the toy with its front paws, and kick it with its back legs with the help of the larger toys. Many people enjoy this kind of play, which is great for loosening up stiff rear limbs. The ideal “kick toy” is 6 to 8 inches (15–20 cm) long, rectangular or cylindrical, and made of a durable fabric, such drill cotton or towelling, for instance.
The cat really enjoys cardboard boxes, albeit the elderly may require a different approach. Older cats could relish the prospect of exploring even though they lack the mobility to dive in and wander around. Turning a large box on its side with the opening facing your cat can allow it to enter and explore the space. Additionally, paper bags and carrier bags might present possibilities for investigations, especially if they crinkle. However, handles should be removed to avoid any catastrophes because cats can easily coil them around their necks.
Generally speaking, covered trays shouldn’t be used because they can be awkward to handle. People who still enjoy scratching may be satisfied by providing equivalent horizontal surfaces, and the motion is also good forelimb exercise.
High windowsills are a favorite spot for cats to observe the outside world, but some older cats may find it difficult or impossible to jump up, therefore it should be simple for cats to access and leave these comfortable perches. A set of shallow stairs is the best option; ramps can be used, but only if they are angled to resemble a moderate slope rather than a steep one.
Older cats may love puzzle feeders, but it’s important to monitor food intake to make sure the extra work doesn’t prevent your cat from eating. If so, continue with bowls that are placed in the spot that your cat prefers.
While it is generally recommended that litter trays be kept apart from other resources, like as food and water, it is fair to arrange all of a cat’s supplies close to one another for older cats or cats who have cognitive impairments in order to avoid confusion.
Older cats tend not to use tall activity and scratching posts because the stropping motion on high surfaces can strain arthritic joints. Open trays with low edges are ideal if your cat has trouble utilizing them and should be securely fastened to prevent tipping. Avoid using polythene litter liners since your cat could snag them with its claws, and keep any indoor trays clean at all times. If you are worried, go to your veterinarian because severe matts can make your cat feel pretty uncomfortable. You must test several types of litter because your cat might prefer one that needs to be cleaned more regularly and is shallower.
Many of your cat’s favored sleeping locations are on high surfaces, like your bed or a window sill, so as she ages, she can find it more difficult to access these locations. It will be able to approach the area gradually rather than giving up owing to joint stiffness or weakness thanks to the installation of ramps, steps, and platforms.
If your cat uses your bed, chair, or sofa frequently, you might wish to provide them with a warm, machine-washable thermal blanket. If your cat enjoys sleeping on tiny platforms, it is best to place a soft, cushioned object beneath it because many older cats have poor balance and may fall. Ideally, senior cats should be encouraged to sleep on solid, wide surfaces.
If a cat’s limited mobility makes it impossible for it to access previously favorite areas, new ones should be built to ensure that your cat can continue to relax.
Due to difficulty accessing the cat flap, some senior cats will go outside less regularly. The cat flap will eventually be replaced by escorted outings into the garden through the back door, even if it could be desirable to build a step both inside and outside to make it easier to use. If no other cats are using the flap at the time, it would be smart to shut it off or take it out to prevent outside cats from entering and disturbing the cat.
There are many reasons why your cat might stop going outside as it ages. The perception that your cat can no longer actively defend its area and the presence of other cats in the territory will undoubtedly have a significant impact. If you can secure your garden, you can keep your cat restricted on your property and keep other cats out (for more information, see Fencing in Your Garden).
Holidays and celebration
If your cat has always gone to a cattery while you are away, there is no particular reason to change the arrangement. Your cat might eventually prefer to stay at home with someone dropping by or staying over to take care of the essentials because older cats have problems adjusting to routine changes. Your cat should feel at ease with the cat-sitter in the ideal world.
You could discover that your cat benefits from having a safe, quiet, and equipped location to retreat to while the commotion is going on elsewhere in the house because older cats may find parties and other home celebrations a little stressful.