caring for very old cats

Over the past few years, cats have been living longer than they used to. This is all thanks to improved nutrition, easy access to veterinary care and proper home care. While caring for pet cats is easy and fun, cats at different stages of life may have specific needs. More so when caring for very old cats who can no longer do things they used to do.

When caring for any cat it is important to understand the needs of that cat at their specific stage of life. While adult cats are easy to care for, kittens and very old cats may have special needs.

How can I know what stage of life my cat is in?

An indoor cat can live for 10 to 20 years or more depending on the specific cat. It is therefore not easy to determine the stage a cat is in. This is because some cats age sooner while other cats age later.

However, you can use the table below as a guideline to determine the stage of your cat’s life depending on their age. Note however that it is recommended to determine the stage of a cat’s life on a cat-to-cat basis.

Different ages and life stages of a cat

Different Stages of a cats life
Kitten0 – 1 year
Adult1 – 10 years
Senior11 – 14 years
Geriatric15+ years

What are the effects of ageing in cats?

As a cat ages they undergo several changes in terms of behavior and physiology. Changes in physiology determine how susceptible a cat will be to illnesses.

Behavioral changes

As a cat ages, their behavior changes. Changes in behavior may be influenced by physiological changes to some extent.

Generally speaking, very old cats are less active and playful. They will hunt less and spend less time outside if they are outdoor indoor cats. Additionally, they may be less keen to grooming.

Secondly, very old cats will generally want to sleep more and may have trouble reaching their favorite places. This could be because they may gain more weight or develop arthritis as they age.

Additionally, very old cats are more vocal. They also tend to become insecure and potentially more dependent on you.

Physiological changes

As your cat ages, she will undergo several physiological changes. For example, her kidneys may start to slow down. As a result, you will notice that she will tend to drink more water and urinate more.

Secondly, her body may not be able to utilize nutrients as it used to. Some cats as a result may gain weight as the food is converted to fats or lose weight. This however depends on the specific cat with each cat responding differently to ageing.

Additionally, some cats may develop arthritis as they age. Arthritis is painful on your cat and may make her reluctant to move. In addition, the pain may make your cat to become more aggressive if disturbed.

Physiological changes may increase the susceptibility of your cat to diseases. Therefore, gradual behavior changes can be signs of common health problems. This is because very old cats are more likely to get different conditions. Be on the look out for common signs of illness and consult your veterinarian immediately.

To keep your old cat comfortable, it is necessary to make sure that they have easy access to the things they love and need.

How can you keep very old cats comfortable?

To keep your senior cat comfortable there are a number of things you can do including.

1.      Regular claw trimming

As your cat ages, it is necessary to adapt regular claw trimming. Very old cats are less able to retract their claws therefore may tend to get stuck on furniture and clothing.

Additionally, your old cat may not be able to use their scratch pad as they used to. As such, their claws may overgrow and stick on the pads which can be painful for your kitty.

It is therefore important to adapt a regular claw trimming routine for very old cats. Consult your veterinarian for advice on the best routine.

2.      Grooming

As a cat ages, they become less keen on grooming. He or she may have trouble reaching some parts of their body because they are less flexible or due to arthritis.

You may need to wipe off any discharge around the eyes, nose, or anus. Use a separate piece of cotton wool moistened in warm water for each area.

Additionally, use a soft brush or fine comb to gently brush their hair. Ensure you are very gentle as very old cats tend to be skinny with little padding around bones. Brushing vigorously around bony parts may be painful for the cat. As you brush, check for lumps, bumps or sores that may require veterinary attention.

Lastly, if your cat is long haired, it may be helpful to trim the coat around the anus, underside of the tail and back legs to avoid soiling and matting. If you find matts, tease them out gently with scissors rather than cutting. This is because cutting may be painful for your cat and could possibly damage the skin.

3.      Litter and toilet management

Place litter box in areas where your cat can easily locate them. It may be helpful to place the litter box near (but not so close) the food and water bowl. This ensures that your cat can easily see the litter box.

You may need to put a mat under the litter box as some very old cats may miss the litter box and go to the toilet next to the litter box. This may happen if the litter box is too high or closed. You may need to purchase a litter box that has low sides to encourage the cat to use it.

If your cat is an outdoor cat, it may be necessary to install a litter box as very old cats may not be so keen on going out.

4.      Heating pads and sleeping mats/beds

As cats age they prefer sleeping in warm locations. It is therefore important to ensure that they have something warm to sleep on in their favorite spots.

If your cat loves sleeping on your bed or on the couch, provide them with a blanket to lie on. If they love sleeping on the windowsill, provide a soft padding for them to lie on.

Very old cats may become clumsy and therefore prone to falling over. Encourage them to sleep in an area with large enough space to move around.

Additionally, very old cats are not as flexible as they used to be. Ensure that you provide them with steps to enable them to reach their favorite spot.

During cold weather you might want to invest in a good heating pad or mat suitable for cats. Place the mat in your cat’s favorite spots to keep them warm.

What do you feed a very old cat?

Proper nutrition is essential throughout the entire life of a cat. When caring for very old cats, it is vital to get their nutrition right.

There are several diets that are specifically formulated for senior cats. Such foods cater for the nutritional requirements of very old cats. These age-specific foods help

  1. Maintain healthy skin and coat
  2. Manage your cats weight
  3. Maintain bodily functions
  4. Increase your cats lifespan

Senior cat food comes in the form of dry kibble or wet/canned food.

Aging cats require an increased daily water intake. You should therefore feed them on a diet that has high water content. Wet or canned foods have high water content. We therefore recommend feeding very old cats preferably with canned wet food. Alternatively, you can give them dry food and leave multiple water dishes around the house at convenient spots for your senior kitty.

Related; caring for orphaned newborn kittens.



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