A while back, I wrote a post about my then 15-year-old cat, Siouxsie, because I think senior cats rock in so many ways. Because cats are living longer than ever — some well into their teens and even their 20s — it’s becoming increasingly important for cat caretakers to understand what we can do to make life easier for our older cats, so they can enjoy a good quality of life right up to the end. Here are eight pointers to help your senior kitty enjoy her golden years.
1. Give Her a Step Up
Almost all cats enjoy being able to view their domain from high places. But arthritis and the gradual onset of hind-end weakness can make it difficult for your kitty to do so. Help her to her favorite spots by buying or making special stairs. If you make your own, be sure to use stable materials rather than, say, pillows.
2. Watch for Creakiness
Cats instinctively hide their pain, so be aware of subtle signs of stiffness like a slightly more hunched back or a shorter stride. Supplements like glucosamine-chondroitin or MSM are available in the form of tasty treats, which are easy to administer.
3. Watch Her Weight, Too
It’s not normal for cats to get super skinny as they get older. Age-related illnesses like hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and chronic renal insufficiency are often heralded by extreme weight loss. On the other hand, obese elderkitties will be more likely to suffer from any arthritic changes in their bodies. Your vet can work with you to create a nutrition plan that will help your senior cat maintain a proper body condition.
4. Provide a Royal Throne
Give your elderkitty a soft bed where she can curl up comfortably for a nap whenever she wants one. Some beds also come with heating pads, which can be wonderful for cats suffering from arthritis.
5. Get the Other Throne in Order, Too
Older cats sometimes have difficulty managing their litter box chores. They may not sense that they need to pee until the need is really urgent, for example, so place litter boxes in parts of your home where your elderkitty likes to hang out. If your cat is having trouble getting into the litter box, consider using an uncovered model with lower sides.
6. Raise the Dishes
Some older cats have trouble eating comfortably from food bowls placed on the floor. There are lots of nice-looking raised dish sets, which can ease your senior kitty’s neck and shoulder discomfort.
7. Get to the Vet
Make sure your elderkitty gets regular vet checkups. Some vets recommend that senior cats go to the vet every six months in order to detect the beginning stages of age-related illness and start treatment early. Talk with your own vet and see what kind of preventive care he or she recommends for your cat.
8. Don’t Fear the Reaper
It’s almost certain that your cat will die before you do. Try to address any issues you have around death and dying before you’re forced to do so. Denial of the inevitable will harm your relationship just when your feline friend needs you the most. The kindest thing you can do is to truly be present, with an open heart, right until your beloved companion draws her last breath.