Seventeen years ago this May, Siouxsie Mew walked into my life. My relationship with her has outlasted many friends and lovers, and pretty much every person in my life except my family and my best friend in the universe. I weaned her, I helped her recover from her spay surgery, she’s one of the original members of the Paws and Effect gang, and she’s moved house with me at least half a dozen times. All the while she’s borne the burden of being Top Cat and Queen of All Eastern Cats with dignity and grace … and the occasional paw-swat when required.
Siouxsie’s not the only elderkitty I’ve known. My family has had cats who lived to be 17, 18, and, in one case, 21, so I guess you could say I’ve learned a few things about how to make a senior cat’s life as happy and healthy as possible. Here are eight of my best tips:
1. Remember that your senior cat is still the top cat
Even if your other cats start agitating for the throne, so to speak, remind them that they should respect their elders. Give her the first shot at treats and affection and make sure the younger cats stay out of her way.
2. Be gentle with her
In her younger years, your cat may not have had any problems recovering when you pushed her off the counter, but that may not be so true now. Even if she ends up on her feet, it could still be a painful landing. Pick her up and put her on the floor with a quiet “no” instead.
3. Give her soft spots
Siouxsie was delighted when I bought her a bucket bed lined with soft faux-fur and cushioned with foam. It kept her warm and didn’t put pressure on her sore hips.
4. Get regular vet care
Once your cat is in her teens, she’s aging at the rate of four human years for every one cat year. Regular veterinary checkups will ensure that your cat stays healthy and you catch any illnesses early. Most vets recommend twice-yearly checkups for senior cats. If you can afford that, great; if not, please try for once a year.
5. Give her a lift
Your elderkitty is probably not as strong and agile as she used to be, but she still loves being able to look down on her kingdom. Give her ways to get to her favorite high places, whether through ramps, steps, or even by picking her up and placing her there.
6. Cut her some slack
Your old cat may do things that annoy you: howling in the middle of the night, acting super-needy, or taking a nap in your clean laundry. Don’t give her a hard time for that; she’s simply seeking comfort or expressing fear about her changing abilities.
7. Lower the barriers
If your cat is going to the bathroom outside the litterbox, watch her while she’s doing her business and see what the trouble is. If she’s having trouble holding her squat and is therefore peeing over the edges of the box, get a box with high sides and a low entrance. If the box is too small, get a larger one. And if all else fails, invest in some puppy training pads.
8. Enjoy every minute with her
A well-cared-for cat can live into her late teens, or even longer. Don’t check out emotionally or spiritually because you’re afraid she’s going to die soon. Every creature dies eventually, and your cat deserves your love for as long as she’s alive. If you have fears around death, work on those now so you can be fully present with her until she draws her last breath.
What have you done to make your elderkitty’s life as awesome as possible, for as long as possible? Please share your tips in the comments.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.
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