How to care for a senior cat tips
Cat Health and Wellness

12 Easy Ways to Look After an Older Cat (and Keep Them Healthy)

Your cat goes through defined life stages, reaching senior status at the age of 10. With love, care, and support it’s not uncommon for house cats to live well into their twenties. So, you can enjoy many more happy years together if you take steps to keep an older cat healthy.

How do I look after the health of senior cats? Keep your pet mentally and physically active. It’s natural for an elderly cat to slow down, but some activity is highly beneficial. The more workouts your cat’s mind and muscles receive, the sharper they’ll remain. Don’t push them too hard, and keep an eye out for any visible signs of sickness. Senior felines should see a vet twice a year, just as a precaution.

Older cats have so much to offer. Being able to enjoy many additional years together is a real privilege. You will have forged an unbreakable bond, and this guide will help you honor that. Follow our advice and your cat will remain happy and healthy well into their twilight years.

How to Care for a Senior Cat’s Health

Like humans, a cat’s circumstances start to change with age. Your cat may be entering their senior years, but their time is far from up.

Keep your cat as healthy involves acknowledging their age. You wouldn’t expect a senior human to live the lifestyle of someone in their twenties, and the same applies to your older cat.

1) Minimize Physical Obstacles

They may find it more difficult to maneuver. Where they once darted around effortlessly, you may find your pet now labors a little. Minimize the physical effort needed to fulfill their basic needs.

Provide multiple water bowls, and several litter trays. Making it to the tray will become more of a challenge. Having an accident is stressful for your cat, so don’t place them in this position. Provide at least one litter tray on every floor of the house.

Your tray should not have high sides. If your cat has arthritis, they’ll find it challenging to climb in and out. Keep the tray low to the ground and easy to access.

You should always watch how your cat eats and drinks. Do they seem to be in discomfort, struggling to reach their food or water bowls? If so, look into raised feeders.

Ensure that your cat can still see where they are walking. Many felines struggle with their vision in their senior years. As cats emphasize scent and hearing, you may not even notice initially.

If your cat seems to be uncharacteristically clumsy, see a vet. A blind cat can still live a happy life. You’ll need to make their home environment a little more open plan.

2) Keep Your Cat Physically Active

As cats grow older, it’s natural that they’ll start to wind down and sleep more often. This should be allowed and permitted, but only to an extent. Senior cats still need to exercise.

There are two reasons for this. Your senior cat will likely retain the same appetite, but burn fewer calories. This will be particularly prevalent if they used to roam outside but are now kept in. You’ll still need to play with your cat to give them a workout and stay healthy.

Many older cats have arthritis. In such instances, it’s tempting for your pet to lay still and not aggravate the problem. In reality, however, small exercise is good for such limbs. If your cat can stay active, without pushing themselves too far, they’ll keep their joints supple.

Play with a senior cat is slightly different to younger pets. Don’t expect your cat to leap and jump – that’s unrealistic. They can, however, still chase laser pointers and hunt fishing rods.

Senior cats also tire easier than their younger counterparts. They still need a full day of physical stimulation, though. This means that you may be best served by breaking their playtime down into several small, manageable chunks.

3) Keep Your Cat Indoors

There is a risk of contagious disease. Even an indoor cat can get airborne viruses. However, if your pet is outside meeting other animals, they’re far more likely to be struck down. If you vaccinate your cat has an element of protection, but they won’t necessarily be immune.

Older cats also lack the reflexes of their youth. This can make crossing the road hazardous. Studies reported by Lost Pet Research suggest that senior cats are less likely to be struck by cars.

This is presumably due to enhanced road sense, borne of experience. All the same, why take the risk? It only takes one speeding driver. Your older cat may no longer have the speed to get out of the way.

Your senior pet may encounter other, less friendly felines. Feral and stray cats observe a very strict social hierarchy, and are highly territorial. If your pet happens to encounter such an animal, confrontation may occur. Older cats will struggle in such a scenario, and could get seriously hurt.

If your cat has always roamed outside, they may struggle to adapt to becoming an indoor pet. If that’s the case, consider letting them out for a couple of hours each day at set times.

Keep this brief, but allow your cat to explore a little of the local terrain. You will likely find that they want to come home soon, anyway.

4) Keep Your Cat Mentally Stimulated

Older cats need to have their minds occupied. Failing to exercise the mind doesn’t just lead to boredom. Feline dementia is more likely to occur if a cat’s brain is left to waste.

Keeping your cat mentally sharp can be as simple as talking to them. There is no shame in holding conversations with your cat. When they meow back at you, they’re holding up their end of the deal.

You may not understand each other, but that doesn’t matter. What’s important is that your pet is acknowledging your effort, and returning it in kind. If your cat is engaged enough to listen to you, you’re doing something right.

You can also keep your cat entertained with toys and games. There is no need to engage in anything to physical. Many pet stores will stock treat-dispensing games that require basic, logical thought from your cat. These can be impactful if your senior cat is home alone for several hours a day.

older cat health advice

5) Age-Appropriate Diet

Diet takes on an ever-greater level of importance. Pet food manufacturers create senior recipes for a reason. The nutritional needs of a cat adjust as they grow older.

Protein is crucial to a senior feline. High-quality protein, ideally contained within wet food, keeps the joints supple and flexible. Also, wet food will provide your pet with essential hydration.

Cheaper cat foods are packed with fillers, which are troublesome on your older pet’s digestion. If you are unsure as to which food to select, ask your vet.

In addition to their standard food, you may wish to consider providing an older cat with supplements. Remember that excessive vitamins can become toxic.

Every cat is different, and faces different challenges in their senior years. Your pet may be lacking in particular nutrients, and could use a supplemental boost.

6) Watch Your Cat’s Weight

If your cat is less active than before, you’ll have to ensure they stay trim.

It can be very dangerous to allow an older gain to pile on the pounds. It’s harder for them to exercise and burn these excess calories away. Allowing your cat to carry excess weight could lead to diabetes and aggravate arthritis. This will make it significantly harder for your cat to jump.

Cats Protection has a visual guide as to whether your pet is overweight. You may need to draw up a meal and exercise schedule to keep your elderly feline at its optimal weight and size.

7) Look Out for Signs of Sickness

You should always be vigilant for signs of sickness in older cats. Once your pet reaches senior status, health concerns can escalate quickly.

Common warning signs include:

  • Urinating outside the litter box
  • Trouble breathing
  • Eating more, or less, than usual
  • Sudden and inexplicable weight loss
  • Acute vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive verbalization, especially at night
  • Changes in behavior, such as uncharacteristic aggression or becoming increasingly withdrawn

In the event of witnessing any these symptoms, speak to a vet ASAP.

Don’t rely on your cat coming to you and accounting that something is wrong. That is not going to happen. Felines are very adept at hiding illness, especially as they grow older.

They’re already feeling vulnerable, and sickness magnifies this. You’ll have to take the lead on managing your cat’s health.

8) Help Your Cat Out with Grooming

They will likely find it increasingly hard to groom themselves. A cat cleaning itself is akin to a cardio workout, and it may exhaust older pets. Also, senior felines may be restricted in their movement due to weight or arthritis (joint and flexibility problems).

At least once a day, give your cat a clean with wet wipes. These should be unscented to avoid damaging sensitive feline skin.

You should give your cat a thorough brush at least once a day. Use a soft, wide-toothed brush for this, however. As cats get older, their fur becomes more brittle and their skin increasingly sensitive.

A cat’s fur is the primary focus of grooming, but your responsibilities do not end there. Feline claws never stop growing, and an indoor pet will not grind them down. This means that you’ll need to clip your cat’s nails. Also, keep an eye on their teeth.

Oral health is crucial to cats of all ages, but especially in senior pets. Placing a cat under anesthetic becomes increasingly risky. This may be necessary, however, if your cat develops dental disease. Brushing your cat’s teeth at least once a week reduces the chances of this happening.

caring for very old cats

9) Take Your Cat for Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

It’s vital that any cat sees a vet once a year. Once your cat gets older, however, this should be upgraded to twice-annually. Your cat may not like it, but it’s for their own good.

Vets know exactly what to look for when assessing older pets for signs of sickness. What’s more, they have equipment that we lack at home.

As cats get older, their internal organs start to show signs of wear and tear. Your vet will run tests and scans to ensure they are still functioning at full capacity.

If they do spot a possible issue, they can take early action. This invariably leads to a far better prognosis for your pet.

If you don’t already have it, you should also take out pet insurance on your older cat. Your policy may be priced higher if you have not insured your pet since they were young.

No matter how costly the monthly repayments may seem, they’ll be much cheaper than major surgery. One of these veterinary visits may result in an unwelcome discovery of sickness.

If your cat needs significant treatment, the costs will mount. Knowing that these bills are covered prevents you from making heartbreaking decisions based upon finance.

10) Discuss Vaccinations with Your Vet

Opinion varies surrounding the necessity of vaccinating older cats. Vaccination always comes with a certain number of risks. There can be side effects to the process, after all.

Of more concern is the risk of feline vaccine-associated sarcoma. This is an aggressive form of cancer that spreads at the point of injection. Thankfully, very few cats are prone to this condition.

Although scientifically unproven, it is safe to assume that senior cats have weakened immune systems. We do know that the aging process takes a toll on the heart and kidney function.

This could leave your pet at risk should they contract contagious viruses such as feline herpesvirus (FHV) or feline calicivirus (FCV).

Ask your vet which vaccinations they consider necessary for your cat, assessing potential risk vs. reward. An annual rabies booster will likely be required by law, depending on your home state.

Beyond this, vaccinations are optional and should be tailored to your pet’s lifestyle.

11) Get Your Cat into a Strict Routine

Cats live for routine. If their lives descent into chaos, they become stressed and anxious. So, it’s important that your senior cat knows what to expect.

Let your cat wake you at a particular time each day, if that’s their preference. Ensure that they know exactly when they’ll be fed, and played with.

If you work full-time, try to stick to a timetable that your cat can rely on. They’ll accept that you’re gone between 9 and 5, as long as you always come home at 5.15.

If you can’t maintain a routine with your cat, ask somebody to visit your cat during the day. Alternatively, drop them off with a friend of the family member during the day. Your older cat will be too worried about what their routine is. They just need to feel as though they have one.

12) Make Your Cat Comfortable

Make sure that your cat has creature comforts. Their bones will ache and they’ll feel the cold. You can’t reverse the aging process, but you can make it their environment cozy.

Give your cat as many thick, warm blankets as you can in their bed. This will help to ease arthritic bones. You may also want to consider a hot water bottle to keep them warm.

Your cat will also appreciate a private space, away from the house’s visitors. Older, less mobile felines won’t be able to leap onto closets for peace and quiet.

Surround your cat’s bed with comforting, familiar scents too. Provide favorite toys, and maybe some old clothing of yours. This will keep them perfectly content as they enjoy increasingly lengthy naps.

Cats age faster than we want them to, that much is unavoidable. In fact, most cats spend more years as seniors than any other phase of their life.

Senior felines are still great companions. Think about all the great times you’ve shared together. Don’t you want your cat’s twilight years to be equally memorable? That can easily be achieved with the appropriate care. Follow this advice, and your cat will remain happy and contented.