Old, Gold, Yet Beautifully Bold –Take Care of Your Senior Cats


Nitya Ramachandran
Is your pet getting old and gray? To make the transition from an adult to a senior easy for your pet, you need to be patient and sensitive towards these changes.
Cats of the age of 11 years and above are usually considered seniors. As their age progresses, cats invariably undergo various physiological as well as behavioural changes.Cats are experts at hiding their pain despite underlying issues, which highlights the importance of being watchful about the subtle changes in your senior cat as they could be indicative of significant health problems.
Safety is indoors
An important practice you can develop to ensure that your senior cat remains healthy is to keep her exclusively indoors. Indoor cats lead healthier lives and are known to live longer than their outdoor counterparts. Providing a mentally stimulating indoor environment, in addition to adequate solitary spots will ensure a happy state of mind for your senior cat.
Unlock healthy living with the ‘Diet Key’
As cats age, their digestive capacity slows down, which makes it difficult for them to absorb nutrients from food. Owing to a weak digestive system, senior cats cannot tolerate large meals. Feeding them small portions throughout the day at regular intervals instead of a few large portions will take care of their digestive health. Because of their diminishing sense of smell and taste, they might eat less or be fussy about their food. The food being served to senior cats should be light, easily digestible, and preferably served warm to increase palatability. The consistency of the food should be semi-solid or molten, as older cats, especially the ones with dental problems, will find it hard to chew solid food. Food should be served in a quiet area where your senior cat can eat at peace.
Gallon of goodness – stay hydrated
Aging cats, particularly ones who don’t stay hydrated enough, are more susceptible to problems like constipation and kidney disease. Adding more water bowls around the house at easily accessible locations will entice them to drink more water. Alternatively, you can feed canned food to your senior cats to increase their water intake.
Obesity & Osteoarthritis – two monsters for senior cats
Obesity is an extremely common problem in senior cats. Overweight cats are at an increased risk of health issues like diabetes, heart, and liver problems. You need to get in touch with your vet and modify your pet’s food intake to help her maintain an optimum weight in keeping with her age.
Osteoarthritis is another problem faced by obese cats. Even the slightest increase in your pet’s body weight can significantly heighten the pain of sore joints, further necessitating the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight. Medicines and nutritional supplements, in addition to alternative treatment like massage therapy, can help address your senior cat’s joint pain woes.
Brush away dental woes
Painful tooth cavities, gum disease, oral lesions, broken teeth, etc. can greatly affect your pet’s quality of life. Oral infections, if ignored or left untreated for long, can enter the bloodstream and cause problems to other vital organs of the body. The importance of routine dental check-ups in extending your pet’s lifespan cannot be stressed enough. Make sure you regularly brush her teeth at home.
Groom them well
Lack of flexibility in older cats renders them incapable of grooming themselves, which is where you’ll have to step in. Long-haired cats in particular have special grooming needs. Frequent, gentle brushing of your senior cat’s hair with a soft brush will not only help remove uncomfortable matting and loose hair but will also stimulate blood circulation and makes their coat appear lustrous. Frequent grooming also eliminates the problem of the cat ingesting hairballs while attempting to self-groom. Older cats are generally thin and bony, hence vigorous combing should be avoided to not cause them pain.
Regular trimming of your senior cat’s nails will prevent any overgrowth and reduce the chances of them getting caught in carpets and upholstery.
Respect seniority with easy access to resources
Hunt, scratch, climb, hide and play are important for cats of all ages, including the senior ones, which is why age-appropriate adjustments should be made in their environment to enrich their quality of life. Keeping in mind the limited mobility of older cats, the enrichments should be made easily accessible to them. For example – providing climbing aids such as a series of shallow steps or non-slippery carpeted ramps with a slight incline to senior cats will not only help facilitate easy access to their favourite elevated spots but also double up as scratching posts. Cushioned cat beds with warm blankets can offer them a place to rest peacefully for longer durations and soothe their joint pain. Many aging cats have impaired balance and can fall easily, so their food and water bowls should be moved to multiple easily accessible locations on the ground. Older cats might have reduced control over their bowels and bladder, so providing several litter boxes at easily reachable spots throughout the house will make it convenient for them to relieve themselves.
Keep environmental stressors at bay
Cats, particularly the older ones, cherish predictable environments. Just like humans, cats can become set in their routine ways over a while and don’t deal well with abrupt or frequent changes in their lifestyle or surroundings. Try sticking to a routine as much as possible to avoid stressing your cat out. Loud noises and parties can cause older cats to become disoriented. In such a scenario, there should be a provision for a quiet place for your pet to retreat to in case she feels uneasy.
Hold onto each other in life
It is important to remain observant of your aging pet’s fluctuating emotional needs and address them appropriately. Some cats tend to become more insecure with age and might need more attention and emotional support while others might prefer to be left alone.
A hand to hold, a heart to care
Older cats often suffer from poor vision and other eyesight problems, making it difficult for them to navigate through the dark. Switching nightlights on when it is dark will facilitate easy movement. Keep their food bowls, water bowls, beds, and litter boxes in the same place to make access easier for them. Avoid startling senior cats with vision problems. Before picking them up, softly call out to them so that they know they are being approached. Always approach them from the front and never from behind. Cats suffering from age-induced hearing impairment should not be allowed to venture out to ensure safety from speeding cars, predators, etc. Some senior cats also suffer from cognitive dysfunction, so all their resources should be easily accessible to avoid confusion.
Vouch for veterinary visits
Ideally, cats over 11 years of age should see the veterinarian every six months to get their blood test done and for weight monitoring. Regular visits to the vet can help detect any abnormality before it is too late. Early detection of health problems can aid in making required lifestyle modifications and medical changes while there’s still time. Maintaining a good relationship with your veterinary doctor will go a long way in ensuring a healthy and long life for your senior cat. 
You’re blessed to have spent so much time with your pet. Now, it’s time to give back all the love and affection that they have showered in the form of care and cosy cuddles! Truly said, nothing like the love of an old pet!