Thursday, November 13, 2008

Caring for Elderly Cats

There's nothing quite so sad as watching your beloved older pet reach their twilight years. Your playful kitten that attacked your ankles from under the sofa now reclines on the cushions, barely waking from a nap when you enter a room. It's tough watching your cat age. Making them comfortable and happy should be your primary goal.

Caring for an elderly cat can be demanding. I know, I have one 17-year old kitty. I'm lucky because I'm home all day. At times, they are more demanding than my children. She meows loudly for no reason, demands copious amounts of food, and beg like a dog for table scraps. While I know these are symptoms of aging, I worry like a mother hen over my old girl Maui. Here are some suggestions for what you can do to ease their lives and your own worry.

Vet Visits

Regular vet visits are important for older cats. Take your elderly cat twice a year for a checkup. Older cats can develop diabetes, hyper thyroid, or any number of diseases without showing outward symptoms. A regular vet visit will help catch illnesses early.


Purchase a tube of vitamins from your vet and mix with the cat's wet food. Just as with humans, an elderly cat's body needs additional vitamins and minerals. Elderly cats experience more hairballs. The soft vitamins keep things moving in their digestive tract.


Make sure there is fresh water available ALL THE TIME. I purchased a cat water fountain and I have to admit, they drink much more often now. And stick their paws and heads under the water too, just for my entertainment.


Mealtime has now become their main activity. Adjusting their diet to include more soft food might be necessary if your cats have lost teeth or if you've noticed a decrease in appetite.


Elderly cats spend most days lazily snoozing away on the sofa or on a sunny spot on the carpet. Make sure their snuggle spot is comfy and warm. And don't be surprised if your kitty sleeps the whole day away.


Your elderly cat's fur might be looking a little lackluster. Many older cats stop grooming themselves as they age. It's your job to take over with a comb and brush. Most cats love to be brushed. They'll appreciate this special time with your undivided attention as long as your are careful and don't pull too much at matted fur.


Trim those kitty nails. Your older kitty isn't nearly as active. You've probably noticed your furniture isn't taking the beating it once did from scratching. Clip kitty's claws carefully once a month.


Yes, it's still necessary to older kitties. You may have noticed that the evening crazies are long gone but your older cat still has some spunk left in him. Break out the strings and soft toys and try to get kitty to play. Some older kitties like chasing a little laser flashlight that can be purchased at any pet store.

Other Considerations

Older cats loose their acute senses too, just like people. Their sense of taste, smell, sight, and hearing will all lessen as they age. Pay attention to these things as they might cause an appetite change, litter box accidents, or unexplained cat howling. Soft pats and snuggles when they are agitated can help comfort them as they adjust to this loss.

The hardest part of being a pet owner is knowing when it's time to let go. Somehow, someway, most of us are lucky enough to have that sixth sense tell us it's time. Making this decision is heart wrenching. Say goodbye to your dear friend, grieve for your companion animal, and be patient with yourself as you move step by step through the grieving process.

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