Many cats, especially indoor cats, can live well into their late teens and some even into their twenties. I personally had one cat who lived 14 years, and another who lived a full 20. But as cats get older, their habits, behaviors and needs can change.
Starting usually around 10 or 11 years of age, your cat transitions from an adult cat to a senior cat. The symptoms can sometimes be difficult to spot, but if you pay attention, you can do things that will not only help make your cat’s life a bit easier but could very well extend their life. In this article, we’ll discuss the symptoms of an aging cat, how to spot the changes, and how to help an aging cat.
Symptoms of an Aging Cat
Some of the signs you might see that’ll make you realize your cat is starting to show the effects of aging are the inability to jump up on the bed or furniture as easily or not at all, changes in appetite or weight, more time sleeping and less time playing, and, of course, the onset of medical issues. As you begin to realize your cat is aging, there are several things you can to do make their life a little easier.
Aging cats can develop several common medical problems. These can include kidney disease, intestinal issues, diabetes, pancreatitis, and cancer. They can also develop some lesser-known ailments such as loss of hearing or diminished eyesight, lowered sense of taste or smell, and even senility.
How to Tell if Your Cat is Suffering from Signs of Aging
The best way to determine if your cat is showing signs of aging or showing signs of any sort of problem or issue for that matter, is to pay attention to behavior changes. These may include a change in their appetite or their weight. They may not take care of their coat as well and start looking a little shabby. They may not consistently using the litter box, crying during the night, or even start getting lost in the house. They might also show signs of confusion sometimes.
Remember that these things may not just be signs of aging – your cat could be having a serious medical issue. You should always consult your veterinarian whenever you cat shows any changes in behavior. Don’t just write these things off as signs of aging. It’s also important to realize that cats are good at hiding symptoms. Any time a cat is having any sort of issue, you should go take the cat to the vet sooner rather than later. Cats usually are quite ill before they display symptoms of an illness. It’s like a toddler who can play all day with a fever of 102. The kid will play until he literally drops. Sounds dramatic, I know. But this is how serious this is. If your cat is showing any changes in behavior, please take them to the vet!
Things You Can Do to Make Things Easier for Your Senior Cat
1. The litter box. As your cat ages, it might become more difficult for them to use the litter box. First, if the litter box is in the basement, if may be difficult for the cat to go up and down the stairs. If the litter box is in the back corner of the house, through twists and turns or at the end of a long hallway, the cat may actually having trouble remembering where it is and how to find it. You should also consider the size and height of the litter box. Jumping in and out of a litter box can be difficult for an aging cat or a cat suffering from arthritis. You might consider purchasing a simple, low-height litter box.
2. Adjust things they jump up on. One of the most problematic health issues for aging cats is arthritis. This can hinder a cat’s ability to jump up on the bed, the furniture, their perch, windowsills, etc. Consider adjusting the height of the things you can – or offer them an alternative such as a soft bed on the floor or a way to get up into the window without having to jump. I had a set of stairs for one of my cats who lived to 20 years old. I kept these next to my bed so she could easily sleep with me without having to jump up onto, or down off of, my bed. You can see a selection of cat stairs HERE.
3. Gently encourage play. Aging cats may be less interested in playing or may not be able to play as long or as hard as they used to. You shouldn’t try to force your aging cat to play, but it’s ok to gently encourage play to stimulate their interest. Physical exercise, as well as mental stimulation, are still important for elderly cats. You can see a selection of interactive cat toys HERE.
4. Help them with grooming. Some cats may have difficulty grooming themselves as they age. They may need to be brushed by you more often, or for the first time if you’ve never had to help in the past. Be careful with this – some aging cats don’t enjoy being touched, stroked or brushed even if they’ve always enjoyed these things in the past. Begin helping with grooming in small steps to make sure it’s an enjoyable experience for your cat, not a stressful one.
5. Pay Attention to Their Diet and Water Intake
Cats are prone to kidney disease and constipation as they age, especially if they aren’t taking in enough water. Discuss with your vet the best diet for your cat – your vet may recommend switching to a senior cat diet. Also, it’s important for cats to have moist food daily. You can increase your cat’s hydration by providing canned food each day. Also, most elderly cats suffer from arthritis. The best thing you can do to prevent pain from arthritis is to keep your cat at a healthy weight. Just one or two pounds of extra weight can increase joint pain significantly. For more information about the best food for cats, you can read my article, Which Food is Best for Cats? Canned Cat Food vs. Dry Cat Food.
6. Provide Supplements. Providing a supplement specifically made for senior cats is helpful, especially when they contain ingredients like Glucosamine which helps a lot with joint health. You can see a selection of supplements for senior cats HERE.
7. Lower their stress. Most people know that cats are easily stressed. Even a minor variation in their daily routine can make them a nervous wreck, let alone big events such as moving or the arrival of a new pet or newborn baby into the family. I recently wrote an article describing 10 things that stress your cat out. You can read it HERE. You can also watch this video to find out more.
8. Take Them to the Vet Twice Per Year
A thorough veterinary exam can extend your cat’s life and drastically improve their quality of life. Being checked regularly by a veterinarian is critical for elderly cats. Ideally, cats over 10 or 11 years of age should be examined by a veterinarian twice per year. The blood work your vet orders can detect the onset of serious health issues while there’s still time to make changes that will make a difference. Having the cat’s teeth looked at can uncover dental disease that can risk your cat’s health (and cause enormous pain). And having your vet’s supervision for your cat’s diet, weight and overall health make a huge difference in your cat’s well-being – and your own. I know from experience that caring for an aging cat can be stressful, upsetting, and sometimes even scary. Don’t do it along – let your veterinarian be your partner in caring for your elderly cat.
I Hope This Has Helped!
The best way you can help an aging cat is to know that as they age, their physical and behavioral needs will change. Spotting problems in time to do something to prevent difficulties for your cat is the best way to help them feel better, and live better, for as long as possible.
Thank you for visiting my website. I donate 10% of all commissions I earn on this website to animal charities. You can see a list of the charities I donate to here. If you like this website, please share it with your friends – every purchase helps animals! Debra