Caring for Your Senior Cat

Photo of Karen Dell

Karen Dell

Senior Editor • Backyard Cat Enclosures

23 September 2016

Kittens and young cats seem to be made of pure energy, so you might be surprised when they eventually start to slow down. Around 11 years old, cats enter their senior years. Don’t worry, with proper care, your kitty still has many more years left yet, but there are a few things that you can do to make your furbaby’s golden years easier.

Physical changes

Older cats are generally less energetic and less gymnastic. They will be less capable of getting to high spots, climbing stairs: all the acrobatics that younger cats take for granted. This means that you might need to arrange your cat’s living space in a more forgiving way:

  • Buy a litter box with lower sides
  • Keep litter, food and water on the ground floor of your home
  • Add gently sloping steps or a ramp to high perches
  • Lower the modular elements in your cat enclosure
  • Provide a horizontal scratching post

But just because your senior cat is more interested in sleep, doesn’t mean it’s forgotten about play. Moderate daily play will keep your cat in good health, but if your kitty tires quickly, or becomes breathless, take it to the vet.

General health

Older cats need more grooming from their human servant. It’s not so easy to groom yourself when your feline flexibility is fading. Brush your cat’s coat weekly, and be especially attentive to its teeth - old cats frequently develop dental problems, and their teeth need daily brushing. Senior cats will also need their claws clipped more frequently, as they can become messy and brittle. Grooming time can double as a health checkup: keep an eye out for lumps, wounds that don’t heal, pale gums, or discharge.

The immune system of older cats is not what it used to be, and they are more likely to contract diseases. Make sure that they are in the best possible shape to fight off illness by feeding them the right food, and giving them enough water.

Other changes

Just like people, older cats can develop senility, leading to some unusual and uncharacteristic behaviour. However, you should be reluctant to chalk everything up to old age. If a cat changes its usual behaviour dramatically, it is often a sign that something is wrong. Keep an eye out for these easily overlooked symptoms:

  • Your cat isn’t eating
  • Your cat is drinking less water
  • Your cat is drinking less water
  • Your cat is using isn’t using its litter
  • Your cat is using its litter more frequently
  • Your cat is unusually aggressive or irritable

If you suspect something might be wrong, you should take your cat to the vet for a checkup. You might also want to consider switching to bi-yearly checkups, instead of the usual one a year.

Although older cats do need some additional care, don’t be discouraged from adopting them! There are a lot of purrific reasons to take in an older cat - read more here.


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