It is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, you can help your furry friend to be happy and healthy in the twilight years.
What do you look for as your cat ages?
The average life expectancy of cats is 12-14 years, but it is not uncommon for them to live up to 20 years. Cats are generally classified as older around age 11, at which time they may begin to notice the following changes in their pet.
- decrease in activity levels
- Spend less time hunting outdoors
- change in appetite
- Impaired vision and hearing
- Change in toilet habits
- Sleep more but less deeply
- Coat condition deteriorating
- The emergence of age-related diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and hyperthyroidism
- Changes in behavior such as becoming aggressive or appearing disoriented
Any changes in your cat’s behavior and appearance can be an early indicator of illness, so it is essential to let your vet know about any changes in your cat’s eating, drinking, or toileting habits.
If you notice any of the following, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible:
- I started eating less
- I started drinking more
- bad breath
- Weight loss
- started limping
- No lumps or bumps
- Trouble going to the toilet
- become disoriented or lose balance
It is highly recommended that you take your older cat for regular check-ups with your vet to identify and treat symptoms early. Some vet surgeries run private clinics for seniors where owners can take their pets for advice and support.
Make your home fit for your older cat
Your older cat may benefit from changes in the home to make their lives more comfortable. However, older cats can be more sensitive to the disorder, so make changes gradually.
As cats age, their nutritional requirements change. They are likely to burn fewer calories than when they were younger.
Consider turning your cat into a large food as it is nutritionally compatible with its life stage. As with any diet changes, you should transition gradually over a week to avoid an upset stomach.
Senior cats may sometimes need a little encouragement to eat if their senses have diminished and the experience isn’t as exciting as it used to be. If your old man is reluctant to eat, try the following:
- Feed your cat smaller meals more frequently so that it does not overwhelm it with a large bowl of food
- Warm up your cat’s food to increase its attractiveness
- Dental discomfort may cause a preference for soft food over crunchy food
- Put your cat’s food into the puzzle feeder to make mealtimes more fun as well as improve mental stimulation
- If your big cat has aches and stiff joints, raise her bowl a bit to make her more comfortable
- Encourage drinking by placing several water bowls around the house or consider buying a cat drinking fountain for continuous fresh water
Grooming becomes more difficult for cats as they get older. Stiff joints and pain make it difficult for them to reach those hard-to-reach places.
Help them with regular brushing, which also allows you to check them for any lumps or bumps that your vet can check.
Long-haired cats may require clipping their coat around their rear end to keep the area clean and free of mats.
If you live in a multi-storey house, consider keeping their essentials on one floor. Your cat may also benefit from rugs placed on any non-carpeted floors to prevent slipping.
Add ramps or steps to their favorite spot so they don’t have to jump, which can be uncomfortable for them or cause injuries.
a small box
If your older cat is less stable on their feet, they may benefit from changing the litter tray for a lower cat for easy access. Also, make sure there is plenty of room to maneuver. Older cats may find some types of coarse litter on their paws, so test a softer type to see if they prefer it.
If your cat likes to use a scratching post to sharpen her claws, she may find a horizontal scratching surface easier if her knuckles start to stiffen.
Securing your older cat
Pet insurance helps cover treatment costs if your older cat becomes ill. We usually recommend a time-limited policy for older pets because later life coverage is often more expensive.
Learn more about the differences between limited-term and lifetime pet insurance policies here.
I have spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a writer for Dogs Today, and worked my way up to becoming deputy editor-in-chief in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue an independent career, moved to North Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years, she has contributed thoughtful human interest features, celebrity interviews, and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly, and Your Cat. I also have ghostwritten vet books and press releases about the pet industry.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with rescue person Poopsie. Always followed by tea and cake.