Thanks to medical advancements, better nutrition, and a growing preference to keep cats indoors, cats are living longer, fuller lives than ever before. With some feline lifespans lasting up to 20 years or more, your kitty may spend the majority of her life as a senior!
Growing older comes with plenty of changes—and change doesn’t necessarily mean “unhealthy.” However, it’s important to be aware of the changes your cat may experience as she gets older and to understand how to provide your elderly kitty with the best care possible as she lives out her golden years.
What to Expect as Your Cat Gets Older
Perhaps you adopted a playful, energetic kitten several years ago, or perhaps you’ve always had a preference for adopting older pets. Either way, it’s good to have an understanding of common differences in appearance or behavior when comparing senior cats to their younger counterparts.
As your cat becomes a senior, some changes you may notice include:
- Decreased energy levels
- Changes in sleep patterns (yes, it’s possible to sleep even more than she already does!)
- Joint and mobility issues
- Decreased hearing and/or vision
- Lower tolerance for stress
- Weight gain or loss
- Increased neediness and clinginess; alternatively, your senior cat may prefer to spend more time alone.
Keep in mind, though, that not all of these changes are strictly age-related. Talk to your vet to rule out other underlying health issues before assuming that age is the culprit of your senior cat’s change in mannerisms.
Common Senior Cat Health Issues
Cats instinctively hide any signs of weakness for as long as possible so they don’t appear vulnerable. As a result, you likely have to pay extra close attention to your senior cat in order to notice any subtle changes in appearance or behavior as they occur.
Some of the most common senior cat health issues include:
Joint and mobility issues. If your cat is looking more unkempt than usual or is having frequent bathroom accidents, she may be experiencing joint discomfort which affects her ability to groom herself and jump or climb into her litter box.
Digestive issues. As your cat gets older, she can experience a variety of digestive issues for a variety of reasons. For example, a loss of appetite could be caused by tummy troubles, a decreased sense of smell, dental discomfort, or other health conditions.
- Skin and coat issues. Senior cats become more prone to skin issues as a result of reduced blood circulation along with regular wear and tear. As you cuddle your kitty, take some time to monitor her skin for any abnormal lumps and bumps, along with any changes in her coat such as hair loss. As mentioned above, mobility issues can also affect your senior cat’s ability to maintain her coat.
- Decreased immunity. Your senior cat may experience a weakened immune system as a natural result of aging; decreased immunity can also be a sign of an underlying health issue. Either way, as your cat gets older, she becomes more prone to various health conditions, so keep an eye out for any signs of concern.
Support your cat’s digestion, skin and coat health, and immune system with Pet Honesty’s Daily Essentials Cat 3-Pack, which includes:
- Digestive Probiotics+ Powder for Cats
- Lysine-Immune Health+ Powder for Cats
Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil for Cats
Senior Cat Care Tips
As your cat gets older, you may have to implement a few changes in your household and routine. For starters, most vets recommend six-month checkups for senior cats rather than the standard annual visit.
For cats with joint and mobility issues, you’ll want to ensure easy access to food, water, and the litter box. Consider raised food and water bowls and a litter box with low sides, for example. Additionally, try to avoid making her climb up or down stairs to get to her essentials. You may also want to implement ramps or steps to help your senior cat climb on to her favorite chairs and windowsills.
Because senior cats have a more difficult time regulating body temperature, be sure to provide your kitty with cozy, comfy bedding away from any drafts. For safety reasons, keep her bedding away from hazards such as space heaters.
If your cat if having a difficult time with self-grooming, spend some quality time together by helping her with some gentle grooming. Brush her coat to remove loose hairs and improve circulation. If she’s having trouble using her scratcher, she may also need some extra help keeping her nails neat and tidy.
If your cat is experiencing hearing or vision loss, help her feel comfortable in her surroundings by keeping furniture and other items in the same spot. Never sneak up on her from behind; always provide a clear signal so she knows you’re approaching. For cats with poor vision, night lights can also be a useful tool.
While your senior cat may not have the same lively energy levels of her youth, it’s still important to provide her with plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Focus on gentle play, using items such as toy wands or food/treat puzzles.
Nutrition is also crucial for a healthy cat. As your cat gets older, she’ll likely need to switch to a senior-specific diet. She may also benefit from various supplements according to her health needs. Prioritize hydration, too. Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, so it’s especially important to make sure your senior kitty is getting enough water intake each day.
It’s also important to keep a consistent, predictable, calm routine. Cats are creatures of habit at any age, but seniors especially love their routines. Of course, don’t forget to provide your cat with plenty of attention and quality time!