Cat Health

10 Vet-recommended Tips On How To Care For A Senior Cat

An older white kitty
Photo by Yakov_Oskanov from Envato Elements

As much as we hate to think about it, there’s no denying that our cats are going to age much more quickly than we are. As they get older, their mental and physical needs gradually change, and as cat parents, it’s our job to recognize this and help them adapt. We want them to be as happy and healthy as possible, just like any other family member. Here are 10 vet-recommended guidelines for how to care for a senior cat.

1. Prioritize Preventive Care

One of the best methods for how to keep your cat healthy is preventative care. Hopefully, your cat has been getting a wellness checkup once a year already, but now that he’s entering his senior years, he should see the vet every six months. For cats, six months equals about two human years, and a lot of things can change in that time, especially for an aging animal.

Not only that, but your vet will be more likely to notice subtle changes in your cat’s behavior that could indicate a developing health issue. Many times, a simple checkup will be all your furry little friend needs, but in some cases, your vet will also want to perform blood and urine tests in addition to a physical exam. 

Keep in mind that you know your cat better than anyone else. If you notice any changes in his behavior or overall health, no matter how subtle, be sure to mention them at his checkup. Your vet needs to know if your cat is having difficulty jumping or isn’t eating like he used to so he can offer advice and support

2. Keep Your Senior Cat’s Vet Visits Low Stress

Keeping your cat healthy also means keeping them as stress-free as possible. If your senior cat hates to ride in the car and you don’t want to put him through the stress, you can ask a vet online for recommendations about your cat’s health. Virtual veterinary services are a great option when you have questions and concerns that don’t require an in-person exam.

If you do have to see the vet in person, you can reduce the stress and anxiety of traveling by helping your cat be comfortable in his carrier. Make it cozy with a familiar blanket or towel and leave it out so he can explore it for a few days before your appointment. Get him in the carrier early, so you’re not stressed or rushed. 

Choose a vet that has a separate waiting area and exam room just for cats to help them stay calm. It can also be helpful to make your appointments for the quietest time of the day. For most vet’s offices, that will be early afternoon, right after lunchtime.

3. Watch for Subtle Changes in Your Cat’s Habits

Animals are exceptionally good at hiding pain and illness, and cats are no exception. When caring for senior cats, it can be easy to miss subtle changes in your cat’s behavior if you’re not making a point to watch for them.

Most importantly, when you do notice these subtle differences, don’t be afraid to mention them to your vet. Even if it’s something that seems minor like sleeping more or becoming more reclusive.

If your cat has been a little under the weather, keeping track of his appetite, bowel movements, temperature, and any other symptoms can be very helpful for your vet.

4. Watch Your Cat’s Weight

If weight loss needs to be part of your senior cat’s care, make it a priority. Excess weight can be hard on your kitty’s joints and organs and dramatically shorten his longevity.

On the other hand, if you notice your cat gaining or losing weight without an obvious reason, bring it to your vet’s attention. Unexplained weight gain or loss can indicate an underlying health issue, such as thyroid problems, diabetes, or intestinal issues.

It can be easy to overlook gradual changes in your cat’s weight, so be on the lookout for them. This is just one reason why regular wellness checkups are essential for senior cats.

5. Know How Much Your Senior Cat is Eating

Just like with humans, the nutritional needs of cats change as they get older, especially if they are on medication or have chronic health issues. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian for advice on what type and how much food your cat should be eating.

You should also monitor your cat’s food intake, so you’ll be aware of any appetite changes right away. Many cat parents are unaware of how much their cat is eating every day, especially if they have more than one cat, but it’s super important for intervening quickly if a problem arises.

6. Slowing Down is a Sign of Pain or Discomfort

If your cat seems to be slowing down, don’t assume it’s inevitable due to his age. Slowing down likely means your cat is experiencing discomfort or pain, such as arthritis and other joint issues. In many cases, there are treatments that will alleviate his pain and help him stay active. If your kitty isn’t jumping up on the bed as he used to or he’s having difficulty climbing the stairs, let your vet know.

7. Pay Attention to What’s in the Litterbox

Now that your cat is getting older, paying attention to his litter box habits can help you notice a health issue quickly. Are his stools harder, softer, or a different color? Is he pooping and peeing every day?

Constipation is a common sign of dehydration in older kitties, but it often goes unnoticed until the situation becomes severe. If you can catch it early, your vet will be able to get your kitty feeling better quickly.

Urine changes are also important to note. For example, an increase in urine may indicate issues like diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, or thyroid problems. Decreased urine output could indicate dehydration.

8. Litter Box Accidents Aren’t “Normal” When Cats Get Older

If your senior cat suddenly starts having accidents in the house or missing the litter box, he could have a medical issue.  Constipation, arthritis, muscle weakness, and urinary tract infections are all possible causes of litter box issues, so be sure to let your vet know right away.

In the meantime, you can help your older cat by making sure his litter box is easy to get in and out of. Ensure that it’s in an area your cat can access easily, and make sure he doesn’t have to climb stairs to get to it. 

9. Be Prepared to Make Some Changes

Adjustments are inevitable when there’s a senior cat in the home. Older cats get cold easier, so make sure they have a draft-free, cozy place to sleep. They may also need more padding to cushion aching bones and joints. Be sure there are plenty of comfy resting areas he can access easily without assistance.

10. Enjoy This Special Time with Your Kitty

Bonds with senior pets are special. In fact, you may notice that your cat craves attention even more as he gets older. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical care, so provide lots of cuddles, playtime, and interesting things to look at to support your cat’s mental health.

In Closing

Keep in mind that grooming is also important when thinking about how to keep cats healthy. However, grooming can also become a bit of a challenge for cats as they get older, so you may have to do more brushing and combing to keep your baby comfortable. Overgrown toenails can also be painful for arthritic cats and may need to be trimmed often. By following these valuable tips from veterinarians, you’ll be able to ensure you have a happy, healthy cat for as long as possible!