—Feline Behavior Specialist 🇺🇸
In this article, I'm going to discuss the main changes senior cats go through.
In the first of a two-part blog series on seniors, we’ll look at the changes that happen to their bodies and minds as they age. I'm going to cover the tiny things you can do to help them enjoy their golden years, and remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Think of Aging Cats Like Aging Humans
When you think about aging relatives, there are probably a bunch of things that come to mind. My grandmother became increasingly paranoid and forgetful, but she still had a fiery personality that could make the toughest guy blush.
She insisted on wearing sparkly clothes and animal prints, and her outfit always matched her jewelry and her shoes.
I want you to think of your aging cat like that. They will still have awesome personality traits and quirks, but there will be physical and mental changes that are just part of them getting older. It’s hard to see them age, but it’s so wonderful to know they’ve had a long life full of love.
Before we dive into the changes, please remember that if anything seems off or different, run it by your vet.
It Must Be Raining
Sore joints are probably the most common physical ailment in an aging kitty. Proactively get them a super comfy, plush bed or blanket for naps. Move their water and food bowls and have a least one litter box close to the bed or blanket. This will make it easier for them to do the basics.
If they are bird watchers, you may want to make sure you have pet steps or at least some sort of furniture set up so they can more easily get to the window without having to jump. Their joints will thank you.
With sore joints comes a decrease in mobility, making it harder for them to groom themselves everywhere. Help them out by brushing once a week using a gentle cat brush. You may also want to keep grooming wipes on hand.
Cats can get a slight haziness to their eyes, and their iris can look like it’s covered in lace. The impressive part: Nothing has shown that these changes impact their sight.
If they happen to have blood pressure because of kidney disease or hyperthyroidism (which we’ll discuss later in Part 2), they can have impaired eyesight that can’t be reversed.
Hearing loss is common as cats age.
I Don’t Smell Anything
Many senior cats have a decreased appetite. Part of this is because they need fewer calories. Another piece of it is likely related to a decreased sense of smell (like when your nose is stuffy and you have a cold, you’re not hungry and can’t taste anything).
There is always a chance the change in appetite is related to dental disease, which can be extremely painful, causing the cat to be completely disinterested in food. Make sure your vet checks your cat’s teeth during their annual exam, or more frequently if needed.
I Can’t Eat Like I Used to
Look for foods with easy-to-digest proteins that are gentle on the stomach and easy on the teeth. I’ve personally noticed some high protein foods are very hard for my senior to digest.
You may or may not experience that, but it’s definitely worth a mention. I would not change to a high protein diet with a senior cat that never had it when they were younger.
Remember to also keep the calorie count lower than you would for a regular adult cat (seniors don’t need as many calories).
If your cat is a picky eater, I also recommend opting for stinkier foods and treats. As mentioned earlier, their sense of smell is not the best. I often go for food that has tuna in it.
Because tuna has such a strong smell, my senior seems to always enjoy that over other flavors. The pate in the tubes is also a great choice for a snack because it can be licked, which is much easier than chewing to an older cat.
Wait, Where Am I?
Forgetfulness is part of getting older in cats too. Some of the traits associated with senility in cats include wandering, excessive meowing, and disorientation. I have seen this with my own super senior (who is almost 16), and have heard similar stories from vets and other pet owners with senior cats.
There isn’t much you can do, but I would say always address them with a calming voice and show love. Remind them you are right there and they are safe. Try your best to avoid raising your voice in frustration or even in a worrisome tone. They need understanding and calmness.
But I Feel Like I Still Have Thick Skin
As cats age, their skin is less elastic and thinner. Because of reduced blood circulation, they are more prone to infection. Keep an eye on any sores, cuts, or scrapes. If a cut starts to smell, or simply not look right, go to the vet.
How to Best Care for Your Senior
Decrease their stress level as much as possible. Look for things that are calming and relaxing. Move their bed to the quietest part of the house.
Put on classical or meditation music for them. If you have young kids or other pets, try to find a separate place that can be a quiet oasis for your cat. If your cat has a hard time relaxing, you can try using feline pheromone diffusers or calming collars. And do your best not to take out frustrations on your cat.
They are just like my grandmother … getting old .... but still sparkling in their own ways, inside and out. 🌺✨