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6 Tips to Care for Your Older Cat

As cats get older, their needs change, and they will need some extra support to continue living a happy, healthy life. If you have an older cat, here are some of the best ways to help them enjoy their senior years.

  1. Get them regular checkups

One of the most important things you can do for your senior cat is take them to the vet for regular checkups. Older cats tend to develop common problems, and their vet can spot some of those issues before they worsen. This will give you the chance to treat them and/or make them more comfortable.

“Some of the most common issues seen in older cats are things like kidney disease, constipation, and arthritis,” says Dr. Jenica Wycoff from Sadie, a veterinary urgent care in Portland, OR. “When you bring your senior cat in for checkups, their vet will recommend treatments or ways to make your cat comfortable if treatment isn’t possible.”

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when an older cat is in pain, but vets know the signs to look for and will give you their best advice.

  1. Groom them when they can’t groom themselves

Senior cats often struggle to groom themselves. This might be caused by arthritis that makes it painful to move into the right position to groom, or it could just be that they forget or don’t have the energy. 

Whatever the reason, if your cat stops grooming themselves, they’re likely to develop problems. For example, long-haired cats who stop grooming develop more mats than usual. When mats develop under their legs and on their belly, it tugs on their fur and can be really painful.

If your cat has long hair, make sure you brush them daily to remove the undercoat and prevent mats. As they get older, you’ll need to brush them a little bit more and all over their body. You can also have them professionally groomed if they’re up for the adventure.

To keep your older cat clean, you don’t need to give them a full bath; clean them with a waterless bath product that your vet recommends. Also, be sure to take a plain, unscented wet wipe and clean their bottom after they use the litter box.

  1. Get a shorter litter box

For senior cats with arthritis, climbing in and out of a regular-sized litter box is sometimes a challenge. It’s easy when you’re young and flexible, but not when you’re older or injured.

If you notice your cat isn’t making it to the litter box and you’ve got presents nearby on the floor, it could be that the litter box is too high. Try getting a shallow box to see if that helps. You can also try leaving the cover off to make it easier for them to step in. Sometimes cats need a wider entry spot to accommodate their arthritic pain.

Also, make sure to keep their litter box on the main level of the house so they don’t need to climb any stairs.

  1. Keep food dishes low

If you usually keep food dishes on a table, a counter, or somewhere else high up, move them to the ground for your older cat. If they have arthritis, this will prevent a lot of pain from jumping up and down.

  1. Use pet steps and ramps

For older cats that like to get on the bed or couch, use pet steps or a pet ramp to help them get up easily. A ramp will be easier than steps, but shallow steps will work if you don’t have room for a ramp. If you can’t find the right size in the pet store, contact a local woodworker to get them custom-made. Pet steps are a commonly requested item, and they might already have a basic pattern.

  1. Use wet food for cats with missing teeth

When cats are missing teeth, it’s hard for them to chew dry food. This makes some cats not eat as much because the hard pieces irritate their gums and it’s painful. If your cat won’t eat dry food softened by hot water, try wet food. If you aren’t sure what to feed them, ask their vet for recommendations.

Also, make sure to keep a shallow dish full of fresh water for your older cat to drink, since water helps to maintain kidney, bladder, and colon health.

Overall, both of these options will help to improve hydration.

Take care of their mental health, too

In addition to helping your older cat physically, keep their mind stimulated. Put a comfy bed near a low window so they can watch birds and squirrels, and open the sliding door (but keep the screen closed so they can’t get outside) to allow them to sunbathe. Cats need UVB just like humans, but UVB doesn’t penetrate glass. When the sun hits a cat’s coat, the sebaceous oil in their fur converts the UVB into Vitamin D, which they ingest when they groom themselves. 

In conclusion, your senior cat deserves to live their best life – but you already knew that.