As a cat moves into his or her senior needs, they will slow down and in many cases, stiffen up due to the onset of arthritis. Arthritis is a painful condition in which the shock-absorbing cartilage which cushions the joints wears down and is eventually lost. Hearing and eyesight can also decline, all of which means small changes we can make around the home can make a big difference to a senior cat.
Signs of arthritis in cats include reluctance to jump, decreased grooming which leads to an unkempt appearance, dislike of being touched, hiding, soiling outside the litter box, loss of appetite.
Elevated food bowls
Arthritis can cause pain in the spine and make eating and drinking difficult. Elevated food and water bowls can make life easier for the senior cat.
Litter trays with low sides
Provide trays with low sides as arthritis can make climbing into and out of litter trays difficult. The litter box below is made by KittyGoHere and is designed to make it easy for senior cats to use.
Multiple litter trays in convenient locations
The number and location of litter trays are also important. There should be at least one tray per cat and one extra. Place litter trays in multiple locations and on each floor of the house. Pet owners cannot expect a senior cat with sore joints to have to go up and down flights of stairs to go to the toilet.
Senior cats appreciate a warm and soft bed with plenty of padding to relieve pressure on the joints. There are a wide variety of cat beds available, look for one which is easy to climb in and out of and can be machine washed in case of accidents.
Place the bed away from drafts and high traffic areas. We have a few scattered around the house; some are close to a window; others are in corners. The cats love to sleep close to the window in winter and enjoy the sun but prefer cooler spots in summer.
If you live in a particularly cold part of the world, consider a heating pad for extra warmth.
Ramps or steps
A ramp or some steps can enable senior cats to climb onto furniture such as sofas or beds. The one below is made by Pawever Pets and is foldable.
Other ways to help a senior cat
Try to avoid changes to routine or moving things around as the cat ages. Poor vision and hearing, as well as dementia, can be especially confusing.
Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate and green-lipped mussels may be of help for cats with mobility issues due to arthritis. Always speak to your veterinarian before supplementing a cat’s diet.
Loss of mobility can make grooming difficult. Schedule a few minutes a day to groom the coat which helps to remove loose hairs.
Nails can become brittle as the cat ages and can grow into the paw pad. A monthly nail trim keeps this problem away.
Gum (periodontal) disease is an inflammatory infection which leads to the destruction of the supporting gums and bones. Brush teeth daily with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste.
All cats should see a veterinarian at least once a year, and as a cat ages, this should increase to bi-annual visits. Baseline tests include complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis can provide valuable information on the cat’s overall health as well as how the kidneys and liver are functioning.
A body condition score will determine if the cat is overweight or underweight, and a diet schedule can be tailored to the cat’s needs.
Grow catnip and cat grass
These plants, especially cat grass provide some safe greenery for your senior cat to nibble on.