Visit the vet
Don’t feel shy about visiting the vet more often. Boosters become even more important for old cats because the immune system weakens with age, and regular weigh-ins will keep their weight in check. ‘If you suspect your elderly cat may be suffering from joint stiffness, film her when she’s moving around,’ suggests APBC-accredited animal behaviourist Pippa Hutchison. ‘It’s often easier to show your vet a video record than to describe any symptoms verbally.’
Be aware of CDS
Older cats can suffer from cognitive dysfunction syndrome – better known as pet dementia. Although there’s no cure, antioxidants, coconut oil and omega-3 fatty acids can all help. ‘Your vet can also treat individual symptoms of CDS, such as anxiety and sleeplessness,’ says vet Brian Faulkner. You can read more about dementia in pets here.
Eating for health
Cats can become picky eaters with age. Cats Protection suggests getting around this by letting your elderly cat eat little and often, and warming up her food to release the aromas. Mashing it up or adding some water can also make meals easier to eat. You should position bowls of food in several places, and always provide plenty of fresh water.
Pippa has a great idea for old cats with lower energy levels: ‘Create a play area using rolled-up towels so that your cat can still bat a toy or ball around with her paws,’ she says. ‘It keeps the toys within reach, and avoids them disappearing under the sofa, which can discourage play.’
‘Even if your cat has always gone to the toilet outside, installing two or three litter trays once she is into her senior years is a good idea,’ says Pippa. ‘Adapt the depth of the trays to make access easier for older cats with stiff joints – try a large, low-sided seed tray for example, so that your cat can literally just stroll in and out. Sometimes the change of surface – from carpet to cat litter – is enough to remind an elderly cat what the tray is for.’
Be extra gentle
With an old cat that is hard of hearing or fond of sleeping, Pippa suggests letting the cat know you’re in the room by calling softly. ‘Avoid sudden movements and gently alert her to your presence,’ she says. A heatpad can also help an older cat sleep – especially at night when the house is cooler.
Keep things familiar
Avoid moving furniture around if you can, and minimise stressful situations – such as unexpected noises or unfamiliar visitors. If you know your cat likes to sit on high sills or shelves, create a non-slip ramp to help her climb, and place cushions below as crashpads in case your puss wobbles.
‘If you’ve always shared lots of cuddles, keep it up,’ advises Pippa. ‘Some older cats drool when stroked so keep a little blanket handy – not only does it protect clothes and upholstery, but your cat may also learn to associate the blanket with a sensation she enjoys.’