Changing cat behaviour in older cats

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What does it mean when your cat behaves a bit out of character? Behaviourist Inga MacKellar highlights three common changes that may occur as our feline friends age.

Cats are loved for their independence, playful natures and love of sleeping, and can remain energetic, lively and agile well into their twilight years. You will know how your cat behaves ‘normally’, but try to be aware of anything different – as cats get older, changes in behaviour can occur. The first step if you suspect or notice any differences is always to consult your vet – it’s best to rule out any health concerns as soon as possible. Then you can use my guide below for advice on how to adapt routines and interactions to help your cat continue to have a happy and enjoyable life.

Napping all day?

Most cats spend a lot of their time sleeping or resting – about 16 hours a day! They tend to become more active at dusk and dawn, when they like to hunt or play. If you have noticed that your cat is sleeping more or has changed her napping place, such as choosing to sleep on a floor rug rather than a favourite chair, this may be due to mobility problems such as arthritis. Try to provide lots of comfy and warm low-level resting places. Think about rearranging your furniture for stepped access, or try some pet ‘steps’, which make it easier for your cat to still get to windowsills and onto furniture. You can find out more ways to help your older feline friend stay active here.

Messy problems?

If your normally clean cat has started to mess indoors, this may be down to difficulties getting through the cat flap or perhaps being intimidated outside by a new, younger cat in the neighbourhood. Or maybe your cat’s litter tray is rather deep and she’s now having problems getting into it? Placing a stepping block either side of the cat flap will make it easier for your cat to go in and out, without having to jump through. Ensure that she has a litter tray available all year round, and make a lower opening on one side so she can easily step into and out of her tray.

Given up on grooming?

All owners know how cats usually spend long periods of time grooming themselves and, often, other cats in the home. If your cat has started to look a little unkempt and dusty or even matted, there may be a problem. Some cats will stop grooming if they are stressed or unwell, but this may also be due to the development of a physical problem with grooming themselves. While cats are usually very agile creatures, they can suffer from aches and pains that may stop them from washing properly, particularly in those hard to reach areas where they have to twist their bodies. You can help your cat by regularly brushing her with a soft brush. Not only will this assist your cat with her grooming but it will also increase your bonding time together.

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