It is an achievement to be proud of if your cat has reached this life stage – congratulations! For geriatric cats, just as for people in their mid-70s onwards, checks need to be more thorough and more frequent to catch any problems as they develop. All the health issues described for the senior cat are even more likely to occur in the geriatric cat.
To best cater for the needs of your elderly feline, there are other ageing changes to be aware of:
- Reduced vision and increased sensitivity to bright light may mean your cat is easily startled and takes longer to cope with any changes in the house, such as moving of furniture.
- Loss of hearing may also contribute to your cat being more easily startled. Often deaf cats will cry during the night or when left alone.
- Reduced sense of taste and smell may lead to a loss of appetite and change in food preferences.
- Heart and/or lung changes may contribute to reduced activity.
- Gut function may decline necessitating a highly digestible and calorific diet. Mild constipation is also common, in part due to mild dehydration and/or reluctance to use the litter tray or go outdoors.
- Diminished bone and cartilage quality leads to painful stiff joints and reduced mobility.
- Muscle wastage can result in weakness and contribute to reduced mobility.
- Overgrown and brittle claws require regular trimming.
- Altered behaviour and apparent senility, as a result of ageing changes in the brain, often leave the cat disorientated and reluctant to interact with family members and other pets.
- Thinning of the skin and reduced coat quality mean the older cat may need help with grooming.
- Decline in immune function, as a result of chronic disease, leads to increased susceptibility to infection.
Adapting the home environment
- Provide soft comfortable beds in various favourite places. Keep these areas warm; heatpads or heated beds can be much appreciated!
- Beds/favourite resting areas should be easily accessible; place beds lower down or provide steps or ramps if necessary.
- Ensure there is access to quiet hiding places where your cat will be undisturbed by children, other pets, etc.
- Provide indoor litter trays – at least one on each floor of the house – in quiet but accessible areas within easy reach of your cat’s favourite rest areas. Big trays with shallow sides will be easier for your cat to get into.
See how to choose the right litter tray, litter and tray position for your cat.
- Use soft light litter that is not uncomfortable to stand on, and not difficult to dig in.
- Regularly groom your cat, especially if it is longer haired.
See how to groom your cat.
- Trim the claws as necessary and provide scratching surfaces.
See how to trim your cat's claws.
- Ensure your cat is well hydrated. This is most easily done by feeding a wet food and adding water to the food. Provide multiple water bowls that are easily accessible. Your vet can give you further tips for increasing water intake.
See how to encourage your cat to drink.
- Offer smaller more frequent meals. For fussier eaters, be prepared to offer a variety of foods and try warming the food.
See how to encourage your cat to eat.
- Handle your cat carefully and gently as it may be arthritic and sore.
For further information see:
Elderly cats – special considerations
(covers grooming, claw clipping, dental problems)