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Ways to Ensure Comfort and Safety for Elderly Cats

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A 2022 survey of greater than 3.5 million pet cats found that 29% are 10 years or older. COURTESY PHOTO

Aging cats are a growing segment of the feline population, thanks to higher veterinary care and nutrition and a robust human-cat bond. What happens after they move from seniorhood to the geriatric stage — and what’s the difference?

Senior cats should still be lively and fairly healthy, but geriatric cats are fragile, with health conditions that make them vulnerable to mobility issues, anxiety, urinary incontinence, and sleep disturbances. Eventually month’s virtual Cat Writers Association conference, veterinarian Mary Gardner, co-founder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, shared tips about recognizing feline geriatric issues and making the lives of old cats higher for the time they’ve remaining.

Clues that a cat is geriatric include trouble getting on and off furniture, not making it to the litter box or struggling to get in or out of it, frequent urinary tract infections, and signs of dementia, resembling howling or seeming lost. They need extra-special care, and there are methods to establish your private home to assist in giving them good quality of life.

Mobility is the No. 1 issue for geriatric cats, Gardner says. Common causes are arthritis, neuropathy (nerve damage), inflammation, back problems, obesity, and muscle wasting. “Just about all old cats have a type of arthritis,” she says.

An osteoarthritis checklist ( asks whether cats can walk up and down stairs easily, jump as much as and down from perches normally, run and chase bugs or toys. If the reply to any of those questions is not any, arthritis is probably going the wrongdoer. Gardner adds that a little bit of fur standing up along the spine can even indicate pain. Photos or videos of your cat’s movement across the house may also help your veterinarian reach a diagnosis, and drugs may also help.

Use ramps, pet steps, and smart furniture placement to assist cats in attending to their favorite comfortable or sunny spots. Apply non-slip adhesive strips to ramps or steps that don’t include them. Placing an end table next to a cat tree may also help old cats reach perches that may otherwise be inaccessible.

For cats with shoulder arthritis, elevated tilted food bowls (available from online merchants) could make it easier for them to eat. A cat who enjoyed drinking from a rest room faucet but was in pain from shoulder arthritis benefited from adhesive non-slip pawprint-shaped treads placed within the sink to offer traction.

Geriatric cats could also be less capable of groom themselves, so brush them repeatedly and trim their hind nails in the event that they’re unable to achieve them. They might also need cleansing with baby wipes.

Stepping into or out of the litter box is commonly difficult for geriatric cats. As an alternative of an ordinary litter box, provide a big plastic storage box or underbed sweater box with a gap cut within the side for simple entry and exit. Use only a shallow amount of litter so it’s not difficult for them to walk through it. Pee pads are another choice.

Concentrate to a cat’s litter box behavior. “Having trouble covering up poop may indicate shoulder or elbow pain that should be evaluated,” Gardner says.

Many aged cats have diminished vision. Use night lights throughout the home or place light strips on the ground or stairs to assist them find their way around.

Howling is a standard sign of cognitive dysfunction. Take your cat to the veterinarian at the primary sign for a cognitive assessment and to rule out a UTI or hypertension, each of that are treatable. There’s no cure for feline cognitive dysfunction, but progression could be slowed with medication, nutraceuticals, and enrichment, Gardner says.

Finally, a quality-of-life scale ( Life_ Quality_ Assessment.pdf) can aid you keep tabs in your geriatric cat’s comfort and happiness. ¦


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