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Senior Cat Care: Tips From A Roanoke, VA Veterinarian 

March 15, 2024

Is your feline buddy starting to show signs of age? Although kitties are considered seniors around age 11, many cats are living well into their teens or even their twenties these days, so Fluffy may enjoy a long retirement. You’ll most likely notice slow, gradual changes, rather than drastic ones. However, your feline pal will need some extra attention in her golden years. A local Roanoke, VA vet offers some advice on how to care for a senior cat in this article.

How Do You Take Care Of A Senior Cat?

For the most part, Fluffy will have the same basic needs as any other kitty: good food, clean litter, proper veterinary care, and, of course, lots of love. That said, there are a few things you may need to adjust.

Do Older Cats Need Bigger Litter Boxes?

Consider getting your feline friend a litterbox with low sides. Older kitties often get quite stiff and sore, and may have trouble getting in and out of something with high walls. She may also have an easier time with something that is more wide and shallow, rather than deep and narrow.

Do I Need To Groom My Senior Cat?

You might notice Fluffy starting to look a bit unkempt. There are a few possible reasons for this. One is that cats tend to become stiff and sore as they age. Your feline pal may have a hard time bending and stretching enough to properly clean her entire body. Senior cats’ skin also sometimes produces more oil than that of younger cats. This can also make her coat look greasy.

That said, it’s also important to realize that sometimes messy fur can be a sign that your feline pal isn’t feeling well. If you’ve noticed your kitty’s fur is quickly starting to look unkempt, and/or you’re noticing other red flags, such as withdrawal, reach out to your veterinarian.

You can help your feline pal by gently brushing her. Cats don’t usually need baths, though some people do like to bathe their kitties. Ask your vet for advice on this. 

When brushing Fluffy, take care not to pull too hard. Senior pets have very delicate skin. You don’t want to hurt your pet! Ask your vet for specific advice on this.

Should I Play With My Senior Cat?

Absolutely! In fact, playing with Fluffy is one of the best things you can do for her. Pouncing and jumping are great exercise for kitties. Plus, this offers mental stimulation. That’s really important with older cats. Just like people, pets can go through cognitive decline as they age. Focusing on catching that red dot will give your kitty’s brain a workout as well. (Plus, it’s cute!)

Of course, this will only work if Fluffy is feeling frisky. If she’d rather take yet another nap, she’ll just walk away. That’s purrfectly fine. One thing we can say for sure about kitties: unlike dogs, they won’t push themselves to please us. So, you don’t really have to worry about your furry pal overdoing it.

As far as safety goes, just choose spots with a soft surface, like a carpeted floor.

Do Older Cats Need Special Care?

Fluffy’s needs will change a bit as she ages. In general, you would want to make sure that she can easily get to her food, water, and litterbox. If you have a large home and/or more than one floor, keep litterboxes and water stations on every level. That way, your pet won’t have to climb stairs as much.

Setting out beds is also important. Believe it or not, Fluffy will somehow manage to sleep even more than she used to. By the time your cute pet reaches her golden years, she’ll be an absolute napping champion, capable of snoozing up to 20 hours a day. As you can probably guess, one of the best things you can do for your drowsy pet is just to make sure she has plenty of comfy spots. You can buy or make beds, but you can also fold blankets up and put them in baskets or on chests or ottomans. Fluffy will of course still appreciate boxes as well. (You’ll get bonus purrs for putting some of these in sunny spots, or before windows with good views.)

We would also suggest putting a night light on for your kitty. Fluffy may not see as well in the dark as she once did. She could also get a bit forgetful, and lose her way as she’s headed to the litterbox.

Another thing you can do to help your furry pal out is set out pet ramps or steps. Footstools will also work. Ask your vet for more information.

What Makes Senior Cats Happy? 

Older kitties tend to love the same things as their younger counterparts. At the end of the day, Fluffy wants to feel loved, safe, and comfortable. Many of the things we’ve touched on already cover the first two. It’s also important to keep that motor going! Spend lots of time with your feline pal, and offer attention and lap space. Just be gentle whenever you pick your kitty up or put her down. 

How Do I Keep A Senior Cat Healthy? 

Older cats are susceptible to many of the same health problems as aging people often face. Some of these would include the following: 

  • Obesity
  • Heart conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Loss of Vision
  • Loss of Hearing
  • Dental Issues

Your furry friend may need to visit her vet clinic more often. This is also a good chance to get updated advice on Fluffy’s diet and care. 

In between appointments, watch for signs of sickness. Contact us right away if you notice anything off. 

How Can I Tell If My Senior Cat Is Sick? 

Our feline pals can be a bit secretive when it comes to letting on that they don’t feel well. Keep a close eye out for changes in Fluffy’s appearance or behavior. 

Here are a few things to watch for: 

  • Hiding
  • Withdrawal
  • Poor Grooming
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight Gain/Loss
  • Stiffness
  • Respiratory Issues
  • Discharge
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Litterbox Issues
  • Drooling
  • Limping
  • Changes in Appetite 

Uncharacteristic vocalizations can also be a red flag. If Fluffy is usually quiet, but suddenly won’t stop crying, there may be something going on. 

Why Do Older Cats Meow So Much? 

It’s not uncommon for elderly cats to get a bit yowly. There are a few possible reasons for this. One potential reason is cognitive decline. Senile cats can get forgetful and confused. They don’t really understand why or what’s happening, and can get distressed. Fluffy may also want more attention and cuddles. Or, she may be responding to discomfort. Ask your Roanoke, VA veterinarian for more information. 

Can I Leave My Older Cat Alone? 

This would ultimately depend on FLuffy’s age and health. Most cats can be left alone for a day or two, providing they have food, water, and clean litter, and someone checks on them. With older cats, particularly geriatric ones, we wouldn’t really recommend leaving them alone for more than a day, though. Kitties with medical issues should also not be left alone. Boarding may be a better option. 

How Do I Keep My Older Cat Safe? 

You’ll want to follow the same basic petproofing protocols as you would for a younger cat. Fluffy probably won’t be as frisky as she once was, but she very well may still try to eat your houseplants. 

We also strongly recommend keeping your furry pal indoors. We advise that all cats be kept in. However, older cats are especially vulnerable. Not only are they much more fragile, they may not be able to escape potential threats. Plus, Fluffy is at risk of forgetting how to get home. Err on the side of caution here. 

Make An Appointment With Your Roanoke, VA Animal Clinic

Do you have questions about senior cat care? Contact us, your local Roanoke, VA pet hospital, anytime! 

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