It’s Caturday and it’s my Birthday!
Hello friends! Today is Caturday, the day when I get to spend extra long morning snuggles with my humans. But what’s different about this Caturday is that I am officially a geriatric cat. Today is my birthday and I am 15 years old in human years which means I am actually 76 years old in cat years. Although I have slowed down in recent years I am still King of my castle. Being the oldest of the bunch certainly has its perks like having access to my favourite sun puddles and getting extra supplements for my old bones. I would like to share a few tips that my humans do to make the latter part of my years as comfortable for me as possible and to keep me young and healthy at heart.
1. Interactive play is important
Even though older cats are slower, it’s still important to give them plenty of exercise in the form of interactive play. This is a wonderful bonding experience for you and your cat, even if it’s just for short five minute bursts at a time. Being overweight puts unnecessary strain on a cat’s joints and even on their organs, leading to grumpiness caused by unexplained aches and pains. So to keep your cat in shape, you need to get them off their fur butts and play a quick game of stalk and pounce.
My humans require a lot of patience when playing with me because my play strategy is ‘hide and pounce’. Sometimes I do a funny kangaroo jump just to impress them when I’m leaping for my prey but I mostly play ground games with toys that wriggle on the floor and under things. Another play strategy is to lie on my back and try to catch dangling toys above me. It looks like a lazy workout but it still helps condition my leg muscles and is an excellent form of kitty stomach crunches! Occasionally I like to join in on the more vigorous games with the younger punks. I can’t always keep up with them but I still enjoy the challenge.
2. Provide mental stimulation
Puzzle feeders are great. Not only do they help keep your cat in shape by preventing overeating, they also provide mental stimulation for your older cat. Instead of just being served on a silver platter, this ensures your cat has to ‘forage’ for his food. My humans have stopped free feeding years ago. We are all fed together from the feeding towers but I always get a few extras in between meal times.
3. Change the feeding schedule
Most people feed their cats twice a day and this works in most cases, but with an older cat in a multi-cat household they sometimes don’t get their fair share of a meal. Try slipping in a few extra meals for your older cat to ensure he gets the nutrients he needs. With age, a cat’s sense of taste and smell diminishes and you will notice they might eat less. This is happening to me so my humans also feed me some good quality wet food which is so delicious!
4. Water bowls. Everywhere!
Water is the essence of life and older cats may not drink enough if the water bowl is too far from where they usually hang out. Provide wide ceramic bowls of water or ceramic fountains and place them on all floors of the house. My humans keep two fountains and bowls of water all over the house, even in the bathrooms. I like this setup because many times I’m thirsty when I wake up from a long nap and voilà, there is water available right where I am! Water bowls also benefit the humans of the house too as it provides some form of humidity in the dry heated home setting during the winter months!
Warm and comfy, thats how I like it.
5. Make adjustments to favourite seating areas
Cats will be cats and when they get older they still like their high perches. If you find they are using their favourite high perch less often, it may mean some kind of modification of the access to the perch. Perhaps it simply means adding an extra step to enable your cat to jump onto the higher destination perch. I like to oversee my subjects from the bridge overlooking the sitting room and kitchen, and my humans have moved around some furniture to allow me to access this bridge. Move over, Mr Jack and Baggy, Pride Rock is mine!
Patrolling my highway, slowly, watch out Baggy!
6. Provide easy access to litter boxes
If your cat has issues with arthritis it is important to remember that their once immaculate toilet habits may change. If the litter boxes are situated in only one area of the house, this may cause a problem for the cat, who possibly has to traverse multiple stairs to get to the toilet. Place multiple litter boxes throughout the house to allow for easy access. If your cat was using a litter box with high sides, perhaps you need to provide some litter boxes with lower sides for easier entry.
7. Be mindful of the household bully
Yes Mr Baggy, I’m talking to you! Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to ‘argue’ with my housemates about a dispute over a seat. That is where my humans will step in and take charge. They allow me priority seating in my favourite spots. Sometimes the little punks just need to learn to respect their elders! Millennials these days!
8. Rethink scratching posts
While your older cat may still be using the vertical scratcher, try some horizontal scratchers. Reaching up into a vertical position may become a little awkward for them to do, so a horizontal scratcher might be preferred. These come covered in either carpet or cardboard. I still use my vertical scratcher but I like that the humans have scattered these horizontal cardboard scratchers around the house too. How thoughtful is that?!
9. Be patient
Sometimes your older cat is not always as sharp as he used to be and doesn’t always respond to things the way he used to. For instance, they may not scurry down the stairs in eagerness when you call them for meal time. They can easily be overlooked because the younger cats always makes their presence known first. Sometimes I am slower coming down the stairs and my humans will not feed the others until I have come down. Sometimes they will bring me down themselves to let me know it’s time to eat. When they introduce a new toy or seat, they give me first priority to test drive it. I am most thankful for these small mindful gestures on their part and I reward them with plenty of nose licks when we tuck in for the night.
10. A little help with grooming
There are times when older cats need a helping hand at grooming. Their coats might not be as glossy as it was before. A tender human hand with a soft brush against my coat feels wonderful and this starts up my purr engine. Sometimes they glide a soft warm damp cloth over my coat to get rid of grittiness and dust and this coaxes me to groom myself and finish the job. Afterwards I look and feel brand new! They also slip me some omega-3 gels to improve the condition of my skin and coat. My nails are trimmed regularly to prevent them from hooking into things. I have hard nails and the humans call it “old man nails”. Hold it right there, HuMom, I beg to differ! It’s called “been there, done that nails,” thank you very much!
11. Keep on top of dental health
Even if you have never brushed your cat’s teeth before, you can still start somewhere. Your veterinarian can provide you with a gel to apply to the gum line with a Q-tip. If this proves too difficult to do, there are odourless dental solutions that can be mixed into the cats’ drinking water which acts as a mouth wash. The oral cleansing gel my humans use for me is quite pleasant tasting, and helps to make my mouth smell like candies and keeps my gums healthy.
12. Regular veterinary checkups
Yearly checkups should ideally change to every six months if you are by the means to do so, but at the least you should see your veterinarian once per year. Your vet may want to check for early signs of diseases like kidney disease or cancer by checking for unusual lumps and bumps and might suggest ordering some blood work to rule out anything malignant. In any case it is important to be on the alert for signs such as excessive water intake, changes in amount of urination (too much or too little), changes in vocalization, changes in grooming habits, bad breath or unexpected weight loss or weight gain. Okay, we all know cats don’t like vet visits, but I am always ready for a ride in a car, even if it’s a trip to the vet! If you need some tips on stress-free trips in a carrier have a look at our other post How to prepare your cat for travel
There are many other creative ways to improve the quality of life of your cat. It’s the little changes in a cat’s environment that can make all the difference. When you make these adjustments to improve our lifestyles, us cats will be thanking you for a long time even after we have left to grow our wings. Do you have senior cats? Do you have a story to share? We’d love to hear from you!
On a mission to nowhere in a not-so-hurry