Seventeen years ago, Siouxsie Mew came into my life. My relationship with her has outlasted many friendships and romances, and pretty much every person in my life except my family and my best friend. I weaned her, I helped her recover from her spay surgery, and she’s moved house with me at least half a dozen times. She’s one of the original members of the Paws and Effect gang, bearing the burden of being Top Cat and Queen of All Eastern Cats with dignity and grace … and the occasional paw-swat when required.
Siouxsie’s not the only elderkitty I’ve known. My family has had cats who lived to be 17, 18, and, in one case, 21, so I guess you could say I’ve learned a few things about how to make a senior cat’s life as happy and healthy as possible. Here are eight of my best tips:
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1. Remember that your senior cat is still the top cat
Even if your other cats start agitating for the throne, so to speak, remind them that they should respect their elders. Give her the first shot at treats and affection and make sure the younger cats stay out of her way.
2. Be gentle with her
In her younger years, your cat may not have had any problems recovering when you pushed her off the counter, but that may not be so true now. Even if she ends up on her feet, it could still be a painful landing. Pick her up and put her on the floor with a quiet “no” instead.
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3. Give her soft spots
Siouxsie was delighted when I bought her a bucket bed lined with soft faux-fur and cushioned with foam. It kept her warm and didn’t put pressure on her sore hips.
4. Get regular vet care
Once your cat is in her teens, she’s aging at the rate of four human years for every one cat year. Regular veterinary checkups will ensure that your cat stays healthy and you catch any illnesses early. Most vets recommend twice-yearly checkups for senior cats. If you can afford that, great; if not, please try for once a year.
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5. Give her a lift
Your elderkitty is probably not as strong and agile as she used to be, but she still loves being able to look down on her kingdom. Give her ways to get to her favorite high places, whether through ramps, steps, or even by picking her up and placing her there.
6. Cut her some slack
Your old cat may do things that annoy you: howling in the middle of the night, acting super-needy, or taking a nap in your clean laundry. Don’t give her a hard time for that; she’s simply seeking comfort or expressing fear about her changing abilities.
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7. Lower the barriers
If your cat is going to the bathroom outside the litterbox, watch her while she’s doing her business and see what the trouble is. If she’s having trouble holding her squat and is therefore peeing over the edges of the box, get a box with high sides and a low entrance. If the box is too small, get a larger one. And if all else fails, invest in some puppy training pads.
8. Enjoy every minute with her
A well-cared-for cat can live into her late teens, or even longer. Don’t check out emotionally or spiritually because you’re afraid she’s going to die soon. Every creature dies eventually, and your cat deserves your love for as long as she’s alive. If you have fears around death, work on those now so you can be fully present with her until she draws her last breath.
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What have you done to make your elderkitty’s life as awesome as possible, for as long as possible? Please share your tips in the comments.
Photo: Cat at dawn in the mountains by Shutterstock
I have 2 rescue cat sisters who are about to turn 15. One of them is doing well, but the other is in kidney failure. And yes, I think those are excellent things to do for elderly cats. Another one is to have a heating pad in a place where they can sit and warm their aching bones. I have one covered by a towel, and it's only on when I'm there to supervise. Another thing to think about is having places by sunny windows, also for the warming effect.
For my cat in kidney failure, I decided that as long as she's willing to accept subQ fluids and still enjoys eating, drinking and snuggling, I'm going to keep her going. She is the sweetest cat you ever met, and doesn't run away even though I'm sure she knows that evening is fluid time. The vet agreed with me that I should feed her anything she wants to eat, so I've gotten some "stinky" dog treats as well as canned cat food, a nutrition supplement that I mix in with her food, and cat milk (basically lactose free). She really enjoys the dog treats, which are freeze-dried beef liver and lamb lung. Cats do need a lot of protein, and the course of kidney failure is different in cats than it is in humans.
So I know I'm going to lose her, and probably sooner than later, but meanwhile, I think she still has quality of life, and I get a little more of her sweet company.
They make automatic warming pads for pets that turn on from their weight. No supervision needed.
My last cat to pass about 2 years ago, did a new trick. He always was strict about using the kitty litter, and would even not go if it wasn't available(the elder cats would "guard" it when they got older). So about 6 months before he passed, he would go in the tub, and poop there. Not all the time, but often. It used to crack me up. My other cats would tend to go right in front of the kitty litter as they aged, but he was the only one to go where we did, just missed by a few feet.
We modified our cat tree with two extra steps between levels and a 3-step assist to get to the first high level.