As a Tulsa veterinarian, we’ve seen many advances in nutrition and veterinary care for our pets. These advances allow our pets to share their lives with us longer than ever. Today, it’s not uncommon for cats to live well into their twenties. But as our cats age, they face issues that affect not only their physical health, but also their behavior. Here are some of the most common behavior problems of elderly cats along with some tips for caring for your feline friends into their senior years.
Meowing at Night
Behaviorally, the most common problem owners complain about older cats is meowing at night. This increase in vocalization is especially present in cats that seem to be confused about where they are. Meowing is often very loud and can last all night, much to the owner’s chagrin. Playing quiet music or keeping your cat in a separate room overnight could help.
Just Let Me Sleep
Aging cats can experience changes in their sleep/wake cycles. Some might exhibit a decrease in playfulness and an increase in sleep, while others stay awake all night when they previously did not. These changes can be caused by medical conditions, such as hypertension and chronic pain, or it could be deterioration of the cells of the brain.
Where’s the Bathroom?
Perfectly litter-trained cats sometimes forget their bathroom manners as they age. It may simply be because it is difficult or painful for your kitty to climb in and out of the litterbox because of arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Another common problem is defecating outside of the litterbox. It is unknown why some cats will do this but still urinate in the same litterbox. Giving your cat a shallow litter pan or even a litter tray will often resolve this problem.
I’m Not Hungry
Be attentive to changes in your aging cat’s appetite. Kitty might become uninterested in foods that used to be favorites. Stick to a strict meal schedule, and try feeding more aromatic canned food, which also provides additional liquid in your cat’s diet. (Older cats often do not drink enough water.) When dehydration becomes a problem, it can affect how the brain functions. The most important medicine for the management of geriatric dogs and cats is usually clean, fresh water.
Take It Easy
If your cat exhibits any of these behaviors, schedule an appointment with the Mobile Pet Vet right away for a complete checkup. Quite often, an underlying medical problem (such as diabetes, or even high blood pressure) can be the cause of an elderly cat’s odd behavior. Be understanding and supportive if your cat meows all night or misses the litterbox. Adapt your home to make your aging kitty’s life a little easier, and remember that your cat is doing the best that she can. Be sympathetic and seek veterinary assistance if there is a problem that interferes with your life or your cat’s well-being. With a little TLC you can help your elderly cat spend quality time together—even through the senior years.
10 Ways to Make Your Aging Cat More Comfortable
- Add more bathrooms: Extra litterboxes can help a forgetful elderly cat remember where her toilet is.
- Go for easy access: Provide litterboxes with at least one low side. These will be easier for an older cat with achy joints to get in and out of.
- Ramp it up: Add ramps or low stairs for your kitty to get to her favorite sleeping spot on a sofa or bed.
- Serve regular meals: Structure and routine, especially related to mealtimes, will help sustain an elderly cat’s mental functioning.
- Make dinner desirable: A little hot water added to some canned food will enhance the aroma and make it more appealing to a kitty whose sense of smell might be diminishing. Provide plenty of drinking water, too.
- Shrink living spaces: Close off parts of the house where your cat could get lost or disoriented, and restrict the cat to a few familiar rooms.
- Keep stairs off-limits: Arthritic joints, loss of vision, and cognitive dysfunction can make stairs difficult for your older cat to navigate. Eliminate access to stairs and limit living spaces to one floor.
- Don’t change a thing: Avoid major changes to your household. A kitten, puppy, or even a new adult pet will be very stressful to your elderly kitty.
- Increase interaction: Gentle playtime—even just stretching a paw to bat a toy mouse or feather—will stimulate both your aging kitty’s muscles and brain.
- Give lots of love: Many cats become more affectionate as they get older. Use this time to strengthen the bond between you and your senior kitty. Treasure your time together!
Contact Dr. Cash today to discuss additional ways to best care for your elderly cats.