A cat can be considered old when he starts to take things easy and spends more time than usual sleeping. The old cat’s reactions are sharp, his movements are subtle, and he may even deign to chase string and pat feathers, as long as he is not made to feel foolish. Just because he sits around a lot and is undemanding and quiet, an elderly cat should not be ignored.
To remain happy and in the best possible health, he needs everything on the checklist.
-lots of love and affection
-particular attention to claws and teeth
-extra care with diet
-help with grooming
-twice-yearly veterinary check-ups patience and understanding if ‘accidents’ occur
-unchanging daily routine
-minimal upheaval in his life
-plenty of sleep
Just like elderly people, old cats are resistant to and can be upset by major changes in their routine and lifestyle. If changes do have to happen, try to incorporate them gradually to allow your cat time to get used to them. Everything should be done to keep the elderly cat feeling as good as possible. Disturbed behaviour patterns may be the result of chronic illness in the old cat. For example, a previously clean cat may have ‘accidents’, making puddles on chairs and carpets. Should this happen, it may be best to keep the cat in areas of the house where such accidents don’t matter, but that does not mean he should be shut away or limited in his access to his family, as this would be unfair and cruel.
Some people consider getting a kitten when their established cat gets old. This can he a good or bad decision, depending on the temperament and nature of the aged cat. If he likes the kitten, then he may gain a new lease of life. If, however, he does not, then he may resent the newcomer and become depressed and withdrawn, stop eating and, ultimately, become very ill. If the old cat is the only one in the household and has always been a loner, then it would be kinder not to get another cat or kitten.
If your elderly cat displays an increased need for your company, always give him plenty of attention and reassurance – even consider moving his bed into your bedroom at night if necessary. Leaving a radio on low while you are out can help provide ‘company’.
Foods specially formulated for elderly cats are available, and these contain all the nutrients the ageing body needs to remain in the best possible condition, and help delay or alleviate the onset of conditions such as senility. As older cats can often suffer from urinary-tract problems, a totally dry diet may not be the best choice.
An older cat may not be able to defend his food as well as he once could, so if you have other cats and/or dogs ensure they are not allowed to steal his meals, or intimidate him while he is eating and scare him off. Being less active as he grows older, it is easy for the cat to pile on weight, which can put undue strain on his heart and joints; keep a careful watch on this. Equally, he could lose weight rapidly and starve if he is not eating for some reason. Weighing your cat once a week can help you monitor his weight – and this is quite simple to do. First, weigh yourself on your bathroom scales, and then weigh yourself again while holding the cat; deduct the first weight from the second to ascertain your pet’s weight. It may he easier for a helper to read the weights while you stand still on the scales.