Striking similarities exist between caring for an elderly person or an aging cat. Age brings mobility issues along with sight challenges. However, small changes around the home can go a long way to ensure that your senior cat maintains her independence and continues to enjoy her home environment and engage with her favorite people.
I have been lucky enough to live with two senior cats. My beloved Cali passed away a few months shy of her 20th birthday back in 2009. Fudge is now 16.5 years old. Fortunately, she hasn’t lost her ability to jump — even if she doesn’t jump the same heights and distances.
Introduce the following simple ideas around your home to make it more senior cat-friendly.
Add Pet Steps Around Your Home
One of the biggest issues senior cats face is no longer being able to get to their favorite snooze zones — whether it’s the living room couch or the opportunity to cuddle up with you in bed. Pet steps are a quick fix, and there are numerous sizes and heights available. If you purchase foam ones — which are lightweight enough to move around the home — make sure they are constructed from very firm foam so that you cat will feel safe stepping on them. Wooden pet stairs can be an attractive permanent feature alongside a bed. Most cats are a quick study in learning how to use them. Coax them up the steps with treats and repeat to teach them to go down, too.
Rethink Litter Box Location
Aging cats often suffer from rheumatism and arthritis, which makes climbing steps around the home really painful. If you think of it in human terms, you wouldn’t expect your 80-year-old granny to go down to the basement every time she wanted to go to the toilet. If your litter box is in a basement, consider re-positioning it on the main living floor in the home. If you live in a multi-story home, consider a second box in an upstairs location, too.
Consider The Litter Box Shape And Style
This may also be the right time to review your litter boxes to ensure they are low enough in front for your cat to easily step in and out. Some litter box systems have additional attachments, such as a ramp for easier access. If you are handy, perhaps you can construct one to fit your special box and location. The bigger the litter box, the better!
It’s also a good idea to place a large puppy pee pad underneath the litter box, especially if you are placing the box on carpets. This takes care of any accidents your old cat may inadvertently have. Cali was very good about going to her litter box, but occasionally she left her rear end outside the box.
Provide More Cat Beds
Even if your cat loves to curl up on the couch, she will appreciate her own bed. Memory foam beds are an excellent choice for an older animal to rest comfortably in, especially if she has circulation issues, painful joints or weak legs. Some beds are made from solid memory foam, while other options are memory foam infused with gel. Dog beds are often well-suited to aging cats, so don’t overlook the canine selection.
Consider placing pet beds around the home, too. I have a bed in every room so that my cats can follow me around and curl up comfortably wherever I am in the house.
My cats are allowed to sun themselves outside on my secure balcony. I have taken older cat beds and placed them on the wooden slats of the balcony so that both Fudge and Ziggy can enjoy a soft comfort zone outside, too. This is a great way of “recycling” older pet beds instead of throwing them away.
Soften Up Other Favorite Places
We have a bay window in our kitchen, and the cats love to sit here and watch what’s happening outside. It’s tiled, so I have taken a crate mat and placed it in the window area so that it’s more comfortable for sitting or snoozing than the cold, hard tiles.
In addition to adding softness to favorite areas, consider adding a special charcoal or magnetic mat on top of a bed or rug. These therapeutic mats are designed to self-generate heat to improve circulation and ease aching muscles. There are also special low-voltage pet heating pads that can be used in such situations.
Cats are always attracted to sunbeams, and elderly felines even more so. However, it’s better to create a warm spot than to allow them to lie for long spells in direct sun, which can cause skin cancer and dehydrate them.
Raised Food And Water Bowls
Cats in their late teens and older often struggle to crouch down in front of their food and water bowls. Raised food and water bowls that are more or less their shoulder height allow them to sit or stand upright in order to eat and drink.
If your cat is losing her eyesight, it’s important to be consistent around the home. Never move the litter box or rearrange the food bowls (other than to place them in more accessible locations). And the same goes for rearranging furniture and leaving things lying around the house. Consistency will help your old cat feel comfortable and secure.
Special Care For Sight-Impaired Cats
It’s also essential to ensure that your home is properly cat-proofed to prevent a cat with poor eyesight from becoming injured. Check for broken screens on windows and doors, cover sharp edges on items of furniture, and ensure that toilet seats are kept down at all times.
You’ll also have to be aware of your own behavior toward your sight-impaired feline. Be careful not to startle her. Talk to her instead, or perhaps use a pleasant sound such as a bell when you want to call her or wake her without startling her by suddenly pouncing on her.
If you cat is completely blind, never pick her up and carry her from one place to another, as she may become disoriented.
Help Your Old Cat Look Her Best
Elderly cats will need help with their grooming routine, as they often struggle to reach their nether regions. Often, they step in wet sand in the litter box and the litter sticks to their paws. Make it a daily habit to check and clean paws using a warm, damp paper towel.
Consider this additional grooming, or any other hands-on attention an older cat may need, as a wonderful way of spending quality time together during your cat’s golden years.
These small considerations go a long way in honoring unconditional feline love.