Where Should My Senior Cat Sleep?

With a few adjustments, you can help your senior cat enjoy a good snooze.

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Senior cats may find comfort anywhere, including a good book.
Senior cats may find comfort anywhere, including a good book. Sheldon Green/iStock/Thinkstock
Joanne McGonagle

By the time a cat enters her golden years, she’ll likely already have an established sleeping routine. But now that she’s older, you’ll need to make some adjustments around your home to help your golden oldie get a good snooze.

Cats like to be up off the ground to observe their surroundings, but a senior cat might not be able to leap with ease up onto her cat tree to take a nap. This doesn’t mean the desire to reach the platform has gone away. She just can’t jump up and down anymore. You might consider placing a ramp for your cat to use to walk up to the higher platform. If a ramp is not a workable solution for your space, you could place a chair beside the cat tree as an alternative place for your cat to watch the bird activity. Over time, your cat will let you know if she finds this an acceptable substitute.

You might also clear off the top of a dresser or desk near a window and place a soft folded blanket on top. The desk chair acts like a stair to cut down on the height your cat needs to jump to access the desktop.

This is also a good time to provide a few cave-style beds for your senior cat to slip into and sleep. Look for a bed with a smaller opening where she can crawl inside to feel completely protected. Our house cats still think like their wildcat ancestors. Even in the safety of your home, far away from any potential threat, your cat is hard-wired to be on the lookout for potential predators.

An older cat will feel particularly vulnerable, so providing a cave-style cocoon for her to fit snugly inside will allow her to curl up and relax, feeling safe and protected. Place these beds under a coffee table or other sheltered places where your cat can still be in the social area of your home but have a bit of privacy, too. If your senior cat shares the home with younger cats, make sure there is plenty of space for the older cat to escape and not be ambushed by younger, playful housemates.

Your senior cat will enjoy soaking up warm sunshine even more, as the heat feels good to her old bones, especially if she has arthritis. You might also consider providing a heated bed for her or place a hot water bottle underneath a blanket or towel to provide added warmth. A couple of folded soft blankets placed on the floor where the sun shines will also be appreciated by your senior cat.

The heated bed we provided for our cat Gracey was her favorite place to hang out, especially during the winter months. She loved spending time in the sunroom, and the heated bed enabled her to do just that even during the coldest of days.

You don’t necessarily need to purchase expensive beds for your senior cat; you can provide plenty of comfortable sleeping spots with items you might already have around your house. The ever-popular cardboard box remains a favorite to cats of all ages, though you might want to use a box with lower sides, lined with a soft blanket.

Just because your cat is older, doesn’t mean she has lost her desire for clean bedding. Make sure you routinely wash your cat’s beds, blankets and towels to keep her happy and comfortable. You know how great clean sheets feel and it’s the same for your cat.

If you live in a cold weather climate, try not to place a bed near a cold drafty area. Try to place your cat’s bed in the warmer areas of the home, like next to the fireplace. It won’t take much encouragement to get your senior cat to curl up near the warmth of the fire.

During the warmer months, your cat may no longer seek out the cool surfaces to stretch out but still might desire to not be too hot. Placing a bed in a cooler location provides both options for your cat. She can stay cool but still be comfortable sleeping on the soft cushion of her bed.

If your cat has always slept with you at night but now has difficulty making it up onto the bed, you can provide pet stairs for her. These stairs are available online or from your favorite pet retailer. You can also improvise with items from within your home. The solution could be as simple as moving a chair alongside your bed to provide a step up onto the mattress. We used an ottoman placed alongside our bed to help our cat Hazel when she wasn’t able to make the jump up onto the bed.

Your cat may want to be near you but still want some independence, so the ottoman and/or the chair provides your older cat with the option to stay near you yet closer to the ground. Make sure you provide a couple of soft blankets for your cat to snuggle up in and stay warm through the night. Don’t forget to routinely washing the bedding and blankets.

Cherish your time with your senior cat. I often found myself watching Gracey while she slept, memorizing the colors in her fur and watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest with each breath. Gracey often placed her paw on my hand while sleeping. This simple gesture was our symbol of love and friendship. That memory warms my heart to this day.

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Cats · Health and Care