If you are considering adopting a cat and have already ruled out a rambunctious kitten a senior cat might fit into your life and lifestyle.
Cats are considered “senior cats” between 11 and 14 years of age
or “geriatric cats” at 15 years of more.
Senior cats are very seldom adopted out of shelters and rescues. People do not want to consider having a pet that will “die soon” but with the veterinary health care these days cats are living well into their late teens and even into their twenties so adopting a senior cat gives you many years to give and receive cat love. Older cats do make wonderful pets but they also have unique needs.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN WELCOMING A SENIOR CAT
A 16-year-old cat can be compared to an 80-year-old human and, like we humans do, senior cats move and think a little more slowly.
By the time cats reach 10 – 12 years of age most cats have slowed down a little bit and find changes in their routine or environment more stressful than younger cats so patience and understanding is important when bringing home an older cat
Between 13 – 15 years of age, like 70 –80 year old humans, they may develop some hearing and/or vision loss, they tend to nap longer and become a little crabby or easily annoyed.
But if you are considering adopting a senior cat – don’t panic. There are a lot of things that you can do to make certain your new family member stays as active, healthy and happy as possible ... and for many years to come.
Older cats do best with a consistent daily routine.
Older cats move a little more slowly than their younger counterparts and may not run to greet you at the door after you have been away.
Older cats may have less tolerance for cold temperatures so make sure you provide a warm spot for napping.
Older cats can be less tolerant of other pets or small children but this makes them ideal additions to a senior or quiet household or a home that can only welcome one pet.
While senior cats make loving pets, they are still cats and prefer to have affection and attention on their own terms. You may notice an older cat enjoys more time alone …
… That being said, senior cats still need mental stimulation and physical exercise so they do not become bored. Play with a wand toy and move it at a speed they are comfortable chasing. Give them a food puzzle. Try a toy filled with catnip. A new box or bag is always fun and tempting no matter how old the kitty may be. Try a toy that makes a fun sound or has blinking lights to compensate for possible vision or hearing loss.
SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE SENIOR CAT
When you bring home your senior cat consider starting a journal of your cat’s activities, likes and dislikes. Your cat is new to you and you are new to them, so this can help identify changes in your cat’s behaviour as they age further.
Senior cats need more frequent veterinary visits – at least twice a year is recommended. The visits should include weight comparisons to previous visits, a dental check to eliminate problems that may cause eating issues, a skin a coat inspection, joint flexing, organ palpitations and eye and ear inspections. Your veterinarian will also determine if vaccinations should continue. You may also want to consider blood, urine, stool and blood pressure screenings.
Senior cats will have special dietary needs including a balanced diet. Your veterinarian may recommend a pet food designed for elderly cats. Canned foods are a good option for older cats because of it is easy to consume and has higher water content. DO NOT abruptly change your cat’s food, if a change is necessary do it slowly so as not to cause gastrointestinal problems and avoid diarrhoea and vomiting. If your cat will not eat anything other than their favourite food talk to your vet about adding a supplement to the food.
As with all cats, fresh water should be available at all times. Cats do not drink enough and this may be especially true of senior cats so pet water fountains are a great idea. Hydration is important to overall health so you may want to add a little water to their food as well.
Cats favour high perches but senior cats cannot jump as high or climb as well as their younger counterparts so you may want to consider getting movable steps or ramps to help them get to a favourite spot. It is best to keep their food and water bowls on the floor.
Older cats are not as agile as kittens or younger adult cats so make sure the sides of the litter box are low enough to allow easy access and, senior cats may need more than one litter box so be prepared to have a couple around for ease of use.
Do not ignore signs of illness … many are easily treatable.
WHEN "THAT" TIME COMES
No one want to consider the time when you have to make the decision to euthanize or your cat passes away naturally but that time comes whether you adopt a kitten or an adult cat … unfortunately, it will come a little sooner when you open your heart to a senior cat.
It takes a special and loving person to adopt a senior cat and it is difficult to contemplate end of life issues, but with your veterinarians help your cat can live a long, beautiful life and end it peacefully when the time comes.
There are no guarantees even when you adopt a kitten – they can become ill as well. Adopting a senior cat will give that special kitty a chance to live out the final (many) years of their life in a loving, peaceful environment.
Your senior cat can be an important and loving member of you family. Being aware of their special needs should not be a deterrent to bringing them home but rather allow you to care for them properly so they’ll be around for as long as possible.
Remember adopting a pet is a fur-ever promise!