Cats are considered mature at 7-10 years, senior at 11-14 years (human age 60-72 years) and Super Senior at 15+ years (human age 76+ years) (Your cat’s age in human years). Here are some tips for caring for your older cat.

Once past 2 years, cats age at a rate of 4 years per every human year. Regular veterinary visits are beneficial for your Mature, Senior and Super Senior cats. Good veterinary care can make your older cat’s senior years golden years.

Mature, Senior and Super Senior cats have the same needs as younger animals.


Caring for Your Older Cat: The “Senior” Cat Friendly Home


Safe Places


 

Steps to bed for older cat
A step ladder gives Athena easy access to the bed.

 

 

An older cat needs private and secure places to retreat to, to rest and take a break from household activity. Steps or ramps provide easy access to higher places. A heated bed with extra padding can be a real hit for an older cat stiff from arthritis.

Resources – Food, Water, Litter Boxes


Ice cube tray as a food puzzle
This older cat is getting lunch from an ice cube tray.

 

Still a hunter at heart, your older cat is designed to eat small meals, frequently during the day.  Feeding stations throughout the house will encourage her to prowl and “hunt” her food, stimulating her physically and mentally.

 

Your old cat will most likely drink more than he did when he was young. Locate water sources throughout the house. If your cat seems stiff, try raising his food and water up so that he does not have to crouch down as much to eat and drink.

Litter Box from storage tote
A storage tote has been repurposed as a litter box. The front opening is low and was cut with heavy duty shears and a hacksaw. A trash can for scooping is nearby.

THE LITTER BOX

  • Large enough for your cat to turn around.
  • Entrance has a low sill for easy access.
  • On each floor of the house
  • In areas that are secluded and private
  • Finer textured litter may be more comfortable for older kitty paws.

Play is still important


Older cats can still can benefit from swatting at a wand toy or chasing treats. Daily play time close to early morning or early evening mimics the cat’s natural rhythms – prey is most active at these times.

Human Interaction


A familiar predictable routine reduces anxiety for all cats. Caring for your older cat should include grooming as well as play time. Grooming becomes more challenging for older cats as their flexibility decreases.

  • Make grooming sessions frequent and short.
  • Cats often groom after eating. This is a good time to gently comb or brush the older cat.
  • Regular nail trims are important for older kitties – the nails of older cats can sometimes grow into their paw pads, which is painful.
  • Older cats still need access to scratching areas – horizontal and angled scratchers may be easier for them to use

Your Cat’s Sense of Smell


Cats have a sense of smell that is 14x more sensitive than ours.

  • Diffusers containing facial pheromones placed near some of your older cat’s resting places will convey the messages of familiarity and safety
  • Scratching releases pheromones from glands in your cat’s paws that help mark his territory- have scratchers available to your older cat
  • Avoid using scented litters and strong smelling cleaners

Outdoor Access


 

A Cat enjoys a walk in a stroller

SAFE outdoor access is stimulating for older cats as well as young cats. Your cat may like some supervised outdoor time with you – the daily “walk” can provide quality time for both cat and owner.

IF you are lucky enough to live in a quiet neighborhood or have access to a quiet park, a cat stroller can get you and your old friend out. 

  • Get her used to the stroller first – offer some food in it, let her nap in it
  • Start with SHORT walks in QUIET places at QUIET times.
  • Increase the walking time IF she is enjoying it.

The Cat Friendly Home: Resources – Food and Water


Our cats’ closest relative is the African Wildcat. What is the wildcat’s day like?

The wildcat’s day has already started by the time the sun starts to come up.
the wildcat’s excellent night vision allows him to hunt at night although the rodents that make up most of his diet are mainly active at dawn and dusk.

Small Frequent Meals


The wildcat must remain on the prowl at dawn and dusk since he needs to eat about 8-10 mice daily or starve.

 

Variety is the Spice of Life


If our wildcat is lucky, he may catch the occasional rabbit or antelope fawn. Insects, lizards, and snakes are also on the menu.

 

The Solitary Hunter Dines Alone


Once our wildcat catches a morsel, he will take it somewhere he can eat without becoming someone else’s meal – some place quiet, secluded and protected.

 

As the sun becomes higher in the sky, our wildcat will find a cool, secluded place to rest during the day before resuming the hunt at dusk.

At the Waterhole…


 

Not Much Need to Drink…


A wildcat gets most of her water from the prey she eats; her kidneys are very efficient.

Wide, Flat Watering Places..


If she does stop at a waterhole, she will choose a place where she can use the water as a mirror to see if anything is coming up behind her.

 

No Drinking While Eating…


She does not drink while eating nor does she bring food to the waterhole. She avoids contaminating the water source with the guts of her prey.

 

Our “Wildcats” at Home…


Like his wildcat relative, your cat gets most of his nutrition from meat. He is designed to eat 8-10 small meals a day and be on the prowl most of his waking hours, looking for food. He is hardwired to hunt, regardless of how well fed he is. Cats have been known to stop eating to pursue prey.

Feeding behavior…

It is normal for your cat to eat a few mouthfuls, go away and return later to eat more. Of course, this may be a problem if another cat eats all the food. One way to dispense small meals is to use several puzzle feeders located at different locations in your house. Your cat “prowls” around looking for feeders

Gus and Zelda eating from the Catit Food Tree

and collecting snacks along the way (See Your Cat’s Diet)

It is hard to dispense with “meal time” feeding, especially with canned food. If you have more than one cat, separating each cat and his food dish can help with aggression and gorging at feeding times.  Ideally, each cat should be out of sight of the other cats.

 

Gus is much more relaxed when eating away from the other cats.

Although cats that belong to the same social group may seem comfortable eating next to each other, watch for indicators of distress: “scarf and barf”, aggression, and standing while eating.

What to do with Water…

  • Wide, flat dishes mimic the puddles and water sources where cats can monitor for things behind them.

    A pie plate has been repurposed as a cat water dish. Water is greenish due to a dental additive.
  • Wide water dishes don’t interfere with the whiskers.
  • Water bowls in more than one place in the house gives kitty more opportunity to drink. This is especially important when feeding dry cat food and to avoid competition in multi-cat households.

Things to consider…

  • Canned food can provide a lot of your cat’s water needs
  • Water fountains for cats are popular – there are many styles. However, there are cats that prefer drinking from a dish or a dripping faucet
  • Cats have receptors on their tongues that let them know when they are drinking water – they may prefer filtered water (See What does my cat taste?)