Wednesday, October 14, 2009 12:22 PM

Keeping Your Senior Cat Healthy and Comfortable

As cats age, everything slows down (sound familiar?). Digestion, metabolism, energy levels, the list goes on. This is totally normal and doesn't mean that your older cat can't spend her golden years as happily as she did her younger days. It does mean, though, that you will want to make some changes in order to accommodate your aging companion.

First, keep the older cat indoors. This is very important, since older cats that can't see and hear as well as they used to are easy marks for predators. Add into the mix a bit of arthritis to keep Tabby from being able to outrun enemies and you have a recipe for disaster! In my experience, older cats would just as soon stay in, anyway.

Try to keep your cat as "drug-free" as possible. Don't vaccinate an elderly, indoor cat. It's not necessary, and could be harmful. Don't have your pet put under anesthesia unless absolutely necessary--older bodies have a more difficult time excreting these drugs, and often have nasty reactions to them. If a health issue pops up, see if supplementation, a holistic diet and natural treatments don't work as well or better than prescription drugs. Never put flea medication on your old cat--it could literally kill him!

Make sure the cat box is accessible and always clean. Older kidneys process more urine, and elderly bowels--well, you get the picture. Make sure the tray is big enough and the sides are not too high for arthritic legs to step over. If you have a hooded model, get rid of it. If stairs are a problem, put the box in a downstairs bath rather than the basement. Remember, old cats are more apt to step in messes, so keep it clean!

Try to feed as much homemade food as possible. It is easier to digest, and kitty won't have to process all those chemicals. If appetite wanes, give treats of meat baby food, sardines and clams to spice things up. No tuna, please!

If jumping up on beds and comfy chairs is getting difficult, put a step stool there to help. You might want to use a sturdy cardboard box bedside, it hurts less when you stub your toes on it in the middle of the night! Also, make sure there are many blankets, quilts, etc. around for your senior to snuggle into and stay warm. Oldsters nap more, and need more warmth.

As you can see, just a few changes around the house will make life much more enjoyable for your cat and you. And don't forget to massage your arthritic pet--it will make you both feel better!
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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