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When your feline friend reaches about 7 years old, it's time to consider investing in senior cat accessories. Items such as ramps, cozy bedding and a senior cat litter box can help ease your beloved pet into their golden years.
Accessories for Aging Cats
As cats age, their lifestyle needs change — and as a pet parent, it's your job to accommodate them. These changes won't necessarily be big or obvious, either. Dr. Emily Levine, an animal behavior resident at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine says, "We remember to give them medications, but we tend to forget about addressing food, water and litter box issues."
Adjusting how you meet your kitty's basic needs as they age can go a long way toward helping them enjoy their later years.
Litter Box Changes
Your cat's joints age right along with them. Arthritis can make it more difficult to get in and out of a litter box. Some cats may stop using the box altogether. If you notice either of these behaviors, reach out to your veterinarian to rule out a medical reason why your cat won't use the litter box. Once you've addressed any health issues, focus on adapting their current box or creating a senior cat litter box.
A litter box for senior cats should have low walls to allow easy entry. You can also make a DIY senior cat litter box by cutting out a low doorway in a plastic storage bin with high walls — this will provide privacy for your cat and make cleanup easier for you.
Place a litter box on each floor of your home, so your cat doesn't have to go far to find a bathroom nor climb stairs to access it. Ensure the litter isn't too deep nor too shallow, clean it at least once a day and reward your kitty for using it properly.
If your cat is incontinent or has accidents outside the box, cat diapers are an option. Just don't let your cat wear diapers for more than one to two hours at a time, emphasizes Best Friends Animal Society, as "they trap urine and feces, prevent air flow and encourage painful sores and infection." Instead, set up a litter box area that suits your kitty's needs and preferences — which may include pee pads. Additionally, make sure to tell your vet about any incontinence, as this is likely the sign of a larger health issue that can be common in cats. They can advise you on how to address the situation if an underlying health condition is determined.
Making Your Home Easier For Senior Cats
Don't worry: You won't have to revamp your entire house to accommodate your senior kitty. Small changes can make a big difference. For example, you can ensure your cat is still able to access their favorite spots, like your bed and couch, by placing sturdy pet ramps or stairs next to them. These are especially helpful if your cat likes to lounge in a cat condo or sunbathe near a window.
You probably know how much your furry friend loves a warm bed, and this love for cozy spots only increases as cats age. Keep their bed away from drafty spaces and consider getting them a heating pad, especially if your cat has arthritis. Extra night lights can also make it easier for them to get around if their eyesight is declining.
Also, consider adding in a rug or two to slick surfaces such as tile or hardwood floors to give them more traction and make it easier on their joints.
Health and Nutrition
Maintain a regular grooming routine for your cat, including brushing or combing their fur, cleaning their teeth and, because older cats tend to groom themselves less, giving your cat a bath.
Proper nutrition is important for your cat during every stage of their life, but especially in their later years. The best cat food contains all the required nutrients for your aging cat's needs, including support for their brain function and weight control.
Science Diet Senior Vitality takes into account the science of aging pets to give your older kitty just what they need: fruits, vegetables, fatty acids and antioxidants, plus vitamins, minerals and amino acids. This nutritional balance will keep your senior cat an active cat.
Many cats remain alert and agile well into old age. With a bit of accommodation, some key senior cat accessories and lots of love, older cats can live a long, happy and healthy life.
Christine Brovelli-O'Brien, Ph.D., is a professional member of the Cat Writers' Association (CWA), a STEAM educator and a devoted cat parent. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien