While your adult cat might have continued to behave like a kitten at times, there will eventually come a day when they’ll start to slow down.
It’s an inevitable part of the ageing process. However, you can help your furry friend be happy and healthy in their twilight years.
A cat’s average life expectancy is 12-14 years, but it’s not uncommon for them to live to 20. Cats are generally classed as senior at 11 years old, and it’s at this time that you may start noticing the following changes in their pet.
Any changes in your cat’s behaviour and appearance can be an early indicator of illness, so it’s essential to report any changes in eating, drinking or toileting habits to your vet.
If you notice any of the following, make an appointment with your vet as soon as possible:
Taking your senior cat for regular check-ups with your vet is strongly advisable to identify and treat symptoms early. Some vet surgeries run special geriatric clinics where owners can take their pets for advice and support.
Your senior cat may benefit from changes around the house to make their lives more comfortable. However, older cats can be more sensitive to disruption, so gradually make changes.
As cats age, their nutritional requirements change. They’re likely to burn fewer calories than they were younger.
Consider switching your cat to food marked senior as it’s nutritionally matched to their life stage. As with any changes in diet, you should transition gradually over a week to avoid upset stomachs.
Senior cats can sometimes need a bit of encouragement to eat if their senses have diminished and the experience is not as exciting as it once was. If your oldie is reluctant to eat, try the following:
Grooming becomes more difficult for cats as they age. Stiff and aching joints make it difficult for them to get to those hard-to-reach places.
Help them with regular gentle brushing, which also allows you to check them for any lumps and bumps your vet can investigate.
Long-haired cats may require their coat trimmed around their rear end to keep the area clean and free from matting.
If you live in a multi-story home, consider keeping their essential items on one floor. Your cat may also benefit from rugs being laid on any non-carpeted floors to prevent slipping.
Add ramps or steps up to their favourite perching so they don’t need to jump, which could be uncomfortable for them or cause injury.
If your senior cat is less steady on their feet, they may benefit from a change of litter tray for one with low for easy access. Also, make sure it has some wiggle room. Older cats may find some types of litter rough on the paws, so test a softer one to see if they prefer it.
If your cat likes to use a scratching post to sharpen their claws, they might find a horizontal scratching surface easier if their joints start getting stiff.
Pet insurance helps cover treatment costs if your older cat gets sick. We normally recommend a time-limited policy for older pets as starting lifetime cover in later life is often more expensive.
Find out more about the differences between time-limited and lifetime pet insurance policies here.
I’ve spent 20 years writing about pets and exploring the wonderful relationships they have with their owners. I started as a staff writer on Dogs Today magazine, working my way up to become deputy editor in 2008. In 2010, I left the office to pursue a freelance career, relocated to north Norfolk and started a family.
Over the years I’ve contributed thoughtful human-interest features, celebrity interviews and investigative news stories to publications including The Sunday Times, Dogs Today, Dogs Monthly and Your Cat. I’ve also ghost-written veterinary books and press releases for the pet industry.
When I’m not writing, I enjoy long walks in the Norfolk countryside with my rescue lurcher Popsie. These are always followed by tea and cake.