By Carolyn McFann
Just like humans, when cats get older, their needs and interests may change. A once active kitty may sleep more, or if he once liked to climb to the highest point in the room, he now chooses to sleep on the floor. As cat owners, we need to be sensitive to their different needs and concerns. Here are a few ways to make your senior cat feel even more contented, healthy and loved.
Does your cat get cold easy?
There are heated pet beds for sale now. They can be purchased online in places such as Ebay or at pet stores. Using a heating pad in a bed is too dangerous, because they can get hotter and burn kitty by mistake. If you don’t have a heated bed, you can always move the cat bed to a warm place, for example near a heating vent. Just make sure the bed is in an area that is free from drafts and allows kitty to feel safe. A hot water bottle (they are flexible and plastic, found at drug stores) under a towel in his bed may help, too.
Does your cat have aching bones or joints?
First, consult your vet to see what he or she recommends. They may give you pet vitamins with glucosamine in them. I bought some off of Doctors Foster and Smith website. They have a lot of good products for senior cats. Another good item to have is a memory foam cat bed or cushion. Memory foam contours to your pet’s body, and takes the stress off of old bones and muscles. I have a slab of it on my bed, and it takes away my back pain completely. Memory foam is definitely a good thing, for humans and pets.
What to do if your cat stops eating
First, immediately call your vet. Your cat needs to eat and drink, so he doesn’t get dehydrated and go into shock. They may tell you to bring him in to be checked. If so, do it. Sometimes, the vet will inject a saline solution into your cat’s skin to rehydrate him. My cat had this done and returned to his normal self immediately. What a relief that was.
When I was a young woman, we had a cat who stopped eating. The vet recommended a tube of food/paste that is highly palatable to cats who won’t eat. I saw it for sale on the Doctors Foster and Smith website, so it’s still around. Get your vet’s opinion before doing this, however, just to be safe. If he says it is ok to feed him, then he’ll give you a syringe (no needle just the plunger) and show you how to give kitty liquid food. I was taught to tip the head up, and shoot the liquid food into his mouth from the corner of it, at the back of the mouth. Then, stroke the throat to get kitty to swallow. I’ve done it, and it works. This is to be used if your cat won’t eat, and only if the vet says that it’s ok to do so.
Give your older cat a general vitamin
All my cats have lived to be over twenty years old. I attribute their long lives to keeping them indoors and giving them daily vitamins if they want them. There are chewable ones that cats think are treats, these are the kinds I’ve given my pets. I use different kinds, to keep them interested. Most pet stores and pet health websites carry cat vitamins. Don’t use vitamins labeled for dogs, make sure to get the right ones, especially formulated for cats. And, stick to the dosage instructions, even if kitty wants another one. These are carefully measured nutrients, he only thinks they’re treats.
Attention and gentleness
The older your cat gets, the more fragile he may become. He may throw up more than he used to, so don’t scold him if he does. I use the kind of dry food for sensitive stomachs that seems to help curb the barfing. Also, those little bones are more brittle than they used to be. If kitty has trouble jumping up on the couch or bed to be with you, help him. There are cheap, fleece-covered pet steps that are for sale nowadays so kitty can climb up in bed with you without help. Or, put it near his cat condo, so he doesn’t have to strain himself getting to a higher level of it. Be sensitive to what your cat wants and help him to do it. And brush or pet him to stimulate him. He will appreciate the extra attention.
It is beneficial to your pet’s health to keep him happy and show him that he’s loved. One of my cats got outside once and came back sick (poisoned, I think), and nearly died. I stayed with him, stroking him and giving him saline solution in his mouth until he was stablilized enough to take to the vet. When he got stronger, I rushed him over there. He lived and is now 18 years old. Having me with him was encouraging to him, the vet told me. Be devoted to your pet, as he has been for you. It matters more than you may know.
Carolyn McFann is a scientific and nature illustrator, who owns Two Purring Cats Design Studio, which can be seen at: http://www.cafepress.com/twopurringcats . Educated at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, Carolyn is a seasoned, well-traveled artist, writer and photographer. Besides handling numerous assignments in the US, she has lived and worked in Cancun, Mexico. Clients include nature parks, museums, scientists, corporations and private owners. She has been the subject of tv interviews, articles for newspapers and other popular media venues.
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