Adopting a Senior Cat: 9 Tips for Welcoming an Older Cat Into Your Life

November 22, 2017
cat adoption

November is Adopt a Senior Cat month, and you’ve still got just over a week to welcome a senior cat into your family.

While kittens are cute and cuddly, they are also very busy and require some significant training. Senior cats come to you with a lifetime of experience and training, are also cute and cuddly, and are mellowed compared to those little ankle biters. And they have a lot of love to give.

As cats reach the age of 7, they are considered to be mature adults, and are senior after the age of 10. To help you with this new addition to your household, we’ve put together a list of tips for adopting a mature cat.

  • Introduce your new senior to existing pets slowly. Follow your veterinarian’s advice, and ensure that your senior has a safe space to go at all times, to get away from younger cats, dogs or children.
  • Bring your new senior resident to the vet twice a year. Frequent visits help detect changes early, as these can occur rapidly in older cats.
  • Choose a senior diet. Dietary needs change at 7 years of age, and then again at 11 years of age. Your veterinarian will be able to help you choose an appropriate diet for your senior cat’s age and health.
  • Provide more water. Your senior cat’s water needs will increase as age starts to impact kidney function. You can encourage more water intake by offering canned food, different types of bowls (wide open and shallow is usually best), flowing versus still water and cold versus warm water.
  • Add a comfy cat bed or two to your shopping list. We expect all cats to sleep 15-18 hours a day, and seniors should be no exception! That is a lot of sleeping, so they need lots of cozy, safe places available for this serious pursuit.
  • Consider accommodations for senior joints. Most senior cats have some degree of arthritis and may not be able to make big jumps, or travel into the basement for the litter box. Reducing the need for excess physical activity associated with resources (litter boxes, food, water, beds) is a wise choice to make your senior cat’s life more pleasant. If they want to run, jump and play, they can, but they don’t have to.
  • Make nail trims part of your routine. A senior cat’s nails thicken and grow brittle with age. Providing scratching posts and surfaces with a variety of scratching substrates (cardboard, sisal rope and carpet) is still important, but don’t assume their nails are taking care of themselves. Develop a regular schedule for nail trimming either at home or with your veterinary office.
  • Include brushing as part of your cuddle sessions. As cats age, their coats lose density, becoming less glossy and more prone to matting and dander. Their skin becomes thinner and more fragile. They may be sore from arthritis and unable or unwilling to groom properly. Develop a bonding activity of brushing that is pleasant to your cat.
  • Remember that pain in cats isn’t always obvious. Dental disease IS painful. Your cat won’t show you this, so it’s best to enlist the aid of your veterinarian in checking for dental disease.

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