Your once-loved chase cat now seems less energetic and spends more time sleeping than hunting toy rabbits and mice with you. Although their behavior may have changed, this doesn’t indicate they don’t require additional love or attention from you.
Indoor cats typically live an average lifespan between 12-18 years, with over half their owners caring for an older cat ( 1,2). You should strive to develop an intimate, loving relationship with your feline over time – although expression of that love will likely change throughout its lifespan from kittenhood through old age.
Experts provided insight on whether cats feel affection from us. In turn, we created specific ways of showing our appreciation for senior cats.
Do Cats Feel Love? According to certified cat behavior consultant Mikel Maria Delgado Ph.D, our beloved felines do feel our affection. Regardless of age or breed, cats know when we feel love!
“Kitties who have become familiar with humans can open their hearts to us while receiving affection in return,” according to her statement.
Delgado notes that different cats express their affection in different ways. Some cats may show it more subduedly, sitting close or taking time together in one space and showing affection by sitting close or taking time together; other may touch your body to show they see you as part of their family; meanwhile there are others that are complete lovers and enjoy cuddling, petting and even headbutting as ways of showing affection.
Your cat may show affection differently as they mature.
Delgado notes that as cats age, they become less active, spending less time playing or exploring and less time jogging their usual route. Furthermore, their muscle and body fat mass decreases over time which could cause them to seek warmth more readily.
Older cats could be more inclined to seek human contact for lap time and cuddling as they have more free time in your lap, providing warmth for warmth-seekers like them.
Now That We Understand Why Cats Enjoy Being Loved Cats love affection. Here are nine effective methods of showing your senior cat some affectionate gestures of appreciation.
Your cat may not welcome visits to the veterinarian as an act of kindness; however, annual check-ups with veterinarian are crucial as cats age and become frailer.
Starting at age 10, Bruce Kornreich, DVM, Ph.D., DACVIM of Cornell Feline Health Center recommends bringing your pet for at least an annual checkup with the veterinarian.
Older cats may be susceptible to various conditions, including persistent kidney diseases that should be detected as early as possible and improved outcomes can be achieved with certain interventions.
Your veterinarian may suggest blood tests or vaccinations designed to bolster weaker immune systems in order to detect age-related ailments in your pet, or offer advice regarding specific health care products available on the market.
Adjustments to their environment
One of the telltale signs of an aging cat is their change in mobility.
Roberta Westbrook, DVM, the chief medical and animal welfare official of Houston SPCA, points out that older cats may spend more time sleeping than engaging in high-energy pursuits. “If you notice your cat is becoming less active,” says Roberta, “it may be beneficial to increase comforts within their surroundings for their pet.
Steps and ramps may help ensure your cat’s senior can get to their favorite spots even when their joints can no longer support the strain associated with leaping. In addition, new litter boxes featuring lower sides may make accessing them easier.
As your cat gets older and becomes more active, their food preferences may also change.
Though most cats, including senior cats, require a balanced and complete adults’ maintenance food plan for proper wellbeing, their specific calorie or nutrient needs may require adjustments.
Westbrook notes that older pets usually don’t require as much energy each day to stay happy and active as active younger pet owners do.
Your veterinarian may suggest switching your cat from canned food to kibble in order to improve dental issues or switch into a therapeutic diet for treating age-related conditions such as kidney or liver disease.
There’s a good reason that shelves in pet stores are packed with nutritional supplements for cats: studies have demonstrated that those fed a diet rich in antioxidants, prebiotics and essential fatty acids live significantly longer than their counterparts fed an adequate and balanced diet without added supplements ( 3).
Discuss with your veterinarian whether adding supplements to an otherwise balanced and complete diet would benefit an elderly cat.
Establish cozy environments Cats typically spend over half their day sleeping, with elderly cats particularly fond of taking long naps. To provide maximum comfort for these felines, create cozy environments.
Furry companions enjoy snuggling into cozy beds with soft blankets to relax into dreamland. Westbook suggests finding mattresses with extra padding suitable for cats suffering from joint conditions.
“Creating an outdoor bed to promote warmth can be beneficial,” according to her advice. Cats enjoy sunbathing while older pets often struggle with managing their body temperatures – this cozy spot could offer much-needed respite.
Increase mental stimulation
Senior cats may exhibit cognitive dysfunction, with symptoms including disorientation, altered sleep cycles, increased anxiety and vocalization (4). To combat this issue it’s essential that senior cats receive constant mental stimulation – this may include providing extra mental stimulation through play or activities like training classes and play groups (5).
Activities designed to stimulate the mind can help foster overall feelings of wellbeing, according to Kornreich. She suggests spending at least 10 minutes each day playing with your cat.
As cats age and become less agile, it may become harder for them to leap. That doesn’t mean it should stop us from trying to keep them entertained,” suggests Pet Care Professional David Hyland.
Instead of lasers or feather wands, for kittens who like to run and jump try puzzle feeders or soft toys as alternatives.
Schedule a “spa day”
Grooming older cats is more complex, especially in hard-to-reach places. A spa day provides an opportunity for grooming sessions and allows your cat to indulge in luxurious spa services!
“Osteoarthritis in cats makes them less able to access certain areas for grooming,” according to Kornreich. Therefore, taking good care in caring for these older pets is essential as their performance might change over time.
Regular grooming sessions provide an opportunity to show affection and create bonds between yourself and your cat.
Your senior cat may not perceive and hear as clearly, leading them to experience more shivers. Kornreich advises approaching your cat from their front rather than from behind if possible and avoiding sudden actions which might frighten and distress them further.
Outdoor cats typically only live 3 years (1)–with risks increasing rapidly for senior cats.
Senior cats that have mobility limitations or hearing and vision loss could become vulnerable to accidents that kill them and increase their susceptibility to predators. A cat with cognitive problems might forget how to return home.
Kornreich stresses the importance of considering keeping older cats indoors as part of a care plan when their age changes.
If your senior cat may be feeling discontent when not enjoying outdoor time, consider finding ways to provide more stimulation – like installing an outdoor “catio,” or providing leashes so they can enjoy some time outside.