Just like people, cats begin to lose mobility and slow down the older they get. Generally speaking, senior cats will spend more time sleeping and less time outside hunting, and may begin to suffer from health problems and gain weight.
Encouraging gentle play at regular intervals throughout the day will help keep your cat happy, healthy and reduce the risk of age-related health conditions. Whilst taking into consideration your cat’s physical abilities, encouraging a more active lifestyle and promoting a healthy weight will keep your feline’s muscles, joints and reflexes in good shape.
1. Treat puzzles – hiding treats around the house is a great way for cats to enjoy the physical challenge of hunting and the mental stimulation of investigation. However, food games that are overly strenuous will cause frustration and increase the likelihood of injury. Avoid placing treats in difficult areas, such as on top of high cupboards, as elderly cat’s may lack the flexibility to jump or climb.
2. Toys – Feathers, catnip mice and string can help to stimulate a cat’s natural hunting instincts. When playing with an senior cat, try to use gentle sweeping motions rather than irregular, vigorous movements that may cause strain or confusion. Larger toys are a good option for older cats, as they encourage the cat to sit or lie down and use its limbs to claw, effectively exercising stiff legs. Small cardboard boxes or paper bags can provide opportunities for exploration – as long as you make sure to remove any parts which may cause an accident, such as loose handles.
3. Cat furniture – furniture can help your cat stay active and satisfy the need to scratch and claw. Older cats are less likely to climb tall scratching posts, as jumping and climbing vertical surfaces can prove to be difficult and place strain on their legs. Horizontal scratching furniture is a great option for older cats as it allows for easy play and can provide important exercise for the limbs. Shallow steps and ramps with gradual inclines can also allow for easy access to your cat’s favourite look-out points.
4. Leashed outdoor walks – Many elderly cats will refrain from outdoor excursions and prefer to sleep inside for longer periods of time, making their joints stiff and their bodies less supple. As cats get older, they generally become more dependent on their owners and feel more threatened by the presence of other cats. Although it may seem unnecessary, taking your cat on a leashed walk around the garden will encourage safe, outdoor exploration.
5. Healthy eating patterns – Senior cats are prone to weight gain, which can put excessive strain on their limbs, increase laziness and put them at risk of developing serious health problems. If your cat is overweight, gradually reducing food portions and enforcing a diet can help tackle these problems and assist with weight management. We would always recommend that you consult your vet if your cat is experiencing any of these issues. Specialist pet food supplements, such as those offered by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, can help provide your cat with the nutrition it needs and lead to a longer, more active life.