Help for Senior Kittehs
Deidre, the eldest of my three kittehs, is considered a senior (she’s 13). Though she still looks and acts young most of the time, a recent discussion with a Facebook friend about litter box issues had me remembering some of the modifications that have helped her, and before her, my cat Butterscotch, who passed over the Rainbow Bridge several years ago.
So I decided to do a post about simple little modifications that may make life easier for your senior kittehs. ^_^
Ah yes, it’s our old friend the litterbox again! Sometimes seniors may have a hard time climbing into a high-walled litterbox. When we discovered that Butterscotch was having this issue, we got a paint roller tray (you know – like what you would find at Home Depot or Lowe’s when you are painting walls with a roller instead of a brush. The tray that you would pour the paint in to refill your roller). Think about it: a plastic tray that is very shallow on one end for easy entry, and gets deeper toward the back to keep the litter in. It worked like a charm. We also changed up his litter type. What you change it to may depend on your kitty’s needs, but for Butter, who was declawed in the front and arthritic, we were recommended (by the vet, as I recall) to try Yesterday’s News (the recycled newspaper kind). It’s not clumping (or at least, at the time they didn’t have a clumping version), but it was much easier on his paws. The texture was smooth little rolled up pellets – kinda like rabbit food pellets. Nothing sharp or small enough to wedge into his paws. There are other senior-friendly varieties of litter (as previously mentioned, I tried CatAttract senior, which Maggie did appreciate, but it got the human veto for the amount of dust it kicked up. As I am once again experimenting with litter types for entirely different reasons, I may try other silicone-type litters and see if they aren’t quite so dusty – reviews to come) which you may want to try, dependent on your kitties’ needs.
There are now litterboxes that have ramps going up into them, which may also be worth a try if your kitteh is having difficulties getting into the box. Even if it doesn’t seem like they are in pain, if they are going outside the box, there’s usually a reason. Of course take them to the vet to make sure they aren’t sick, but it could just be that it hurts!
Access is very important to a senior kitteh who may have a more difficult time jumping as high as they used to, or climbing onto unstable or awkward things. Deidre can jump, but not very high; since my bed is on its highest setting so I can store things beneath it, this means when she makes the jump, she *just* makes it onto the corner edge of the mattress, and scrambles the rest of the way up. So, I got her a scratcher that has, essentially, stairs, and put it next to the bed (*side note: that is not currently where it is thanks to the latest furniture arrangement, but that is soon to change again, thanks to the territory shift the kitties have recently undergone. Yes, I rearrange furniture based on the territory arrangement to try and make peace. It helps!). I thought, that was the perfect way for her to climb up without stressing herself. Funnily enough, she climbs up the stairs to curl up in the cup at the top of the scratcher, but has never used it as a stairstep to my bed. Silly human!
Still though, there are lots of stairstep options, and not just in cat tree form. There are regular, pet-sized stairs made out of all sorts of materials (cloth-covered foam, carpet-covered wood, even some with storage for toys and whatnot within the stairs!), or, of course, you could make your own. There are also ramps (though if the issue is an arthritic senior, I would only go the ramp route if you can keep the angle gentle enough that they don’t have to claw their way up it). If your senior has a favorite spot that they no longer frequent, try giving them a hand getting to it and see if they don’t return to it.
Check with your vet first on this one, of course, but Butter was very much helped by a supplement for his joints as he got older (and I recently asked the vet about starting Deidre on it, so perhaps she’ll have an easier time making that crazy bed-jump if she still chooses to not use the stair steps when they go back next to the bed). There are lots of options here, too – chewables, capsules that you can open up and mix in canned food (that’s how Butterscotch took them), etc.
The Weight Issue
Finally, and I know this is a tough one as two of my three are overweight as well, but there is the weight issue. Just like in humans, a kitteh carrying around extra weight can sometimes have a harder time moving around because of it – both in the jumping/running/climbing sense, and also in the grooming themselves sense. Ironically, Deidre is the only one who is not overweight. Between Yuan the food bully and Maggie who is just now learning that toys are fun and not evil, they BOTH clock in at 17 pounds (Deidre is a svelte 12.8 pounds in comparison). And yes, they have all been on a diet. But now we have been making a point to get more playtime in – both to tire out Mr. Man so he doesn’t take out his exuberance on his sisters, and also to give them all fun and exercise – and hopefully, that will help the weight come off. Find the right toys that your kittehs respond to (Da Bird is often an agreed upon favorite) and make play a part of your day. And if they need a diet, put them on a diet. You may even need to change their food type. Also to consider: Butterscotch had food allergies that we never realized when he was younger (he didn’t exhibit any symptoms like itching or rashes), but once we found out and started getting him special allergy food from the vet (with certain proteins, such as duck and venison), the weight finally came off. I know Yuan is overweight because he’s a food bully (we’re working on that), and Maggie came to me overweight and uninterested in play (we’re also working on that), so I don’t think it’s an allergy issue for them. But if your cat is active and eating a normal amount and STILL won’t lose weight, check with the vet to see if it might be allergies. We couldn’t believe the difference once we changed Butter’s diet!
So there are a few ideas to help your senior kittehs. If you have any others, please leave them in the comments below!