Love Cats? Consider Adopting a Senior Feline
by Arden Moore
Published on September 27, 2012
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Thinking about adopting a cat or two? Give special consideration to felines who have surpassed their seventh birthdays and beyond. Instead of contending with The Wonder Year of kittenhood — that period of time in which you wonder how to keep your sanity — opt to adopt a senior cat and reap many ageless perks.
That’s the strong recommendation from New York City veterinarian Arnold Plotnick, who operates Manhattan Cat Specialists. He has dedicated his life to improving the health of felines from all life stages, but has a special fondness for senior cats, thanks to one named Ethel.
Years ago, Dr. Plotnick opted to adopt an overlooked 10-year-old cat from a shelter. Ethel lived nearly another decade and served as the official feline greeter at his clinic.
“Eventually, Ethel became blind and deaf, but she always remained a hospital favorite among my staff, our clients and especially me,” say Dr. Plotnick.
Five Pluses of Senior Cats Versus Kittens
In this Vetstreet interview, he rattles off five reasons to adopt a senior cat:
- They come with predictable personalities. “If you adopt a senior cat who is a sweet cat, you will have a sweet cat when you take her home. The personality has been developed, so there are no surprises. What you see is what you get,” he says.
- They generally do not deviate in size or appetite. “Whether you adopted an 8-pound or a 16-pound senior cat, you will know exactly how much food and litter you need to buy,” he says.
- They are champions of power naps. “Kittens have so much energy and can disrupt your sleep at night,” says Dr. Plotnick. “On the other hand, senior cats are far calmer and enjoy sleeping a lot. You stand a better chance of enjoying a full night’s sleep.”
- They are more mellow than mischievous. “Kittens and young cats can be so fearless, so you have to worry more about them ingesting string or other foreign bodies or suffering from a trauma. That’s not the case with senior cats,” he says.
- You will be saving a life and making way for another to win a home. “When you adopt a senior cat from a shelter, you earn major karma points in my view. You are also making it possible for the shelter to showcase other strays to help them find homes,” he says.
Nine Ageless Tips for Senior Cats
With senior cats, you don’t have to worry about them scaling your curtains, but take their advanced age into consideration. Dr. Plotnick offers these nine ways to make your home a haven for senior cats:
- Introduce your cat to your home slowly. Lacking the fearless nature of their kitten counterparts, senior cats deserve the time to adjust to your home room-by-room. Consider starting by having them in your bedroom with all their feline amenities before showing them other rooms in the home.
- Ramp it up. Older cats are at greater risk for arthritis and mobility issues. They may need easy-to-climb ramps to get up and down your sofa and bed or safely access a sturdy cat tree.
- Heap on the creature comforts. Provide orthopedic cat beds for added cushion to their aged joints and pet-safe heating pads set on low setting.
- Replace the food bowl with a plate. Maintain your cat’s appetite by making meal time more pleasurable by serving meals on plates or wide, flat bowls. “Cats don’t like having their whiskers scrunched when they eat as is the case with deep food bowls,” says Dr. Plotnick.
- Keep them hydrated. While it is nearly impossible to “train” a cat of any age to obediently head to the water bowl and drink, you can help keep your older cat from becoming dehydrated by serving canned food. “The moisture in the canned food will help them greatly,” he says. “Just talk with your veterinarian about selecting the right food for your cat’s health needs.”
- Become their personal groomer. Some older cats may not keep their coats in peak condition due to illness or arthritis. “Regularly groom your older cat so there is less chance for her to have matted fur or hairballs,” he says. “And be gentle because their skin thins as they age.”
- Opt for a feline bathroom makeover. Senior cats with mobility or vision impairments are more apt to maintain stellar bathroom habits if you replace the hooded litterbox or a litterbox with deep sides for a lidless one with short sides. “Be creative in your litterbox selection,” he says. “You can buy a plastic box with low sides at a container store or use a baking pan and fill it with litter."
- Bring on the interactive play. Treat your older cat to daily playtimes with you in which she stalks a wand toy you wiggle along the floor. Dr. Plotnick says the stress of living a boring, monotonous life can contribute to a senior cat becoming stressed and developing urinary tract infections or bladder infections. “Indoor cats of all ages need and deserve an enriched environment,” he says. “And you can teach an old cat new tricks.”
- Book wellness visits at least twice a year. A lot can happen to a cat’s health in six months, especially in felines over age 10. Maintaining twice-a-year wellness examinations will help your veterinarian catch conditions early that may be able to be treated quickly and effectively.
Today, Dr. Plotnick shares his home with Crispy, age 12, and Mittens, age 6, but he will always treasure the 10 years he had with Ethel. “I had 10 years with the sweetest, most wonderful cat, and I encourage you to seriously consider adopting an older cat,” he says. “Oftentimes, these older cats end up in shelters because their loving owners died or their person moved. They may find themselves in a shelter for the first time in their lives, and you have the chance to make their golden years truly golden.”