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Caring for a Senior Cat: The Complete Guide

As our cats start to age, we might notice a change in behavior so we may need to start to change how we care for them, too. Or if you adopt an older cat, you might be wondering – how can I make my senior cat as comfortable as possible?

To help your older cat enjoy their golden years, we put together this full guide to senior cat care. Aimed at helping those silver whiskers stay happy, healthy & cuddly for as long as possible. 🙂

We’ll be discussing top tips for how to make a senior cat as comfortable as can be, as well as answering frequently asked questions that might crop up for you and your distinguished fluffy kitty.


  • Establishing just how old is a senior cat?
  • Why adopting a senior cat could be perfect for you
  • The two key ways to keep their health in check
  • Environmental changes to help a senior cat’s comfort
  • Practical hacks & tips for happy golden oldies
  • Your FAQs answered

Let’s jump in by working out when a cat is actually “senior” in the first place!

How to Care for a Senior Cat

Years ago, a cat was considered senior from around 8 years old. Now, advances in nutrition, medicine and indoor lifestyles have bumped up our kitties’ life expectancies.   

These days, it’s not unusual for veterinarians to have feline patients into their 20’s!

Because of this, it’s now generally agreed that a cat hits the senior stage of their life cycle at between 11-14 years of age. 

To put this in perspective, a 16 year old cat would be the equivalent of an 80-year-old human. Which is why senior cat care is pretty important, considering how we might feel about our surroundings at such a ripe old age! 

senior orange and white cat sleeping

Why Adopt a Senior Cat?

Thinking of adopting a senior? Then you’d be doing an amazing thing by helping them enjoy their twilight years in happy comfort. Plus there are a few added bonuses of caring for such a mature kitty:

  • Personality – Older cats often have really distinguished personalities that are already clearly established. Meaning they can make for wonderful companions with wonderful funny quirks.
  • Low maintenance – If you have a busy lifestyle with not much time to spare, adopting an older cat might be a great fit for you. They are usually much more independent, meaning you can look forward to post-work snuggles, without dedicating large portions of time every day to wearing that excess kitten energy out!
  • Less mess – They are nearly always fully house trained, which means less chance of any accidents around the home!
  • Family fit –  An older cat will usually have a behavior history, meaning you’ll have the benefit of knowing how they are likely to behave in certain situations. Like how they are around children and other pets, so they can fit into your current lifestyle needs. 

Despite their grace and charm, competing with cute kittens can be tough on older cats looking for their fur-ever homes. But as long as you can provide them with the needs outlined below, they can make wonderful, loving pets for years to come.  

Caring for Senior Cats – Things to Consider:

1. Health

What can put off many from adopting a senior cat is the worry of declining health. But many veterinarians are quick to point out that aging is not a disease. 

Just as some 80 year old humans are still active, healthy individuals – given the right care a 16 year old kitty can be fighting fit too!

Of course, it’s a fact that senior cats are more likely to encounter different conditions or illnesses, but some older cats are perfectly healthy into their 20’s too. 

To give them the best shot of a healthy life, opt for regular vet check ups. Early diagnosis is key when it comes to treating any potential issues, so regular checkups for seniors are highly recommended. 

It’s also a good idea to weigh your older kitty regularly, as a swing in either direction can be a good first indicator that something could be up. 

Watch out for mobility issues, such as flinching when the back legs are touched, difficulty jumping, or stiffness when walking. These could be early signs of arthritis. 

2. Nutrition

What to feed senior cats is a common question, with many wondering is senior cat food really necessary?

Let’s start by asking, what is the difference between senior cat food and regular food? 

Recent research actually found that:

 “the only difference that was found between the senior diets and the adult diets was higher fiber in the senior diets.” other than “calories were higher in the diets labeled for 11+ years than those for 7+ years.”

Which highlights the importance of really checking those labels. But what should you be looking for?

While some older cats do need help to keep their weight on, others do not. In fact, it appears others might need an entirely different diet altogether…

That’s because this study also found that:

 “despite the common occurrence of chronic kidney disease in older cats and evidence that high phosphorus (and potentially high sodium) diets cause worsening of kidney disease, the senior diets in this study were no lower in these minerals than the adult diets.”

Therefore, the best way to be sure your senior cat is receiving the nutrients and diet they need is to consult with your veterinarian in a detailed way. They’ll be able to take into account your senior’s medical history, their weight level and the current research on feline nutrition. 

This way, you can both choose a diet for your senior kitty that’s selected for their individual & specific needs, resulting in a healthier happier cat. 

Need some options to start you off? 5 Best Foods for Senior & Aging Cats {Reviews + Guide}

3. Hydration

As we have seen a little already, senior kitties are more prone to kidney issues. This can be prevented or managed by upping their water intake, which can also keep other common issues like constipation and confusion at bay.  

To help your older feline friend stay hydrated try the following:

  • Add to food – Some owners like to serve wet food mashed up with warm water, as this can make mealtimes more appetizing as well as hydrating.
  • Multiple sources – Have a couple of different water points around the house to encourage extra top ups, and some outdoor sources if they still venture into the garden.
  • Try a fountain – There’s a theory that cats like to drink more from flowing sources, rather than stagnant ones. Fountains can also contain filters which improve the taste and filtration for your pet. 

Cat fountains we love:

4. Comfort

Some senior cats may need a few environmental tweaks to help them stay active & comfortable. 

  • Warmth – Ensure sleeping areas are away from drafts to keep older limbs happy. A heated cat bed is another option to keep them cosy and ease any aching joints. 
  • Noise – Older kitties might need a quieter place to rest and relax, especially if they are more easily startlaed due to deterioration in their sight or hearing. A covered bed is a great option for helping them feel safe and sound, and a nightlight can help them find their way in the dark much easier too. 
  • Playtime – While they may have less energy, your fur friend will still want to have some fun! Just be sure to watch out for panting and try to keep the pace moderate. 
  • Stimulation – While playtime might be less frequent, it’s still good to keep your aging kitty mentally active. Invest in some puzzle toys, DIY some eco-friendly activities, or allow them access to a window spot for a bit of “cat TV” time.
  • Stress – Senior felines will be more affected by stressors, so keeping a consistent routine and consistent space around them is extra important. If you do have to move them or take those vet visits, try reading our ​​guide on How To Help A Stressed Cat. 
  • Grooming – Keep up with regular groomings, especially as your kitty gets stiff joints or may lose the ability to adequately groom themselves. 

5. Access

Your older kitty might need a little extra help reaching those familiar spots. 

If your older cat can no longer jump on his favorite windowsill for some viewing time, try using a ramp or building some box steps.

Pet stairs are another great option, just be sure whatever you choose has a firm footing. 

This also applies to their litter box too! Be open to the idea of eventually switching to a low or uncovered box to help your older cat get in and out easily. This will help prevent any unwanted house accidents!

Our favorite senior cat litter box options:

  • Create a ramp for your existing litter tray from the options above. 
  • If you have a compost heap, you could use the biodegradable trays, and cut an easy entrance way with some scissors, for an eco-friendly option. 
  • You can even use an old cookie tray!
  • You might want to invest in a washable mat to prevent litter escaping too far too. We love this super cute eco-friendly option.
old cat sitting on senior's lap

Common Senior Cat FAQ’s – Questions and Answers:

Why is my old cat peeing everywhere?

Your first job is to have a checkup with your vet, as an older cat peeing everywhere could be the symptoms of a urinary tract infection, bladder infection, kidney issues, diabetes, or a few other possible causes.

It may also be the case that your senior cat is having trouble with access, stress or is struggling with cognitive function. Keeping your litter tray accessible and easily reachable should help, as well as keeping their routine as regular as possible.

Why is my senior cat so skinny?

After ruling out any medical reasons for weight loss, the next port of call would be to assess your fur-friend’s diet.

While a traditional higher fiber diet is useful for keeping our middle-aged cats slim, this can be unhelpful for seniors. Older cats may need a more high calorie and easily digestible diet as their nutritional needs change – especially if they are prone to weight loss. Your vet will be able to advise on the right food choices for your golden oldie. 

Read also: 10 TIPS for How to Make a Skinny Cat Gain Weight

Why does my senior cat yowl?

Pain from arthritis or other medical issues can cause your older cat to cry at night, when there might be less going on to distract them. So bring up the noises with your vet and see if upping their pain medication, or a heated bed, could help. 

Cognitive dysfunction is another common cause of yowling in senior cats. Similar to dementia in humans, other signs include disorientation, excessive sleeping & eliminating outside the litter box. 

Final Thoughts – Caring for Senior Cats

The common factor in all of the happiest & healthiest senior cats I’ve met? Attentive, loving owners.

By reading this post, you are already providing your cat with a wonderful start to their twilight years, with (we hope) lots of handy tips in your back pocket to implement.  

My final thought? Stay connected. Whether it’s with our lovely Fluffy Kitty community, or with senior cat Facebook groups. These groups and networks can be really helpful in spotting any issues early on, providing fun activity ideas for your cat & offering support for you when you need it.

Do you have a golden oldie? Let us know who they are and how you make them feel purrr-fectly comfortable. We’d love to know 🙂

Taylor Abrams

Sunday 23rd of October 2022

I appreciate you teaching me that older cats are more likely to experience renal problems, but that this may be avoided or treated by increasing their water consumption. I'll make sure to mention this to the Home Cat Sitting service I will trust with my senior cat. My cat has been with me for almost ten years now so I need a sitter who understand exactly what he needs.