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Elderly Cat Handling 101

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

First off, assume that an elderly cat has more issues than you’re even aware of. All his or her life, it has been an expert at hiding weaknesses, and in the senior years a whole host of things are possible like arthritis, general pain in joints, pain and shutting down in organs, loss of sight, loss of hearing, balance issues and more.

Move slowly and deliberately, and give constant soft gentle vocal reassurance.

I often remove my shoes before coming in, to tread quietly, somehow it makes cats more comfortable.

If you can remain in the same general spot tending to the cat for a while, then the cat doesn’t have to move

around excessively, to get your care. But when they do move, watch for stiffness in walking, and signs of difficulty or pain.

As far as petting and physical contact: chances are, they feel pain when touched in the wrong place or often anywhere at all. Some elderly cats just can no longer be touched in the ways you would think a cat wants. Most importantly, the cat will let you know what he or she does or doesn’t like, so don't be surprised to hear a cry or yap if you've touched them in a sensitive place. You can only find out by trying and seeing what is liked or even tolerated. Less is always better than more, and very light touch is the best. Let them set the degree of intensity as to how hard or soft they want to rub up against you. There are all kind of things that could provide them comfort from neck scratches to belly rubs, careful back stroking to light forehead massage, ear rubbing and more. Each creature is different, with a different set of circumstances.

Sometimes just holding a brush near the underside of their chin or face will give them an opportunity to rub up against it. It's a balance between not touching at all, and not creating any discomfort, finding what is tolerated and giving the most possible. All of the elderly cats I've had the privilege of caring for have shown some degree of wanting reassuring massaging and cuddling. By far, most important for a senior cat is a very attentive visit to the vet. Don't wait until he or she is obviously struggling. Bringing a list of questions on how to proceed and handle specific things is going to go a long way toward kitty's comfort.

In an elderly cat, the smallest, simplest contact, slowly repeated, can do a lot of good.

Just remember, everything is reduced for them: comfort, vision, athletics. They deserve all the time you can give at this point in their lives. Nothing is more gratifying than bringing true comfort and relief to an elderly feline!

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