When is Your Cat a Senior and How to Care for Them

When is Your Cat a Senior and How to Care for Them

There's many reasons why we say cats have 9 lives and one of them is that, unlike their canine compadres, cats can live a very long and happy life under the right care. The majority of studies agree that the average lifespan of a cat is between 12-18 years, but there are some that even make it into their 20s!

The senior life for most cats begins around 11 years old. This is usually when symptoms of aging really start to show. And while some of these symptoms won’t affect the quality of your cat’s life, it’s good to keep an eye on any that could develop into harmful health risks.

How to Tell if Your Cat is a Senior Pet?

Okay, so your cat is 11 and officially a senior pet, now what? First you should know what symptoms to keep an eye on to make sure you’re helping them live their best life. Watch out for these signs of aging in your older cat:

  • Dental disease, pain while eating
  • Confusion, sudden behavioral changes
  • Trouble climbing or jumping
  • Noticeable weight loss or weight gain
  • Less self-grooming leading to matted or oily fur
  • Sleeping more often than normal
  • Lumps, bumps, and sores

These are only a general list of the symptoms that an older cat may show, but it’s important to be aware of noticeable changes in your cat’s behavior as they enter their senior years. A small symptom can become something much bigger much faster with senior pets so make sure to discuss any concerns you have with you vet.

senior cat

How to Care for a Senior Cat

Now that you know if your cat falls into the senior cat category, what’s the best way to take care of them? Just because your senior cat may need a little extra love and care shouldn’t retrack from them living a full and happy life. Here are a few senior cat tidbits to get you started.


As cats get older you may notice they’re having a little extra trouble keeping themselves clean. There may be a little extra discharge around their eyes and nose you’ll need to help them wipe off as well as brushing them. Using a soft brush or a fine comb will ensure you’re a little gentler, especially for cats that aren’t found of being brushed. We offer a gentle, fine-toothed, brush which has gotten great reviews here!

If you have a longer-haired cat it may be better to give their hair a trim to help keep dirt and litter from turning them into a matted ball of fluff.

It’s also recommended to check your cat’s nails more often when they reach their senior years. Retracting claws becomes more difficult with age so keeping on top of trimming will make it less likely they’ll get caught in carpets or couches.


Senior cats are more likely to get dehydrated so make sure there are plenty of water sources available. It’s also suggested to begin introducing more wet food into your senior cat’s diet, especially if they’ve only been a fan of dry food, to help increase their water intake. There are many food brands that offer a senior specific food choice that can help your aging pet’s digestion.

Be careful of dental problems because this can lead to a loss of appetite due to irritation. Senior cats are known for becoming pickier with age. There may be times when you need to encourage their appetite so try feeding less food more often or using a favorite treat around mealtimes.

Physical Fitness

Senior cats may not want to play as much, but movement can be good for their aging limbs and joints. Keeping a favorite toy and keeping a mild play routine will be extremely helpful in keeping your senior pet as healthy as possible. There are also specific toys that are created to work your cat's mind, like puzzles with hidden treats inside. We highly recommend this if your cat is treat motivated! Stimulating your pet's brain with new and interesting things is also an important side of promoting their health and quality of life. While cats can be a little more picky than dogs when it comes to entertainment, there are plenty of products out there to try.

Veterinary Care

It’s smart to have regular checkups with your vet as your cat enters their senior years. A small issue can become something much more serious or expensive the longer you wait for a professional to check on it. Using the list of possible symptoms above can help give you forewarning on potential issues with you senior cat. This can become costly so don’t forget to look up some pet insurances to help mitigate expenses.

Tip: If you can't afford checkups with their added cost of yearly vaccinations, a little trick is to check local rescues or pet shops like Petco that offer vaccines separately and may be a little cheaper than what some vets offer. This way you can hopefully still afford a yearly checkup to catch any serious issues early and keep your cat up to date on their shots without breaking the bank.

Taking care of a senior cat may require you to put in a little more effort, but they can lead just as fulfilling lives as senior pets and will love you all the more for your help.

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