How to Modify Your Home for Senior Cats

Everyone wants to talk about kittens but senior cats have special needs, too. Here's how to make sure your home is a healthy and safe environment for your senior cat.

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Keep Them Inside

While younger cats thrive outdoors, going outside can be dangerous for seniors. "Older cats have slower reflexes," says veterinarian Dr. Sarah Gilliam. "Their hearing and vision aren't great so they may not notice a car coming up. And they can't run as fast or climb up a tree to get out of the way." Gilliam recommends swapping cat doors for "catios." "It's almost like a screened-in porch so they get that outside time," she says. "They still get fresh air and sunshine, but they're enclosed and not in danger." Got a small space? You don't need a porch or sunroom. Catios can be as small as a window and are great for urban apartments.

Don't Move Furniture

An open layout with clear pathways is best for your senior, but don't feel like you have to rearrange the furniture for your cat. In fact, don't. Cats and dogs memorize the layout of your house. Even if they go blind, they have it mapped out mentally.

Use Night Lights

A cat's vision decreases with age, and sometimes a senior's sleep patterns change. "Certain diseases cause them to be more awake at night," says Gilliam. "Have night lights on in areas they traffic to help their vision at night."

Prevent Jumping

Cats love to perch and look out the window at their domain. But if their usual lookout is up high, you may need to design a new spot. Prevent jumping by creating a low perch. This could be a shelf or ottoman that's low to the ground so your senior can still hop up and look out the window.

Give Them Mobility Help

As cats age, their mobility decreases. A litter box with high walls may be challenging—or even painful—for your senior to navigate. And that's when a cat will find somewhere else to go in the house. Make sure your senior has a really wide and low litter box, such as the PetSafe Simply Clean Litter Box with wall cutouts. Additionally, Gilliam notes that it's important to have a litter box on each floor of your home so your senior isn't going up and down the stairs as much.

Keep Them Hydrated

Like litter boxes, keep water on each level of a home to give your senior easy access. "With cats, they may drink more water with different diseases or metabolic conditions," Gilliam says. If changing multiple water stations sounds exhausting, invest in a running water fountain such as the PetSafe Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain. Cats love running water, and the ceramic carafe keeps water filtered and fresh.

Provide Orthopedic Support

Every cat owner knows one truth: Cats do their own thing. You can buy a fancy, expensive orthopedic bed to help your senior's joints, but don't expect your cat to use it. If they have favorite spots around the house, make sure those areas have thick blankets and pillows for extra support.

Offer Traction Help

Place additional rugs or non-slip mats, such as yoga mats, around your cat's high-traffic areas to give your senior kitty traction help. "We don't talk about arthritis in cats as much as dogs, but it's still an issue," says Gilliam. "If they're weaker, they're not able to skid across the hardwood or tile floor like they used to."

Create a Cat Cave

Some cats get more anxious with age because their limited vision and hearing makes them less confident. A "cat cave" gives your senior a retreat to escape and calm down. These hideaway areas make them feel safe and are helpful when there are loud noises in the home such as visitors or children.

Install Baby Gates

Just like with a kitten, limiting your senior's environment sets them up for success. Keep doors closed to rooms, and use baby gates to block stairs.

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