How Do I Get My Senior Cat to Engage More

With advances in veterinary care and with more people keeping their cats indoors, our feline friends are living longer than ever.

Senior cat behavior - Senior cat laying down

Adjustments often need to be made for senior pets, but they can still have a happy and enriched life.

As cat owners, we often need to make adjustments for our senior pets, as they start to slow down in their old age. You may notice that your cat doesn’t spend as much time playing anymore. Maybe she has trouble jumping up on the couch now when she used to hop right up. Don’t worry – with a little help from us, our senior cats can still have a happy and enriched life, just like they did before.

Yes, it’s normal for your senior cat’s behavior to change when she hits her later years. However, some behaviors are not normal and can be a sign of illness or pain. Once yours hits her senior years, it becomes more important than ever to closely monitor her behavior. The following behaviors are an indication that she may need a check-up from the veterinarian:

  • Decrease in grooming and self-care
  • Frequent hiding
  • Litter box accidents
  • No longer enjoys petting or being held (if she did before)
  • Staying in one spot for long periods of time
  • Loss of interest in favorite things

Cats are masters of hiding pain, so it’s up to you to play detective and pay close attention to your senior cat’s behavior. Regular vet visits are very important! If everything checks out and your cat is happy and healthy, there are many ways to cater to her new, slower-paced lifestyle. Caring for a senior cat is a lot different than caring for a younger cat, but it can be just as much fun!

Ways to Keep Your Senior Cat Engaged

  • Cat toys. Your senior cat may not jump up in the air and run around the house as she used to during playtime, but even the most geriatric cat will still appreciate a good play session. Cater the type of play to meet her needs -- you can slow it down and make it easier and allow for frequent breaks. Remember that the watching and stalking part of play can be just as fun and exciting for your cat as the pouncing and wrestling, so don’t be discouraged if she just wants to watch and engage in mild play.
  • Wet treats. Wet cat treats are more palatable and easier to eat than dry treats, which make these more enticing. Delectables Lickable Treats come in many varieties especially made for seniors. They are highly palatable and are sure to win over even the pickiest of felines. You can also use Delectables Squeeze Up to make treat time a bonding experience as you feed your cat directly from the package.
  • Silver Vine. You’ve heard of catnip, but what about silver vine? Many cats who don’t react to catnip will be attracted to silver vine. It can have the same effects, but actually, the response may be a little bit more intense! Give your furbaby a toy with silver vine, and you may see them start to play like a kitten again!

Hartz Just For Cats® Twirl and Whirl® Cat Toy

Hartz Cattraction with Silver Vine & Catnip® Animal Pal Kicker™ Cat Toy
  • Make your home senior-friendly. Just about every senior cat will struggle with at least some arthritis pain from time to time. You may notice that they hesitate before jumping up, or take a longer time to get up and down stairs. Create ramps or stairs that help her get to her favorite spots without so much of a struggle. You may also find that you need to adjust her litter box set-up. A box with lower sides to make stepping in and out easy is always appreciated, as is making sure that there is at least one box located on every floor of your home near where your cat spends most of her time. Because senior cats can sometimes have decreased vision, turning on a night light before bed can be more helpful than you’d think. Rearranging your home and making a few changes can make a huge difference in your senior cat’s happiness and ease of getting around.

  • Help with grooming. Your feline is sure to appreciate some extra brushing and “spa days” as she gets older and has a harder time taking care of herself. If she enjoys brushing and grooming, it’s a great bonding experience as well.
  • Provide warmth. What’s the best thing you can do for your achy joints after a hard day of hiking or yard work? You probably want to sit in a warm bath or curl up with a heating pad, right? Make sure your cat has a warm place to curl up in. Consider giving her a heated cat bed of her own, which will surely be one of her most favorite possessions you’ve ever purchased for her!

Hartz® GROOMER’S BEST® Combo Brush for Cats
  • No new friends. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re caring for a senior pet is to think that a kitten or young adult cat would make a great friend or companion for their older kitty. This is not the case. Yours probably does not want a new friend, especially not a high-energy kitten. There are always exceptions to every rule, but in general, the best practice, if you must add another cat to your home, is to pick one who is of a similar age and energy level to your current cat.

There are lots of ways to cater to your senior cat to help keep her happy and healthy in her golden years. Your time together may look a little different from how it looked in the past, but learning to bond in different ways is part of the fun! A few extra special accommodations can make a big difference in her engagement and her willingness to interact with you and your family, all the while keeping her happier and more comfortable.