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Adopting a senior cat: everything you need to know

Old ginger cat getting a cuddle advice © Shutterstock

Thinking of adopting a senior cat? Go you! Elderly cats are just as rewarding, loving, cute and friendly as their younger counterparts. Here’s everything you need to know about adopting a senior cat.

By Alice Lang

Most people walk into a rescue shelter looking for a tiny, adorable, fluffy kitten. But if you’re considering adding a feline friend to your family, why not consider a senior cat, instead?

Senior cats can end up in care for a huge number of reasons. Many of them will have had a loving home for years, only for their owner to pass away unexpectedly. Some would have been happily settled, only for their family to move abroad or into a new home which doesn’t allow pets. Yep, it’s pretty darn sad.

If you’re an animal lover, we bet you can understand how stressful and heartbreaking these experiences would be for a senior cat. So, why not be the one to give one of them a second chance at life? Giving a senior cat a loving forever home is a wonderful thing to do.

Rescuing a senior cat isn’t without its challenges, but there are plenty of perks, too! Let’s go through the ins and outs of adopting a senior cat.

Adopting a senior cat: the pros and cons

Vicky Halls shares the pros and cons of adopting an elderly cat in her book, The Complete Cat

Pros

  • Won’t stray too far and are often content just sitting in the garden or in the house
  • Normally love a warm lap and lots of cuddles
  • Tend to be more relaxed
  • Likely to be well socialized
  • Rarely run up curtains or damage furnishings
  • Tends to interact more with people
  • Possesses an endearing wisdom

Cons

  • In their twilight years, so you can’t plan too far ahead
  • Will probably require an indoor cat litter for the rest of their life
  • Likely to cost more money in terms of veterinary fees
  • May have toilet indiscretion or episodes of staring into space as senility approaches
  • Can be needy and may howl at night
  • May require extra help such as footstools, steps and extra thick bedding

Senior cat diseases

It comes as no surprise that senior cats are much more likely to develop various diseases and health conditions. 

This is definitely something you should bear in mind before adopting an elderly kitty. Do you have the time and means to care for your furry friend’s health concerns?

Senior cats are prone to the following diseases:

Adopting a senior cat: top tips

Create a special room

When you bring your senior cat home, they may be (understandably!) a little nervous. It’s a good idea to set up a temporary ‘special room’ or area where your cat can quietly adjust to their new surroundings.

Gather a litter box, food and water bowls, a scratching post, a comfortable cat bed or blanket and a hideaway spot and place them in a quiet room. When your new friend arrives, put the carrier on the ground and open it - but don’t rush them out. We’d recommend getting down to their level and sitting on the floor whilst allowing your new kitty to explore. 

Then, give your cat a couple of hours in their room on their own. Once they get more comfortable, they're sure to branch out further into the house.

Spend lots of time together

You should try and make an extra effort during your kitty’s first week at home. Setting aside plenty of time for playing, cuddling and fussing your senior cat is sure to strengthen the bond between you and help them to settle in.

Give them time

No matter how much effort you put in, be aware that it might take some time for your kitty to warm to you. Losing an old owner, ending up in the shelter and then being introduced to a totally new environment can be rather distressing for a senior cat. 

Don’t give up. Sometimes, all that’s needed is time. Don’t pick your kitty up if they seem distant. Just keep talking to them with a soothing voice, provide plenty of toys, comfy resting places and give them a fuss every now and then if they accept it - with time, they’re sure to feel more at home.

Cater to their needs

If you’re adopting a senior cat, it’s important to consider their individual health concerns and needs. For example, if your new feline buddy is arthritic or has other mobility problems, they’d probably benefit from having multiple food and water bowls, as well as litter boxes, around the house. 

If they’re an inside cat due to a disability or health problem, make sure there’s lots of stimulation for them within the home.

Be consistent

Cats are creatures of routine - and it’s even more important for senior cats! Get into a routine with your cat as soon as you can and try to stick to it. This is easier than it sounds - just try to feed them at the same times each day and be regular when it comes to winding down and bedtime. It’ll help them more than you know.