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Senior Cats & That Travel Life

Senior Cat

Senior Cats & That Travel Life

Senior CatSo you want to travel…but you have a senior cat. How can you possibly leave your beloved ole pal when they are spoiled beyond reason and loved like family? Well, it turns out that your cat probably feels the same way. How could you? When you worry about leaving your senior cat for a trip,  your concerns are well founded -and backed by research.

Special Cats, Special Needs

First, can we all just agree that ALL cats have special needs? Sparky likes a treat around four o’clock, while Maisy must sit on your feet. Cat people get it. Cats typically don’t fair as well as dogs in boarding facilities, but boarding can be especially discomforting for the older cat. The older the cat, the more special she is. Older cats may need more of the right kind of attention. For example, our older cats need more help grooming. Old age sometimes brings chronic diseases like hyperthyroidism or hypertension, requiring medication and an attentive eye.Pretty Kitty

Is My Cat Old?

Hanzou the Senior Cat
Hanzou, the nearly 23 year old #SeniorCat on Instagram

For cats too, age may be just a number! You and your veterinarian will have the best understanding as to the “true” age of your cat. Like people, aging is changing for cats. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) states that though it can vary, cats may be considered “geriatric” after age 7. Yikes! Tell that to all the senior cats on Instagram!

If Instagram is any evidence, there are LOTS of old cats, many who are gaining another cat life with internet fame. One favorite Instagram grand is the nearly 23 year old Hanzou.

Better nutrition, healthcare and living indoors have extended the lives of cats. According to Richard Goldstein, DVM, assistant professor in small animal medicine at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cats live longer now and are now considered older at 12 to 14 years, with some cats living into their twenties.

 Senior Cats: Masters of Routine

Senior Cat by Hehaden/CreativeCommons
Jaz by Hehaden

If cats are creatures of habit, senior cats are masters of routine. The older cat has carefully crafted her day to near feline Senior Catperfection. Hours of slumber and dreamies followed by perhaps a dollop of wet food and some cuddles. A little light banter about the weather, and a stroll around the perimeter of the dwelling. The elderly cat knows all. The mail comes through the door at 11 o’clock. There are footsteps in the hallway at around six pm, and the air conditioner kicking on provides the soundtrack for her day. And she loves it.

Senior cats have often reached this level of superior catdom through this very routine. The thought of disrupting your cat’s daily docket, rightly, is concerning. In fact, the only thing more stressful than actual travel may be worrying about care for your senior cat while you’re away.

Impact of Stress on Older Cats

Senior CatJust as stress is harmful to us humans, stress negatively affects our cats. Research has found that even small changes in a cat’s environment and schedule can cause stress. A study at the College of Veterinary Medicine of The Ohio State University found that the risk for illness tripled when cats were stressed by changes in routine, and the risk was higher in older cats. The take away for cat owners is that reducing stress can in fact reduce the risk of illness.

Recommendations

Aging cats, like people, are attached to their established routines. Our cats enjoy their predictable days and they thrive on their  human relationships, their home. Because older cats are less adaptable to change, avoiding stress should be a priority for owners of senior cats.

Because boarding a cat is a major stressor for the cat (and you!), experts, including the Cornell Feline Center recommend keeping senior cats in their home if at all possible when you travel. Veterinarian Dr. Michael Fox, advises that is ideal to have either a housesitter or a cat sitter who will come to the home twice a day.

Would love to hear about your old pals and your tips for caring for them when you are away!

11 comments

  1. Wow, Hanzou on Instagram is 23 years old? That is impressive. It is hard to leave senior pets at home for a long period of time. I look forward to vacation every year, but having to kennel my pups was always heart wrenching to me, and I’m sure them.
    As my current dog ages, I try to see if friends or family can take him for me to try to avoid kenneling him at this age.. too much stress. (from dachshund station)

  2. I so agree and although I have a dog, if I had to go away and had to leave her would get someone to stay in the home with Layla and it would be so much less stressful for her than putting her somewhere else especially as she is 12 years old so yes a senior should stay at home in their comfort zone with their routine, a lot less stressful for the owners also

  3. My cats have been very lucky that my husband and I have never been away from them at the same time. There have been a few times that I have left, but my husband stayed behind. During my absence, the cat definitely notice a difference and get a little worried. Leaving the cats behind would be a big concern of mine if my husband and I ever took a vacation out of town.

  4. I’m a cat sitter and have many wonderful elderly clients. I’ve known some of them since they were kittens! Letting your cat stay home while you travel is definitely the best option. Just look for a sitter who knows and understands cats and won’t sandwich your cats’ visits in between daily dog walks. There’s nothing wrong with asking the sitter to send you a text every few days to let you know how things are going, too. Some of my clients text their people every day!

  5. I’m lucky that my roommate can take over kitty care for my other cats while Plush and I hit the road. Technically I guess he’s a senior at 7 next month but he’s not leaving his road life behind anytime soon. I don’t think 7 is old anymore when cats are routinely living into late teens or 20s.

  6. Holy smokes, Hanzou on Instagram is 23 years old?? That is super impressive, hats off to his humans. I had no idea cats were so very sensitive as they age… reminds me of my Chihuahua!

  7. Cookie is technically a senior now. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to get the memo.

  8. My girls turn 8 years old this summer and it’s hard for me to accept they are considered senior cats. I do hire a pet sitter when I am out of town. The girls seem to like her.

  9. Great post. t’s interesting that cats are geriatric at age 7! Wow. I know with dogs it is also 7, but their lifespans are so much (sob) shorter. Stress is so stressful! I have one Husky who gets anxiety – and he picks up on my stress and if any of the other Huskies are not well. I had not actually given thought to how stress affects cats because my Mom’s were always so chill, but it certainly makes sense. We go to our pets to relax…it only makes sense they want to be near us and what is familiar. Now…if we could just figure out an across-the-board stress eliminator, we’d all fare so much better, right?!

  10. I’d love to keep my cats at home when I travel but unfortunately they would tear up the house and have separation anxiety. I’ve boarded my senior cat in a feline-only boarding facility. There are some unique facilities that have catios so the cats can feel more relaxed and like they are at home. Plus they have 24×7 care in case of emergency. I used to use All My Kitties in Seattle. There is one that looks similar in Denver, called The Cat Spa Kennel. I haven’t tried them yet but I’m planning to do the tour to see if it’s a good fit.

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