Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The dos and don'ts of caring for an older cat

Eamon the cat is demanding his lunch
Older cats like Eamon seem a tad more demanding....
Article after article discusses caring for a young kitten: how much play they need, how many calories they should eat and how to train them properly. Finding articles on aging cat behavior is a bit more difficult. In fact, most of the articles I found talked exclusively about health issues in older cats and said nothing at all about behavior.

Eamon turned 11 this year, and while he certainly has some health issues we're working through, he is more than just a bundle of assorted medical problems. In fact, he has emotional needs that seem to go quite deep.

I find that older cats can be much more demanding when it comes to attention issues. When they want to be petted, they cannot be shooed away just because it isn't a convenient time for you. This photo was taken, in fact, when I was working on a deadline and didn't have a moment to spare. Eamon sat here on the corner of my desk, willing me to ignore him. I ended up compromising, meeting my deadline with a purring cat on my lap. Older cats will not be ignored.

In addition, I find older cats to be more inflexible about routine. They like things to happen in the same way at the same time, and it seems to cause them distress if the schedule is disturbed for whatever reason. Eamon will, once again, respond with the death stare if I am off schedule around lunchtime, and if that doesn't work, he responds with yelling.

Personally, I like the cantankerousness of older cats. They have strong personalities and deep preferences, and they have no qualm about sharing them with you. I like that in a cat. Also, I find it gratifying that I've had this same cat for 11 years. I've liked watching him grow old, and I like the idea of watching him grow yet older. We know one another well, Eamon and I, and that's the sort of relationship that doesn't come in just a few weeks or months.

As a quick spin through adoptable cats might indicate, however, I am a bit of a rarity in this regard. There are many, many senior cats out there looking for good homes. If you have space in your heart for a cat that won't keep you up at night with playtime but will tell you exactly what is needed and when you should do it, an older cat is just right for you. Consider heading to your local shelter and giving one of these cantankerous critters a home. You won't regret it!