It’s safe to say the only constant in life is change. From the transition into adulthood to starting a new career to moving out of your family home, life often asks us to change and become something more. Aging can flip our world upside down. Activities we once loved may become more difficult. Some of the people, and cats, we love may pass away. However, aging doesn’t mean we stop living a happy life.
No matter what stage they’re at in life, cat lovers will always be cat lovers! Life changes don’t necessarily mean we have to be separated from the joy of having a cat in our lives. Just like humans, no matter where cats are in their life journey, they all want a loving, happy and healthy place to call home.
November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Senior cats make wonderful companions and while they may have undergone life-changes that require a little more consideration, they make a wonderful addition to a family.
Senior humans and senior cats are ripe with life experiences that have made them wise. They know who they are and they know what they want. Elderly cats and older adults can give their true selves and are capable of forming a deep bond rooted in companionship and unconditional love.
This is very true for my delightful client Doris and her Siamese cat, Sapphire.
Doris finds a win/win solution with a catio for Sapphire, her outdoor-loving cat.
Doris recently moved from a rural area of Washington state to an independent senior living community in Seattle in order to be closer to her daughters. Leaving her family home was a huge transition, especially for nature lover Sapphire, her Red Point Siamese cat, who found it hard to shift from country to city living as an indoor cat.
Longing for a taste of the outdoors, Sapphire frequently escaped out the patio door. You can imagine how much stress and panic this caused Doris and the staff at the senior community, who would frantically search for Doris’ beloved adventurer. On more than one occasion, Sapphire was found hanging out around the corner at a local Italian restaurant.
With pre-approval from the building management, my carpentry team and I transformed the patio into a catio. Cat safe plants, grass, climbing shelves and seating make it a safe space for Sapphire to enjoy the wind in his whiskers, and Doris to enjoy gardening, reading and bonding with her feline companion.
Benefits of Cat Companionship & Adopting Senior Cats
Living in a senior community or being older shouldn’t get in the way of being a cat parent. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t adopt or foster a cat. In fact, it might be one of the best things you do for your physical and emotional health.
The CDC says pets help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and they’re also known to decrease loneliness.
A 2019 survey from AARP also confirmed extraordinary health benefits for older adults. A whopping 72 percent of people who live alone and struggle with health challenges said their pet helped them deal with their symptoms—both physical AND emotional. And of older people who report poor to fair health, 46 percent said their pet helped them cope with their pain by keeping their mind off of it.
Cats make purrfect companions and can bring a lot of joy to your life. Animal shelters are a great source for finding a cat. Shelters may offer a discounted adoption fee if you or the cat is a senior. Check out your local facilities to see what special programs may be available.
Cats do so much for us as we age. It’s important we are there for them too, as they age.
In celebration of National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, if you are considering a pet, don’t get completely distracted by those bouncing, fuzzy kittens, cute as they are. Adult cats make equally amazing addition to your life and—there’s even a few perks to adopting an adult cat.
- Older cats may adjust to your home more quickly. They have already “seen the world” and are probably going to be used to a home environment. Some may even already know how to share space with other pets.
- You don’t have to watch them 24/7. Kittens are super curious and can get into a lot of troubling situations fast. A senior cat won’t need as much monitoring once they’re acclimated to their new home.
- They bond just like a younger cat. Age is just a number. Old or young, cats can quickly bond with their person and form deep, lasting relationships.
- They are who they are. Kittens can change personality as they mature. But elderly cats have already formed their personality and their behavior may be easier to predict.
Years ago, I read a heartwarming story about a couple that adopted a 10 year old cat. Even though he was mature, the couple knew he was meant to be a part of their family.
Catios for Senior Cats
For my client Doris and her cat Sapphire, I was able to satisfy the adventurer’s desire for the outdoors. Mellow and mature senior cats also benefit from the enrichment of a catio.
Here are 5 tips for customizing your catio for an older cat.
1. Make it cozy. Be sure to make comfy spaces with beds, rugs and chairs that can be shared by cats and humans. Older cats can become less active, and enjoy a good nap. It’s not uncommon for a cat to lose weight as they age, so they’ll definitely appreciate soft, snuggly areas to rest in.
2. Ensure the catio is accessible. Senior cats may develop arthritis that limits their mobility. Make sure there are viewing areas low to the ground, so your cat can enjoy them. Ramps instead of stairs may be useful too, especially when getting in and out of the catio or from perch to perch.
3. Bring the birds to the backyard. Birdwatching is a favorite pastime for many cats (and humans)! Adding a wealth of bird feeders to attract avian friends will add excitement to a less-active cat’s day. Catio Spaces’ guide to creating a bird-safe garden and birdwatching are great places to start.
4. Keep it weather-friendly. If your older cat enjoys going outside, even when it’s chilly, include a heated mat, bed, or shelter in the catio.
5. Spend time with your cat in the catio. Your older cat may enjoy more quiet time (versus playtime) with you, so consider building your catio large enough for you both to snuggle together to enjoy the benefits of nature.
Cats and humans at any age can form a special bond. Elderly cats and senior humans both benefit from the companionship of one another. So, when life brings change our way, which it undoubtedly will, it might just be time for a catio. After all, time spent in nature and fresh air is good for humans too!
Tags: Free Catio Tips