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Rehoming Golden Oldies by Vet Andy Mead BVetMed MRCVS



Rehoming older cats can be incredibly rewarding and if you are reading this blog, it is probably something you have seriously considered. Young cats and kittens are most people’s preference when it comes to adoption thanks to their boundless energy and of course the ‘cute’ factor,  however they invariably need a lot of care and attention in their formative years and get up to a fair amount of mischief along the way, so for many adopting a young cat is not a suitable option. 


If you’re looking for a more laid-back attitude to fit in with your lifestyle, then adopting an older cat may be the perfect answer; older cats tend to be quieter during the day, won’t disturb you or your family at night and don’t tend to wander far from home if they do go outside. 

Cats tend to form established character traits from about a year old and so any mature cat will have long since established their personality.


Recognising these traits during their time in a rescue centre, or better still obtaining a history from a previous owner, can ensure a cat and home can be better matched, making the settling in process that much easier and as a result making an adoption more successful.


In my experience most cats are more adaptable when it comes to changes in their environment then perhaps, we give them credit for. However, when rehoming a cat of any age it is really important to allow them time to settle in and get used to their new surroundings.


A lack of resource is the commonest cause of stress in a household, and this can manifest itself in many ways from over grooming to bouts of cystitis. If you do have other cats at home make sure you introduce your new companion slowly, ideally with supervision, and minimise competition for resources including food, water and access to litter trays. Having somewhere safe to eat, drink, toilet, (be that inside or out), sleep, (ideally up high or hidden away from the outside world), stimulation, (age-appropriate toys for example), and plenty of love and attention is pretty much all they need. 


If possible, bring something familiar with them, perhaps the bed or a blanket from the rehoming centre or from their previous home. Don’t  be tempted to wash it anytime soon- the scents and smells of something familiar will bring great comfort and in most cases ensure they blend into their new environment with minimal stress and anxiety. On that note I would take it with them whenever they go to the vets or a cattery for added security.  


More specifically when re homing a geriatric cat, (generally thought to be a cat over the age of 12 years), there are a few extra things to consider. As cats get older, much like in many species activity levels decline, muscle tone reduces, vision and hearing may deteriorate and other age related disorders can develop leading to changes in eating or drinking habits, sleeping patterns and more. (More on this in a future blog).


It is important to recognise any changes and discuss them with your vet as soon as you can. Whilst we may not be able to cure all of these ailments, invariably we can manage them in such a way as to improve both quality and longevity of life. In doing so as early as possible in the course of the disease process we will certainly limit any pain and discomfort suffered. To that end be prepared to factor in more regular trips to see the vet for older cats weigh them regularly,  and keep booster vaccinations up to date to support their immune system even if they do not venture outside much.



A few simple tips for older cats:

•   Food and Water:- Make sure you provide easy access to food and water ideally by placing bowls both upstairs and down so that those cats with arthritis or mobility issues do not have to move far to eat. Remember not to have water too close to food it discourages cats from drinking! 

•   Routine:- Cats love routine especially as they get older. Try to feed at regular times if not ad lib and resist the urge to move furniture or household objects from room to room or place to place. 

•   Diet:- Feed a senior diet, one that is specifically designed for older cats. Senior diets tend to contain highly digestible protein and are lower in energy so prevent excessive weight gain. Most manufacturers produce senior diets so you can stick to their preferred brand, but when changing any diet, do so slowly over a period of a week or ten days to allow them to adjust. Add in probiotics to make the transition even smoother. 

•   Grooming:- As cats get older, they may find it harder to groom themselves especially in those hard to reach places. Be prepared to help by brushing them regularly. Keep an eye on their claws which would usually be kept short with routine activity.  You can often tell when claws get too long as they will get caught in carpet/upholstery or can be heard ‘tapping’ on hard floors. If you do not feel confident in clipping them, any veterinary practice will be happy to give you practical tips or do them for you.

•   Litter trays:- If your ‘golden oldie’ uses a litter tray, follow the ‘one for every cat plus one’ rule and place them in quiet but easily accessible low traffic areas. The general rule for the trays themselves is the bigger the better with the lowest sides available so that they have more space to move around and getting in/out is as easy as possible.

•   Play- Most older cats will still want to play from time to time, indeed it can be beneficial to keep their joints supple and maintain muscle tone. Start slowly and let them lead the play with something simple like a feather toy. 

•   Access - Older cats will invariably need help to access their favourite spots up high for example on the sofa, and similarly outside. Provide some form of step, a box, footstool or similar, to allow them to get up to and down from their favourite spot with ease. 

Rehoming an older cat really can be a very rewarding experience both for everyone involved, so next time you find yourself in a position to adopt, why not consider a cat with a few more miles on the clock!

 

Andy Mead BVetMed MRCVS


I have had a passion for animals since I can remember and was determined to be a vet from a young age. Work experience at 15 had me convinced that this was ‘my calling’ and the rest as they say is history!


Having lived and worked in the area for over 20 years, I am currently in the process of opening a brand new, proudly independent practice in the heart of Storrington, with the simple aim of offering veterinary care with a more personal touch.  Andy-the-Vet Ltd will open its doors in Spring/Summer 2024.

 

 

Maggie Southwell, ABC Cattery Manager and Trustee


Although the ABC Animal Sanctuary cattery takes in cats of all ages who need our help, the focus seems to inevitably be elderly cats. These older residents come to us through no fault of their own and are such sweet, affectionate souls. They join us because of various circumstances such as their older owners have passed away or gone into a care home.

 

As Andy Mead has said elderly cats have so much to offer and we are very fortunate to be able to find them loving homes for the remainder of their twilight years.  If you think you would like to know more about providing any age cat a home contact me via our website.

Recommendation from a multiple time older cat re-homer! Gill Harris


As someone who has re-homed 4 cats over the age of 15 now my husband and I can thoroughly recommend it.  Firstly, they seem to settle into the home much quicker than younger cats and don’t go tearing around like mad things climbing the curtains and shredding your sofa! 




I think they truly appreciate the love and attention they are being given and they give it back many times over.  They still have great personalities and like to play. I have always found them to be very cuddly, content to sit on your lap and become part of the family very quickly – as if they have always been there. Don’t pass an older cat by when considering re-homing from a sanctuary is my advice!    

 

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