They have given you years of unconditional love and laughter and as your pet enters their twilight years, their needs are likely to change. They will require a slower pace of life with more attention to their comfort and to their evolving needs. Making small changes to your home will have big impacts on their quality of life and here are some great tips that will help you do just that.
Stiff joints and old bones need soft and supportive bedding, away from drafts (which can worsen the effects of arthritis). Orthopaedic and foam mattresses are readily available for cats and dogs and they can really help put the spring back in their step.
Creating spaces away from younger, more boisterous characters allows an older pet a little relax that they will likely desire. Let them recharge in peace, and re-join the fun in their own time, for a rested and happy companion. A space under the stairs, a crate, somewhere up high (for cats); somewhere they can come and go, uninterrupted, full of comfy bedding and their favourite toys.
No More Slipping
Laminate flooring is convenient for keeping clean, but slippery for old pets who lack the muscle strength to keep their legs straight. Slipping can be painful for pets with arthritic joints (which benefit from even, predictable movements). Putting non-slip mats along all of your pet’s usual walkways will help them get about their home with ease: their food bowls, bed, to the garden etc. Steps to climb, car boots to jump in, and sofas to jump on? This is where ramps, commercially available type or a home-made version, become your old pal’s best friend to help them live their life the way they always have.
Eat with Ease
With old age often comes stiff joints and less supple, weaker muscles which can make bending, stretching and jumping harder. Pets may appear to ‘go off’ their food. But occasionally it may only be a logistical issue; they simply find it too much effort to bend or jump to their food bowls. Reaching low to get at bowls at floor level puts stress on the neck and forelimbs which can be painful. Purpose-made raised food and water bowl frames are available to solve this issue, however, a few sturdy books do a good enough job too. Some cats are fed on work tops, which takes a great deal of jumping power for an elderly kitty. Feeding them at floor level is a simple fix.
The world can feel smaller for older pets. Dogs can no longer manage 5 mile adventures like they used to, and cats might not go exploring large territories like they once did. But they still crave mental stimulation, so how about making their home more entertaining for them? There are loads of toys available that help keep a pet’s mind sharp without exhausting a tired old body. Consider the garden too; is it safe for your pet? Is there a pond they might fall in to? Are there sharp objects or areas they could become trapped? And could you plant some cat-friendly plants that felines could enjoy sniffing and rolling in - think along the catnip, cat thyme and oatgrass lines here.
Continuity is Key
Confusion might begin to set in for older pets and these pets really appreciate their environment remaining the same. Reconsider any planned major refurbishments that could unsettle an old companion, even moving furniture around can disorientate them. Certainly keep sleeping, eating and leisure areas constant for an old pet can really help maintain a sense of stability.
We know owners of senior pets think of ingenious ways of caring for their beloved companions - it is very much about the individual. However you help yours, we wish your pet the very best in their ‘retirement’.