It’s important for our senior pets to have a comfortable spot to sleep, particularly if they’re suffering from arthritis or another age-related condition. Today we’re rounding up tips to help your aging cat sleep more soundly, from encouraging gentle exercise to offering supportive cat beds.
Arthritis in cats is undertreated
Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC, DABT, explains that most pet parents have no idea how prevalent arthritis in cats is. In one veterinary study that evaluated X-rays of cats over 6 years of age, 61% of cats had evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint, and almost 50% of cats had osteoarthritis in more than one joint.
It can be difficult to recognize arthritis in cats. Some symptoms include:
- changes in mobility
- altered gait
- being slower to jump or go up and down stairs
- acting stiff when getting up
- atypical aggression
- decreased activity
- peeing outside the litter box
- pooping outside the litter box
If you notice any of these symptoms in your cat, schedule an examination with your veterinarian.
8 tips to help your aging cat sleep better
Whether your senior cat has arthritis or is just dealing with the aches that come with age, there are a few things you can do to help them get the restful sleep they need.
Encourage gentle exercise before bed
One of the biggest causes of arthritis and other chronic illnesses in cats is obesity. If your aging cat is also obese, you should work with your veterinarian on dietary modification to help your cat lose weight.
Another great way to help keep the weight off? Exercising your cat. Take at least 5 minutes in the evening to encourage gentle exercise in your cat. This might be a session with a laser pointer, a cat wand with a feather attached, or rolling crinkle toys. Not only is the exercise good for your cat’s health, it’ll help tire them out for bed.
Offer a small meal before bed
For an uninterrupted block of sleep (for both you and your cat), you don’t want your kitty going to bed hungry. Give them a small amount of canned or wet food, or a handful of healthy treats. Or, set an automatic pet feeder to dispense an eighth cup of kibble before bed. But do this after your exercise session: Activity on a full belly could cause an upset stomach.
Provide a quiet space with low stimuli
Anxiety is a common problem among aging cats. Try to provide your cat with a sleeping space that is as calm, quiet, and stress-free as possible. Ideally, this space won’t be shared with louder, more active family members (two-legged or four-legged).
Purchase a memory foam pet bed
Memory foam offers comfort for better sleep as our pets age. Providing your cat with a spacious and supportive memory foam pet bed might be just what she needs for a restful night’s sleep. Memory foam helps relieve pressure from achy joints or muscles by forming to your cat’s body. It’s best if the memory foam pet bed also has a removable washable and/or waterproof cover.
Whisker’s memory foam bed provides medium-firm support that is ideal for cats or small dogs with arthritis. Cat parent Trenna raves: “I bought these beds for my 2 oldest fur babies hoping that they liked them. They love them so much; they sleep all the time in them and not in their usual places. Or they will just lay in them and meow at everyone that goes by. It's like they are saying ‘look at me loving my bed.’”
Turn the heat on (low)
Heat therapy can be used to reduce pain, joint stiffness, and muscle spasms in cats suffering from arthritis. For 20 to 30 minutes before you go to bed, place a heating pad on its lowest setting on your cat’s bed and cover it with a thin blanket for your cat to lie on. Note: Always supervise when your cat is using a heating pad or another heat source. Your cat shouldn’t lie directly on the heating pad or be exposed to the heat for too long.
Provide additional floor cat beds
Accessibility is extremely important for an aging cat. Modifications might include adding a ramp to their litter box, elevating their food and water bowls, or placing cat beds on the floor so they don’t have to jump for a comfortable spot.
When it comes to snoozing, give your cat a variety of warm, cozy cat beds to choose from. Some of our favorites include the cat teepee—with an integrated cat toy—and the pet pouf, an oh-so-soft cat bed that comes in multiple sizes and colors.
Plug in a nightlight
In case your senior cat experiences vision loss, it’s best to provide a light source at night that can guide them to the litter box or water bowl. Additionally, a light source such as a nightlight can offer comfort for cats that wake up disoriented or anxious.
Medicate with help from your vet
Finally, talk to your veterinarian about pain management for your aging cat. None of us wants a furry family member to lose sleep because they are experiencing pain or discomfort. Your vet can prescribe safe medication options such as gabapentin or tramadol. Never give your cat human medications without talking to your vet first.
Can I give my cat melatonin?
Although melatonin can be safely given to adult cats in small doses, talk to your vet before administering this supplement. Do not give your cat melatonin that’s made for humans or dogs, as the dosage may be too strong. Your veterinarian can recommend a dose that’s safe based on your cat’s weight.
From a gentle exercise session to a memory foam pet bed, there are a lot of ways you can help your senior cat get more restful sleep. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian about which options are best for your kitty.
Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash