Helping the Geriatric Cat Reclaim Interest in Self and Life

by Ava Frick, DVM, CAC, FAIS

Cats, one of nature’s most fastidious animals, suffer from dandruff, dirty skin, and matting fur as they age. This condition is very annoying to this once neat and clean creature. Petting them can even appear to be uncomfortable.

This is due to the cat’s inability to maneuver and do ritualistic routine grooming. Arthritis and lack of flexibility of the spine are the greatest factors in the progression of this problem. Depression and geriatric diseases can further reduce the cat’s interest in grooming.

There are several things you can do to help geriatric cats maintain respectability:

  1. Give regular baths. Believe it or not most cats will appreciate you for doing this, after it is all over.
  2. Have a warm spot in the winter for those achy bones to rest. Use a heating blanket or pad on low, or, better yet, invest in a sauna (such as the ones available from FaunaSauna.com). Make sure it is on a height level where the cat can easily get to. You will often find the cat resting there, and their mobility will be better from improved circulation.
  3. Reduce the arthritic symptoms with supplements containing hyaluronan and colostrum. The products I find that fit these parameters and consistently give good results is Trixsyn, a flavorless liquid manufactured by Cogent Solutions, and Duralactin capsules, which you can open and sprinkle into canned food or cat-friendly liquid.
  4. Get chiropractic adjustments to improve motion of the spine and legs. Cats can get chiropractic adjustments and will usually enjoy them. I have adjusted many geriatric cats, and their owners report back that their older cats can jump and maneuver better after each visit.

By bathing them and doing a few simple things, your senior citizen felines can feel much younger, rekindling interest in self and life. There are a few steps to take that will simplify bathing a cat.

Start with putting on a long sleeve shirt and button the cuffs. This way if kitty decides to try and escape, and reaches for you, the claws will grab the shirt and not your skin. Split a cotton ball and put half in each ear. Apply a bleb of Vaseline to each eye to protect against any soap that may get in them.

If the shampoo is too thick, dilute some into a smaller squeeze bottle. That way it won’t glob out, waste product, and be difficult to rinse clean. Fill a tub with warm water and fill 2 pitchers with warm rinse water, as well as an empty one for the initial dirty rinse. Do not turn the faucet on while the cat is in the sink. Water rushing out of the faucet will send them out faster than you can blink.

Now you are ready to put kitty into the sink container and use the empty pitcher to rinse. Start with legs and body leaving the head for last. Lather, scrub gently, and massage those tired muscles. Now lightly use 1-2 fingers to lather the head avoiding eyes and inside the ears.

To begin rinsing, use the water that kitty has been sitting in to do the first pass. Follow with those pre-filled pitchers. Do not pour water onto the face but use a sponge instead to direct water flow and remove the soap, avoiding the eyes. Once the soap has been washed away, wrap kitty up in towel #1. Compress the towel to pull the water from the fur. Repeat with towel #2, rubbing as you go. Turn on the hair dryer, holding it at a distance and check a tolerance level. Introduce gradually, getting closer and closer. Use the dryer to remove the majority of the moisture.

Moisten the Q-tips with alcohol and use it to clean grease and grime from the ears. Only get where your eyes can see; do not go further into the ear canal than what you can actually see. Wipe the eyes of any residual Vaseline. Comb out remaining mats, finishing with an after-bath conditioner if needed. Put kitty in a warm isolated place to finish preening. Repeat this process up to twice a month as needed to keep the senior citizen cat dandruff free and comfortable.

An easy way to trim a cat’s nails is to hold human toenail clippers side ways to trim the nails to protect yourself from harm; older cats generally have overgrown nails due to lack of use. They are much easier to trim than a dog’s nails, as they are separated into very thick and thin sections. Trim off the narrow sharp points while avoiding the thick base.

For more information, call 636-489-5350 or visit animalrehabstlouis.com.