Keep Your 17 Year Old Cat Happy and Healthy. 10 Vital Tips

Regular Veterinary Care

It is important to bring a senior cat to the veterinarian for a wellness checkup at least twice yearly. According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), biannual examinations allow diagnosis and early treatment of disease before clinical signs develop.

The veterinarian will monitor your 17-year-old cat for common age-related conditions like kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer and arthritis. Bloodwork and urinalysis can identify issues like declining kidney function before your cat shows outward symptoms. Your vet may recommend screening tests like blood pressure measurement and chest x-rays.

Keeping your senior cat’s core vaccines up-to-date, including rabies, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia virus, will help protect against infectious diseases. Discuss any additional recommended vaccines with your veterinarian.


Life stages


Nutrition is especially important for senior cats. As cats age, their metabolism slows down so their dietary needs change. It’s important to feed an age-appropriate food formulated for mature cats that is highly digestible and nutrient-dense.

Look for a high quality senior cat food that has increased protein and is lower in calories and fat. Senior cat foods will have adjusted levels of nutrients like phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin D and antioxidants. Some foods are specially formulated with joint support ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. Avoid feeding table scraps or people food.

It’s also important to monitor your senior cat’s food and water intake. Increased or decreased appetite can signify an underlying health issue. Track their food consumption and body weight regularly. Any significant changes should be discussed with your veterinarian.


Ensuring your older cat stays active and maintains healthy joint mobility is an important part of care in later life. While cats naturally become less active as they age, plenty of safe and gentle exercise suitable for senior felines can keep their joints limber, improve cardiovascular health, encourage wellbeing, and prevent obesity (Reveal Pet Food). Regular low-impact exercise tailored for older cats can provide many physical and mental benefits.

Gentle play sessions using toys that encourage movement but don’t overexert joints are great for senior cats. Try fishing pole style toys, balls that can be batted around easily, or toys that can be chased but don’t require excessive speed or agility. Puzzle feeders and treatdispensing toys also encourage low-impact activity (Pet Health Network).

Providing climbing platforms and multi-level cat trees appropriate for your cat’s current mobility allows them to stretch and stay nimble. Ramps can make climbing easier for arthritic cats. Transforming environments frequently with new low-placed platforms, tunnels, steps, and toys also promotes moderate activity (Pet Health Network).

As cats age, their activity needs change. Focusing on gentle but enriching play and environments tailored to their current abilities can help senior cats stay active and healthy.


As cats reach their senior years, it’s important to provide engaging forms of enrichment to keep their bodies and minds active. Gentle playtime, puzzles, and sensory stimulation are great ways to enrich a senior cat’s daily routine.

Interactive toys like furry mice, crinkle balls, and wands with feather attachments can encourage light exercise and cognitive stimulation. Just be sure to monitor your senior cat’s activity level and allow them to rest when needed. Puzzle feeders are another excellent option – place your cat’s kibble inside a food-dispensing toy to make mealtimes more challenging and rewarding. Food puzzles provide mental exercise as cats problem-solve to get the food out.

You can also enrich your senior cat’s environment through scent. Place fresh or dried cat-safe herbs like catnip and catmint in strategic spots around the home. Introducing new mild scents every so often activates your cat’s sense of smell and piques their curiosity. Cat trees, perches, and cozy beds near sunny windows are ideal lookout spots for cats. Providing easy access encourages low-impact movement and allows cats to experience smells and sights from an enriched vantage point.

With a little creativity and care, you can design a stimulating yet low-key daily routine tailored to your senior cat’s abilities and preferences. This will improve quality of life by engaging their mind, senses, and body in safe, gentle ways. Always monitor your senior cat during play and activity for signs of fatigue or stress.


Grooming is an important part of caring for a senior cat. As cats age, they often lose the ability to effectively groom themselves. Their fur can become matted and their nails may overgrow without regular care. Here are some tips for grooming a 17 year old cat:

Brush your cat frequently, ideally once a day if they have long fur or a couple times a week for short haired cats. This helps remove loose fur and prevent mats from forming. Be gentle when brushing and watch for skin irritation. Use a de-matting tool or clippers to remove stubborn mats (Source).

Pay attention to dental care. Brush your cat’s teeth or use dental treats to reduce plaque buildup. Have a vet perform regular dental cleanings to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Trim nails every 1-2 weeks to keep them from overgrowing and causing pain or mobility issues. Introduce nail trims slowly and reward with treats.

Bathe senior cats only when necessary, like if they can no longer groom themselves. Use gentle shampoo and keep them warm. Long haired cats may need monthly baths while short haired cats only need occasional bathing (Source).


As cats age, their joints can become stiff and painful from arthritis, making it difficult for them to get comfortable. Providing soft, supportive bedding can help ease pressure on sore joints. Some options include orthopedic beds, cushy pillows, and plush blankets. Ensure the bedding provides ample padding and retains heat well. Place beds in warm, quiet areas of the home.

Heating pads and heated pet beds can also help soothe arthritis pain and increase blood flow. Be sure to monitor the temperature and keep one side of the bed unheated so your cat can move if it gets too warm. Applying gentle massages can relax tense muscles and stimulate circulation. Focus on massaging the joints, lower back, and neck. Always watch for signs of pain during massage and keep sessions brief.

Litter Box

As cats age, they may develop litter box issues due to changes in mobility, vision, and cognitive function. Regularly cleaning the litter box is essential for senior cats. Soiled litter should be scooped out and replaced at least once per day. The entire box should be emptied, washed, and refilled with fresh litter every 1-2 weeks to keep odors at bay (Source).

Consider getting a larger, lower-entry litter box that is easy for an older cat to get in and out of. Place it in an easily accessible area, preferably on the same floor your cat spends most of their time. Avoid moving the litter box location as senior cats appreciate consistency. You can add a night light or leave the bathroom light on to help a visually impaired cat find the litter box more easily (Source).

If your senior cat stops using the litter box, bring them to the vet for a checkup to rule out medical issues. Consider trying different litter types and textures that may be easier for them to stand on. Be patient and understanding if accidents happen – your cat isn’t misbehaving, but rather adapting to changes in physical abilities.


As cats get older, their senses start to decline, so it’s important to cat-proof your home to prevent injuries. Make sure to secure loose rugs and wires that could cause tripping hazards. Limit access to high surfaces, or install pet stairs or ramps to allow easy access. Keep prescription and over-the-counter medications out of reach, as cats may accidentally ingest them.

Be mindful of open windows, doors, or balconies where your cat could potentially fall from a height. Supervise time outdoors. Install screens on windows to allow fresh air while preventing falls or escapes. Provide night lights, motion-activated lights, or leave a low-level light on at night to help aging cats navigate safely in the dark.

Cats can also injure owners through falls, with an estimated 86,000 fall injuries caused by cats each year in the United States ( Walk carefully when your cat is moving around your feet and use caution on stairs.


Socialization is extremely important for senior cats to help reduce stress and fear. According to Why Socialization is So Important for Cats, socialization builds confidence, reduces sensitivity, facilitates development, and prevents behavior problems in cats. Focus on positive social interactions in the home environment between your 17 year old cat and any other pets or humans. Cats are social creatures and need affectionate human contact for their wellbeing. Research shows that the human-animal bond provides emotional support that can reduce loneliness and depression in seniors. Make sure to give your aging cat plenty of gentle petting, brushing, treats, playtime, and lap time for important socialization.

End of Life Care

As cats reach their senior years, pet parents face difficult decisions about end of life care. Quality of life is the key factor in determining when euthanasia may be the most humane option. According to Paws into Grace, major considerations include whether your cat is in constant pain that cannot be managed with medication, struggles to eat or use the litter box, can no longer walk or interact, and seems to have poor overall quality of life despite medical treatment. Saying goodbye is extremely difficult, but remember that euthanasia can be the final act of love and care you provide your furry friend.

When you feel it is time, have an honest discussion with your veterinarian. They can guide you through the decision and process. Most vets perform euthanasia with an injection of sedatives followed by a final drug to stop the heart, as described by American Humane. Your cat will drift into unconsciousness and pass peacefully. Take time for goodbyes, provide comfort like a favorite blanket or toy, and stay with your pet during the process if possible. Though heartbreaking, euthanasia can assure your senior companion avoids prolonged suffering at the end of life.

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