Is 13 Years Old Senior Citizen Status for Indoor Cats?

Typical Lifespan of an Indoor Cat

The average lifespan of an indoor cat is generally 15-20 years, with some cats living into their early 20s with proper care and nutrition. According to PetMD, the average lifespan for an indoor cat is 13-17 years1. However, indoor cats that receive attentive care from their owners, regular veterinary checkups, a nutritious diet, exercise through play, and enrichment can extend their lifespan to 20 years or beyond.

Cats who live indoors in a safe, comfortable home environment avoid many of the dangers that can shorten the lives of outdoor cats, such as cars, disease, predators, weather extremes, and territorial fights. Keeping a cat indoors and providing attentive care allows them to live a long, healthy life spanning 15-20+ years.

Signs of Aging in Cats

As cats reach their senior years, usually around age 7-10, they start to show signs of aging. Some of the most common signs of aging in cats include:

Decreased activity levels – Older cats tend to be less energetic and playful. They may sleep more during the day and be less inclined to play with toys or interact. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, an aging cat “avoids favorite resting place (and finds places to hide instead)” (1).

Graying fur – Cats’ coats often start to gray around their muzzles first, then the gray spreads. Whitening or graying whiskers are another sign of aging (2).

Changes in sleeping patterns – Senior cats tend to sleep more during the day and be more active at night. Their sleep cycles can shift as they age (2).

Vision or hearing loss – Older cats can develop cloudy eyes, have difficulty seeing in dim lighting, or experience hearing loss. These senses may deteriorate slowly over time (2).

Cognitive decline – Some senior cats experience disorientation, confusion, or memory loss. They may forget litter box training or get “lost” in familiar areas (2).

While every cat ages differently, being aware of these common aging signs can help identify senior health issues early on.



Senior Cat Health Concerns

As cats age, they become more prone to certain health issues. Here are some of the most common senior cat health concerns:

Arthritis – Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis is very common in older cats. Arthritis causes inflammation and stiffness in the joints, which can make it difficult for cats to move around and jump. Signs of arthritis include hesitating to jump up or down, difficulty using the litter box, and decreased activity levels. The Special Needs of the Senior Cat.

Kidney disease – Kidney disease is one of the most common feline health issues facing senior cats. As cats age, their kidneys gradually become less efficient at removing toxins from the blood. Kidney disease can lead to symptoms like increased thirst and urination, weight loss, poor appetite, and vomiting. Seven Most Common Illnesses in Senior Cats.

Hyperthyroidism – An overactive thyroid gland leads to elevated thyroid hormone levels in the blood, which is called hyperthyroidism. This condition speeds up the cat’s metabolism, leading to weight loss despite a ravenous appetite. Other signs include increased thirst and urination, vomiting, and hyperactivity. Treatment usually involves medication, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery. Senior Cats…The Big Three Diseases!

Cancer – Unfortunately, cancer is relatively common in senior cats. Some of the most frequently seen feline cancers include lymphoma, mammary gland tumors, skin cancer, and digestive tract cancer. Treatment options depend on the type and stage of cancer, and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or palliative care.

Caring for a Senior Cat

Senior cats have different care needs than younger cats. It’s important to focus on providing the best care possible to keep your aging feline healthy and comfortable. Here are some tips for properly caring for your senior cat:

Regular vet checkups become very important as cats age. Most vets recommend bringing senior cats in for exams every 6 months. These visits allow the vet to closely monitor your cat’s health, catch any issues early, and adjust care as needed. Bloodwork and other diagnostic tests are often recommended to check kidney/liver function, look for diabetes, and assess overall health. Addressing any medical issues promptly can significantly improve quality of life.

Maintaining a healthy weight helps reduce joint pain and prevents obesity-related illness like diabetes. Adjust your cat’s diet and feeding schedule as needed to keep their weight ideal. Feed senior formulas and high-quality proteins for nutrition. Providing puzzle toys and activities also encourages movement.

Having an easily accessible litter box is crucial so your senior cat can comfortably take care of bathroom needs. Place boxes on each level of your home. Scoop waste frequently and use lower-sided boxes for easier entry/exit. Automatic litters can also help.

Keep up with grooming as senior cats often groom themselves less. Brushing helps reduce hairballs/mats and provides bonding time. Baths may be needed if messier. Nail trims maintain mobility/comfort. Gently wipe face if eyes become teary.

With attentive daily care and veterinary guidance, you can keep your aging cat healthy and content in their golden years.

Adjusting Home and Routine

As cats get older, their needs change. Making some adjustments to your home setup and daily routine can help senior cats stay comfortable and content. Here are some tips for adapting your home for an aging feline:

Place food, water, and litter boxes on the main level of your home so your cat doesn’t have to climb up and down stairs to access their necessities. Consider setting up multiple feeding and water stations around your home for easy access. According to the article “How to Make Your Home More Senior Cat-Friendly” on, “Older cats need larger litter boxes that give them plenty of room for doing their business without needing to curl up or crouch. If the box is too small to accommodate this need, your cat may start eliminating outside of the box.”

Add ramps or stairs to allow your senior cat access to furniture or beds. As PetMD notes in their article “How to Create an Accessible, Safe Home for Senior Cats,” carpeted cat steps can help them get to their favorite relaxing spots more easily. HGTV also recommends keeping pathways clear and avoiding rearranging furniture frequently.

Consider softening your cat’s food with water or getting senior-specific food if they have difficulty chewing. Feed smaller, more frequent meals as needed.

Add night lights around your home to help your older cat navigate safely in low light. Motion-activated lights along stairs or paths can also be helpful.

Keeping a Senior Cat Active

As cats age, it becomes increasingly important to keep them physically and mentally engaged. Here are some tips for keeping your senior cat active:

Engage your cat in playtime using toys that appeal to their natural hunting instincts. Wand toys and feather teasers that mimic prey are excellent for enticing movement and exercise. Laser pointers can also stimulate chasing and pouncing. Rotate toys to keep things interesting. Try out new interactive toys to challenge your cat’s senses and problem solving skills as recommended by the ASPCA (source).

Place treats or pieces of food around the house for your senior cat to seek out, encouraging them to explore and forage. You can start with easy to reach places and gradually make it more challenging. Food puzzles are another great way to stimulate the brain while promoting physical activity.

Consider placing steps or ramps around the home to promote low-impact exercise. Your senior cat will benefit from walking up inclines and elevated surfaces which build strength and balance. Always ensure ramps and steps have a non-slip surface for safety.

Enriching a Senior Cat’s Environment

As cats age, it becomes more challenging for them to stay active and engaged. Providing enrichment in their environment is essential for senior cats’ health and happiness. This gives them cognitive and physical stimulation to keep their bodies and minds sharp. There are several simple ways to enrich a senior cat’s indoor environment:

Cat trees and perches placed near windows allow senior cats to get up high to observe the outdoors. The sights and sounds of birds and other wildlife outside provide mental enrichment. Cat trees with different levels and perches also encourage senior cats to exercise by climbing up and down.

Food puzzles like treat balls and food mazes provide important mental stimulation. They encourage cats to move around and work for their food. Start with easy puzzles and increase the difficulty as your cat gets used to them. This helps keep their minds active and engaged.

Consider getting a tablet or TV set up with videos made for cat viewing. Companies like Videos for Cats create footage of prey animals and nature scenes specifically to entertain cats. Cat TV gives senior cats mental stimulation and enrichment.

Simple enhancements like these in a senior cat’s environment can go a long way in keeping them active, engaged, and improving their quality of life as they age.

Quality of Life Assessment

Determining your cat’s quality of life is important for assessing when additional care or lifestyle changes may be needed. Some aspects to consider include:

Ability to move, eat, use litter box: As cats age, they may develop arthritis or other conditions that make movement difficult and painful. Monitor your cat’s agility and note any changes. Ensure your cat can readily access food, water and the litter box. Trouble eating, using the litterbox or ambulating may indicate declining quality of life.

Interest in surroundings, pets, play: Healthy cats, even seniors, retain curiosity about their environment and enjoyment of play and interaction. Lack of interest in toys, people, or activities they previously enjoyed can signal your cat may not be feeling well.

Signs of pain, discomfort: Look for vocalizing, changes in grooming habits, altered posture or gait, aggression, or other behavioral shifts that could indicate your cat is in pain. Consult your vet if you suspect discomfort. Managing pain is key for quality of life.

You can also use scoring systems like the Feline Quality of Life Scale to help objectively assess your cat’s wellbeing over time.

Knowing When It’s Time

Unfortunately, there comes a time when euthanasia may need to be considered for a senior cat. As a pet owner, this is one of the hardest decisions you may face. Quality of life is key – if your cat is suffering and has no joy left in their life, euthanasia may be the kindest option.

According to Paws Into Grace, you’ll know it’s time to euthanize your cat “when your primary veterinarian has given a terminal diagnosis such as cancer or kidney failure and the quality of life is poor” (source). Watch for signs that your cat is in constant pain, has trouble breathing, lacks mobility, refuses food and water, or no longer shows interest in things they once enjoyed.

If your cat’s quality of life seems to be deteriorating, have an honest discussion with your vet. They can help assess your cat’s health issues and determine if euthanasia would be the most humane option. According to the American Humane Society, euthanasia is typically performed by injecting an overdose of anesthetic into the cat’s vein. This is a quick and peaceful way for your cat to pass (source).

While heartbreaking, choosing euthanasia can be the ultimate act of love when your cat’s health and joy is fading. Take comfort in knowing you gave your cat the best life possible.

13 is Not Necessarily Old for a Cat

With proper care and attention, 13 years of age is not necessarily old for an indoor cat. According to the ASPCA, the average lifespan for an indoor cat is 15-20 years1. So at age 13, an indoor cat is typically considered middle-aged or “senior” rather than elderly.

While health issues may start to crop up, 13 year old cats can still live happily and comfortably with some adjustments to their care. The key is focusing on providing comfort, reducing stress, and catering to your cat’s changing needs as they age. With a senior-friendly environment, proper nutrition, regular vet checkups, and a little extra patience and love, 13 can still be an energetic and fulfilling time in your cat’s life.

As cats reach 13 years and older, their senses start to dull, they become less agile, and conditions like arthritis may set in. But these changes happen gradually. Monitor your cat for signs of aging like decreased activity or appetite changes. And talk to your vet about ways to keep your aging feline comfortable and content.

With attentive care focused on quality of life and comfort, 13 does not have to mean the end of active, healthy years for an indoor cat. This stage of life simply requires adaptations to support their evolving needs.

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