older dog being weighed on some scales

Care and kindness for your older pet

To live a happy & healthy life, a pet’s needs will change during their different life stages, (particularly in older felines) and as they reach their elderly years they can start to suffer with various conditions.

The effects of ageing can be seen through physical changes as well as behavioural changes, and there are certain home care routines that can help improve your pet’s quality of life. Regular checks with your vet are important to identify early disease indicators and discuss treatments where necessary.

Book an appointment for your pet

Tips for caring for your elderly pet at home

What can you do at home to provide that extra bit of comfort? Here are some tips to provide your pet with the extra TLC they need. Minor changes can make a big difference to their quality of life.

This is a common condition that can result in chronic pain. Owners will often notice that their pet is less reluctant to exercise or looks a little stiff when they walk. There are pain relief and joint care medications that the vet can prescribe to make your animal more comfortable and there are also things you can do at home:

  • Ensure resources (food, water and litter trays) are close by and easily accessible close to ground level
  • Make sure cat litter trays have low sides for easy climbing in and out and provide a litter that is soft on the feet pads. Even if your cat usually goes outside to the toilet, it is a good idea to provide litter trays in the house for times when they do not feel up to going out. It is important to monitor faecal and urine output and consistency as changes can be an indicator for developing health problems.
  • Pay close attention to your pet’s claws. We advise that you check these weekly as they are at risk of overgrowing as your animal becomes less active.
  • Carpet and mats can provide more comfort for elderly pets walking around whereas wooden and laminate flooring can be slippery when they are less stable on their legs.
  • Pet flaps – If your cat or dog usually uses a flap to access outdoors ensure they can get up to the flap ok, providing steps may aid them climbing in and out.
  • Scratching posts – If your cat is suffering from arthritis, they may be reluctant to use a vertical scratching post as stretching up high may cause them pain. Horizontal scratching posts can be more comfortable for them.

Elderly pets will find it more difficult to maintain their own cleanliness due to arthritis, dental disease and being less active, it is important that you provide extra care.

  • Spend time grooming your pet, ideally weekly to prevent matts forming. It is important to be gentle and use a soft brush as they may be stiff and arthritic.
  • Keep their face clean using damp cotton wool and make sure that their anogenital region is clean, you may need to do this a couple of times per day. If they are prone to getting a dirty bottom it is a good idea to shave the area around the bottom and tail to prevent them from becoming soiled.
  • Older cats are more prone to hairballs due to their sluggish digestive system, which makes regular grooming even more important to remove a build-up of dead hair. You can also purchase a paste from your vets to assist with hairballs.

If your pet has a reduction in appetite, it is always advised to get them checked by your vet, however sometimes it can be due to their decreased senses. There are ways that you can encourage food intake at home such as warming foods to 30˚c – often taste receptors are most receptive when food is at body temperature as this mimics the temperature of live prey.

  • Strong smelling foods can help encourage your pet to eat as their sense of smell may be reduced due to age.
  • Offer foods that you know they have enjoyed in the past as familiarity is important to animals.
  • Offer a different variety and consistency of foods. Your pet may develop a preference for wet food due to dental disease causing pain. Adding water to the diet and mashing it up may encourage them to eat too.
  • Offer fresh, high protein diets.
  • Offer food little and often, do not leave uneaten food down for long periods or lots of different food choices at once as this can be overwhelming for them.
  • Place the food in a quiet, easily accessible part of the house.
  • Raise food bowls up on stands or small boxes as this may provide more comfort for those suffering with osteoarthritis affecting the neck.
  • Providing your pet with attention whilst they are eating can help increase appetite.

Elderly animals are at more risk of becoming dehydrated, so it is important to provide multiple water sources around the home. Providing moving water sources (such as fountains) and a variety of different cups and bowls can help encourage water intake. Most animals avoid stagnant water, so always ensure that water is fresh. You could try a variety of different waters including spring water, filtered water and tap water. If your pet is reluctant to drink then extra water can be added to their food to prevent dehydration from occurring.

  • Provide a variety of private safe places around the house, it is important that your pet gets uninterrupted, quiet resting periods.
  • Elderly pets are more commonly being diagnosed with cognitive dysfunction syndrome (similar to dementia in humans); it is important to try and keep resources in the same, easy to reach places to avoid confusion.
  • Provide more padded bedding in areas where your pet spends the majority of their time resting. Thermal blankets will also be beneficial as they will not be able to regulate their body temperature as well.
  • The older your animal gets the more vulnerable they will become. If your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, they may feel more threatened by other animals as they are less able to defend themselves. Provide a safe place for your pet so that they are still able to spend time in their favourite spots.
  • Provide a quiet, stress free environment at home by avoiding parties, building work and the introduction of new animals where possible. It may also be beneficial to get a house sitter when you go away to avoid the stress of a cattery or kennel.

Finally, it is important to monitor for behavioural changes as these can be caused by a health issue, for example, increased thirst or appetite, or aggression may often be associated with pain. If you need any further advice, please book an appointment.


For all non urgent queries please use PetsApp.

You can use PetsApp by selecting the button on the bottom right of the page.

If you don’t have PetsApp on your smart phone, you can download it via the QR code below:

PetsApp QR code