There’s no stopping it. Aging is a part of life. And even though they feel like playful children that never grow up, the same goes for our pets. Often this means changing your cat or dog’s diet, adding medication to their regimen, and helping them navigate the home as their mobility decreases. While it’s never fun to see a pet trade its active lifestyle for a more relaxed routine, there are several steps you can take to keep your senior pet happy, healthy, and safe in their later years.
Stairs and Ramps for Dogs
If your dog likes to jump up on the couch or bed with you, give them a boost with a small set of stairs. These reduce the strain on their legs as they jump up to be with you, and more importantly, they help eliminate the risk of injury as they get back down on the floor. Too much jumping from a couch or bed can add up over time and cause damage to knees and the lower back, especially for longer dogs like corgis and dachshunds.
Cheaper pet stairs often use a metal frame with fabric wrapped around it. These are eye sores and don’t provide solid footing for your pet. You can find wooden stairs that are less obtrusive for about $100. Your dog’s joints and back will thank you!
Slipping and sliding can lead to serious injuries such as joint damage, muscle strain, and bone fractures. Prevent those by swapping out or rug for one with a non-slip underside. Even if your dog comes galloping into the room, they won’t be taken for a surprise magic carpet ride that ends at the vet’s office. Corner pads on a typical rug can help, but they aren’t as safe as a non-slip rug, so make the investment – it might end up being more convenient for the humans in the house, too. Also consider other types of flooring that might have a better grip for your pet than something more slippery like hardwood.
Senior Cat Trees
Young cats might be able to make the leap to the top of their cat tree in a single bound, but older and wiser cats typically need a few more steps to make it up there. Senior cat trees have more platforms to accommodate this. Plus, wider platforms mean smaller gaps, helping your cat swap big jumps with little steps. These often come with ramps as well. Some cat trees are also shorter than average, keeping kitty lower to the ground so she doesn’t have to absorb a fall from 4 feet up.
Orthopedic Beds for Dogs & Heated Blankets for Cats
With less active play time, your senior pet is probably lying down for longer periods of time. You can help keep them comfy with an orthopedic bed, which helps soothe joints and muscles. If your dog has minimal mobility, these can also help prevent sores that develop from extended nap sessions.
L-shaped beds are another great option for dogs. While the bed itself is still square, these have heightened pillows along the edge of two sides, helping your good boy keep his head elevated even when he’s relaxing.
Cats love to snuggle up to warmth. Their humans are, of course, their favorite source of heat, but you can provide another hot spot with a heated blanket made specifically for pets. Senior cats love to curl up and nap on these because of the soft surface and the warm-but-not-hot touch. Just be sure to test it out frequently and only use it in a supervised environment: An overheated blanket with a sleeping or immobile pet on it is a ticket to the pet emergency room.
Stationary Pet Toys
Your senior pet might not be up for walks and fetch as often as he used to be, but you still need to keep his mind active. Stationary toys are a great way to do this. Most are designed with treat compartments that your dog needs to manipulate with a paw or snout to open. If your dog is having trouble with motor skills, consider getting something as simple as a Kong and placing treats or even pureed veggies in there. Just make sure to check with your vet on what treats are safe for your dog to have.
For cats, a ball track tower can keep them occupied for hours. There are also Whack-A-Mole style games available so you can actively play with your cat without making her jump after a ribbon or chase a laser pointer. Another less interactive option is to put videos made for cats on your TV. It can be hit or miss, but hours-long videos of birds and squirrels on YouTube have been known to keep cats on the edge of their seats.
Lower or Higher Food and Water Bowls
As your senior pet develops issues with their joints, their neck can be a source of tension. Depending on the size of your pet, you may need to position their food and water bowls higher or lower to help reduce strain. Putting them on something as simple as a box can do the trick, but higher-end options are available. Experiment with different heights to see what your pet prefers, then purchase a platform and bowl set that matches that height.
Lower (and More) Litter Boxes
If your cat isn’t leaping around as freely as she used to, it might be time to swap out her litter box for one with a lower entry area or a ramp entry. This will help your cat step right into her “office” and not have to worry about slinking over a tall edge. You should have at least one litter box per floor of your home, and if your cat is having bladder control issues, you may need more. Just make sure to bring her to the vet to pinpoint the problem, as mobility is just one of many problems that can lead to accidents outside the litter box.
Connected Security Cameras
Senior pets, by their nature, are more accident-prone. Keep an eye on them even while you’re away with a connected security camera or two. Leave them focused on your pet’s favorite resting spots and open up the app while you’re at work or running errands to make sure they’re safe. The peace of mind is often worth the $50 or so per camera, and getting a funny screencap of your fur baby snoozing is a big bonus.
Pet Shower Station
Some JM Construction clients have requested us to design and build shower stations for their canine companions. These are most often situated in a mudroom, and while they’re designed for dogs that love to play in the mud, they’re just as useful for senior pets. Bathroom accidents can be a source of agitation and even dangerous infections, so it’s important to keep them clean and dry. Rather than filling up the bathtub or sink over and over again, a small shower like this can make short and easy work of a mess.
Our pets have given us so much throughout their lives, so we owe it to them to make their lives as comfortable and engaging as possible. These ideas can help you turn your home into a senior dog or cat paradise without sacrificing looks or engaging in a major renovation.
Have an idea on how you can make your home more comfortable for your senior pet? Request a consultation with JM Construction today.
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