Every Month is Senior Cat Month
I love senior cats. OK, I love all cats, but there is something special about senior cats. Maybe it’s their grey-around-the-whiskers-look or their fragility, maybe it’s the purr. I don’t know, there is just something very special about elderly cats.
Maulee is my special senior cat. She is overseeing today’s blog entry about senior cats. This isn’t unusual, because she loves to keep herself warm, napping on the hot modem next to my monitor when I write. Maulee is an 18.5 year old Bengal Cat who is in relatively good health. Although she still loves to play, napping next to me is probably her second favorite activity—eating is her first. She is a food hound.
We share a special bond. Although I am bonded with all of my cats, the bonds Maulee and I have are different. She is constantly at my side, on my lap or napping next to my monitor. She prefers purring, chortling and talking to me over wandering the house and interacting with her younger cat companions.
Like many senior cats, Maulee occasionally has cognitive challenges. Sometimes, late at night she finds herself lost and confused in the house. I know, because she will start howling and screaming for me to help her. I will follow the calls and find her sitting, facing a corner yowling. Other times she’s standing in the middle of a room. Her calls of distress, although heart wrenching, quickly change to purrs and nose kisses when I sweep down, pick her up and carry her into the bedroom.
Maulee’s cognitive challenges have dramatically decreased since I made a few changes. The first two involve changes to the environment, the third increases mental stimulation. I am limiting the areas she and her cat buddies can go at night. Hall doors are closed—keeping the cats in the back of the house. The area they can roam is still large, but now all of the cats are more inclined to sleep in my bedroom. I have also increased the number of night lights around the house. Although, these two simple environmental changes have helped Maulee, I found that using clicker training to mentally stimulate her has vastly improved her cognitive state.
Yes! You can teach an old cat new tricks
At twelve years of age, Maulee was no spring chicken when her clicker training career started. She quickly caught on to the concept and became my clicker star. When Animal Planet’s Cats 101 filmed her for their Bengal and clicker training segment she was 17.5 years of age. Before the show she had never jumped through hoops. It took her only five minutes to learn the new trick. Just because a cat is a senior, doesn’t mean the cat can’t learn new things. Maulee is proof.
Clicker training is more than teaching tricks. Since increasing the frequency of Maulee’s clicker training sessions, I’ve noticed a decrease in cognitive challenges. She hasn’t gotten lost in a corner in many months and our nights haven’t been interrupted by her howls of distress. I have also observed that Maulee is more alert, interacts and plays a little more with the younger cats. Clicker training is mentally stimulating. Maulee is thinking through problems. She is highly food motivated and likes to figure out what she needs to do in order for me to click that clicker and toss her a coveted treat. Clicker training is one of her favorite activities. I know because she purrs and chortles throughout the sessions. Clicker training is helping to keep her young in mind and spirit.
November is Senior Cat Month. Every month is senior cat month—every day senior cat day. If you are looking for a new cat companion, I urge you to adopt a senior cat. Just because they are old, doesn’t mean they don’t have many fulfilling years ahead of them. Look at my Maulee—18.5 years young.