Cats for Good Elder Health & Care!

by francy Dickinson

Dear Francy; Mother lost her dog over a year ago, she misses it so, but her health is keeping her from taking on a new dog. Should I push a new dog or not?

I am so into this – my mother had her dog with her until it passed (at 19) a few months before she did (at 100). So, I totally understand the connection for a senior and I think its vital to have relationships and responsibilities for seniors of all age and abilities.

A dog needs attention and a daily routine. That means that the senior can give them loads of loving and it keeps both the senior and the dog on schedule to feed, pet, groom and exercise.

So, if there is an enclosed yard -right off your seniors living area that they can release the dog for them to go potty and get some run-around time, yeah. If the senior is still able to walk to the mailbox and can take the dog with them, yeah. If the senior can reach down and fill the water bowl and feed the dog, yeah. Then go ahead and encourage them to get another dog.

There is never a replacement for a pet that we have had for years, that’s a loss that will be carried for a very long time. But giving an older dog, that’s on the small side, a new life with a senior – is such a blessing for them both.

Good news, there are lots of senior programs that give money towards or waive the adoption fee at local shelters. Check them out with the larger dog food companies and call your shelter and ask them if they have a program for seniors. Our shelter has a person that will handle the adoption. She takes down the seniors needs and abilities and then she starts to look for a dog. When she finds one she calls and you can then go and visit. You will find this service really helpful. She will get a dog that may not be able to adopt into a younger family, it maybe older itself and has come from a senior that could no longer keep it. So the matching is important and all you have to do is some homework and get the ball going, there are so many people in the adopt a pet world that want to place animals to good homes. Allow those professional to suggest what’s best for the senior. Even though a life time of larger dogs has been enjoyed, it might be time for a small dog that takes up less room, less food and spends more quality time on the lap or sitting next to the senior.

You can also go online and actually look at the pet. Most shelters have pictures of all their pets and it’s really enjoyable to take a look. My mother wanted a very small dog and she loved schnauzers so it took us about six months to find one. We had to drive to a nearby town to adopt it, but it was a perfect match. She enjoyed that dog for over 10 years and the dog was older when we adopted it. About one year before mother moved in with us, she shared with me that I would have to take the dog to my home. She was having problems getting it outside on time and it was doing it’s business in the house. Her little dog stayed with me and visited her often and then was re-united when mother came to live with us. It was a nice trade off.

Do not worry about the animal when your mother is unable to care for it any longer.The shelter will simply help to re-adopt it out and/or you or one of your family may take it in for the few years it will have to live. Dogs and cats really do re-adjust to a new owner, just like us it takes them a while, but living in a loving home is what they need.

Now, what happens if the senior is unable to do all the running around that is required for a dog. Well, this is when an older cat walks in the door and takes over your seniors heart! Even if your senior has not been a cat person, this is the time to get a cat in the house and find out how enjoyable they can be for seniors. First, you do the same thing as you did with the dog adoption. You call or visit your local shelter and tell them what is needed, tell them about your family member and what their restrictions are and they can find a cat that will adapt to those restrictions.

Make up your mind that the cat will be an indoor cat, that’s older – those are the ones that have trouble with adoption. So the match is so much sweeter when the senior knows they have saved a pet, not just gained a pal. Hopefully the shelter has a senior program for reduced or free placement of cats and you can go online and look up cats just as easy as you can dogs. I like the Short haired American cats that do not have that long hair, so the house does not need to be cleaned so often. The shelter will tell you if a male or female is best for the senior and then take them home.

Make sure you have a good cat box. You can get cat boxes that clean on thier own, or you can buy “scoop” cat litter that has ordor reducers in the mix. Since the senior may not be able to clean the litter, you will have to have it set up to be cleaned every two or three days when you or another family member comes to visit. Put up a reminder in the kitchen to all visitors, asking them to please clean the litter box if they are visiting. Most folks find this just a task to do, so do not worry about handing it over to a visitor. Or, a younger person in the neighborhood would gladly do the cleaning for $5 a week. It is up to you how to handle it. But this is really the only issue that has to be discussed because unlike dogs – cat take care of their own needs.

The food is easy. You buy dry food designed for the indoor cat. You will find that it is wise to buy a container for the food at the get-go. In the pet stores you will find a tall plastic container on wheels with a good lid and you can pour the food into the container and the lid snaps down. This way if the container has to be on a porch you are not alerting rodents or others to eat the cat food out of the bag and the senior does not have to lift the big bag to fill the dish. They just scoop the food out of the rolling container into a container that is large enough to hold a few days of dry food and will fit into the cupboard. The feeding time is easy to do.

I like to buy the smaller cat food cans and give my cats 1/2 a can of food with some warm water every other day. This will keep the cat drinking plenty of water and that’s what they are to do if they are in doors all the time. Water does need to be fresh each day, but the senior can keep the water and the dry food dish up on a counter that is not used by food preparation. That way it’s easy for the senior to keep the water and food filled.

No other food can be given to a cat, no people food is allowed and the cat will adjust their own eating pattern to what their body needs.

A good bed is required and I always have a couple of those. Every room needs a place for a cat to sleep. You can find sheepskin type fabric at the pet store. It comes in a large roll. You just cut it in half and put the fabric on the back of the couch by a window or on a foot stool and the cat will find their way to curl up and enjoy it.

I like to get cats that live alone toys. Little balls and small mice like toys filled with catnip will keep them busy and the senior will enjoy their chasing the toys around the room. There are long feathered toys that he senior keeps by their chair and flips at the cat for the all important chase time.

The scratching post is a must. I would suggest the larger posts if you can afford it. If not, you’ll find a corrugated paper one that can be placed on the floor and sprinkled with catnip. I use catnip on my scratching post, all the time, to entice the cat to use the post, not my furniture and to play.

Furniture does not have to be ruined. Cats can be trained. I roll up a newspaper and when a cat starts to claw the furniture I hiss out loud and hit the newspaper roll on my chair arm. The noise will ward off the cat and the behavior is soon out of their routine. But you do need a place to scratch so do not forget those posts. Deterring sprays can be purchased too. But in all my years of cats and dogs, my furniture has never been a target, I simply stay on the cat until they understand that is not a good idea. A spray bottle of water can be used if the senior can not move around easily.

Cats will take about two weeks to settle into a pattern. You will never have to worry, if you just talk to them in a calm tone, and look at them when you are talking they will soon understand the kindness and respond. They will be on your lap or close to you…or they will just come and visit you when they want petting. Either way, it will adjust to the senior and the cats needs, I have never seen it fail.

A presence in a home of a pet is so important. A senior has had a life full of children, spouse, family, friends, work friends and neighbors. As they age the house becomes quieter and people pass in and out of their lives. Loneliness is a huge reason for unwanted illness and depression. Just to have a companion makes such a difference.

I have my cat sitting in front of my computer screen bathing herself as I write, so I know the quiet sweetness they give to people.

Remember, even though the senior may feel like they are too old to have another pet. No one is too old for love, too old for a cat to curl up on their lap or a dog to give them a hug. This is how a senior stays attached to life, they need interaction. Pets will help with that and finding one that is just right for your senior is a task I would hand over to the professionals at the pet adoption center. Maybe it will be a bird or a tank of fish – the senior can find things to care for and interact with that will add to their quality of life.

Thank you for lifting the care of your mother to a place that has more than three meals and a safe home, but a home filled with love. Please visit my web site www.seniorcarewithspirit.comand get more information on topics and remember that if you need to find a special home that will provide a more assisted living contact me. I have a FREE service that places seniors in care facilities of all kinds depending on the seniors needs. I take the worry and work out of a difficult decision.

Thank you, francy


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