Caring for an older cat is a bit like caring for your grandparents. They slow down considerably, can become a bit deaf, lose their sight, suffer incontinence, lose weight, become senile, and a great deal of patience is therefore required when looking after them.

And like our grandparents, they can get most of the ailments that advancing years bring, too. Illnesses like heart problems, arthritis, kidney problems, thyroid problems, diabetes, and even cancer.

Cats, dogs, and other small domestic pets, can even suffer the effects of passive smoking, presenting the symptoms of lung cancer and respiratory problems. There hasn’t been very much documented evidence yet, to support this, but the death rate of lung cancer in babies and young children has risen sharply in recent years so it stands to reason that pets will suffer too.

There are many things that we can do to make our elderly pets feel more comfortable and over the next few months, I shall be writing more about the ways in which we can do this.

This month, however, I shall tell you about a simple little device that has completely revolutionised Garfield’s life. A TABLE!!!

Garfield has arthritis in his neck, back, spine and front legs. He is on medication which keeps the pain at bay and helps him stay mobile but I noticed a while back that he would take a mouthful of food from his bowl, and then walk away, return, take another mouthful and walk away again. This would go on for a little while, and then he’d give up.

The vet and I both thought that his teeth were the problem, so he cleaned off some of the plaque and tartar that had built up and that seemed to help for a little while. But then I noticed the same behaviour happening again.

When I had central heating installed in December 1999, I put a bowl of water on the hearth next to the fire to help humidify the room. The hearth is about 5 inches high. One by one ALL the cats drank from it, despite there being TWO water bowls in the kitchen near their food bowls, and first thing in the mornings, there is often a queue, while the bowls in the kitchen are ignored.

Recently, I watched as Garfield drank from the bowl one morning, taking his time. Suddenly, I had a flash of inspiration. The reason he took one mouthful of food then walked away was because of the pain in his neck. It obviously hurt him to bend his neck down to his bowl on the floor. Maybe I could solve the problem if I raised Garfield’s food bowl. 

I spoke to a neighbour who’d done some odd jobs about the house for me during the summer and drew a rough diagram of what I had in mind.

A day later, he knocked on the door. One table! I was thrilled! I cut a piece of leftover lino from my kitchen floor to fit the table top to make it easier to clean and stuck it on with strong adhesive. Then I put it in the place where Garfield’s placemat was, and put some fresh food in his bowl. Then I called him and he came ambling in to the kitchen – a question on his face ‘what do you want me for?’

I showed him his new table. He looked at it. He sniffed it, and then noticed his food. He stood to eat, not having to bend his neck. He ate one mouthful, then another, then another, and he continued until the bowl was almost empty! RESULT!!! He looked at me. ‘Thank you.’ He seemed to say. I picked him up for a cuddle. We had found the solution! Such a simple idea! And it has changed Garfield’s life for the better. He now eats so well that I’m sure he has put on some of the weight he had been losing. And it could be my imagination, but he seems HAPPIER!

Ollie shared Garfield’s placemat so he also uses the table. It isn’t a problem for him as he either stands, or sits for his meals – it hasn’t made any difference to him one way or another. But for Garfield – well, it’s like having a new cat! The change is amazing. Some of the best outcomes are the results of such simple ideas.     

To make Garfield's table, please click here

Huge thanks to Laura Dumm for her lovely picture of an elderly cat! You can connect with Laura on Facebook:




A Cats Purr

"Cats make one of the most satisfying sounds in the world: they purr ...

A purring cat is a form of high praise, like a gold star on a test paper. It is reinforcement of something we would all like to believe about ourselves - that we are nice."

Roger A Caras

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