Help Your Pet Transition From Adult to Senior

Senior cat closeup
If your aging cat or dog is allowed on furniture, make sure he has easy access to his favorite resting spots.

As your pet ages, she may find it difficult to access her usual nap spots or enjoy her favorite activities. But making a few simple home and lifestyle modifications can help transition your pet from adult to senior living without sacrificing the routines and activities she loves most.

Our pets live shorter lives than we do. And while old age is not a disease, it does bring about changes to the mind and body that we should acknowledge and, ultimately, embrace. By anticipating our pets’ changing needs and recognizing the subtle signs of aging, we can make adjustments to the home environment and to activities of daily living (ADLs) that will make our pets’ lives easier and more comfortable as they enter their senior years.

Getting Started

The single most common change pets experience as they age is diminished mobility. So facilitating their mobility is an important aspect of environmental modification and enrichment. Our goal: to help our pets enjoy as many of their usual ADLs for as long as possible.

Start by walking through your house, and try to view your living space the way your cat or dog might. Where would you like to hang out or rest quietly? Can you see outside to watch the birds, the squirrels, and the sky? Are there easy ways to get to different areas of the house? Are there stairs that must be navigated or slippery floors to cross?

Make a list of areas that may require modification, and then read on to discover some simple solutions.

Floor Surfaces

Slippery floors can be treacherous for aging pets as they lose their strength and coordination. Nonskid area rugs can help provide more sure footing over slick surfaces, but they can be tough to clean when soiled. Interlocking foam squares, on the other hand, are an excellent solution. Marketed as a floor covering for workout spaces, these tiles are a brilliant option for creating an inexpensive nonskid surface for pets. You can also cut them to size, modifying any room or hallway.

Once you’ve constructed a nonskid floor surface, clear the way. Ensure that older pets won’t have to negotiate over or around obstacles to reach their favorite resting places or the litterbox.

Litterbox style and placement are a real concern for older kitties. Try placing a litterbox on every floor of the house, and remove the lids to make them easier to enter and exit. Even better: Ditch the conventional litter pan and use a shallow storage container.


For both dogs and cats, consider creating multiple resting areas by placing additional beds in favorite family gathering spots, but be careful when choosing a bedding surface. Our instinct is to choose thick, fluffy materials, but this can create an unstable surface that may be difficult or even painful for your older pet to negotiate. Egg-crate or memory foam provides a more comfortable and stable surface.

Access Points

Depending on your house rules, gaining easy access to their favorite furniture spots or window ledges may be important for aging pets with reduced mobility. Carpeted stairs or ramps can help pets access the sofa or bed. A well-placed ottoman may serve the same purpose. It won’t take long to teach a cat or dog that using these step-ups makes getting to their desired destination easier.

Vehicle entry and exit is also easier with a ramp. Several manufacturers sell ramps you can stow in your vehicle or hitch-mounted platforms that provide a step up into the back of cars. Just be sure to choose one that is wide and sturdy enough for your size pet.

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