My Achin' Bones

 By Dan Malenski


  Have you noted in yourself as the years go by that you find it more difficult to do many of the things that didn’t deserve a second thought in the past? If the answer is no, then, unless you have figured out a method to stop the ravages of time, you will get there. If the answer is yes, like most of us however, then have you considered how your kitties will feel when age or disease weakens their muscles or arthritis takes hold in the joints, if not there already? Those who are able to perform cartwheels to the corner store with their kitties keeping up at their side may skip this article! This week, we will touch on how you will be able to make life more comfortable for your furry companion who is getting up in the years or just needs additional help getting around the house.


     Angel Mitzzi inspired this article, having suffered from bouts of diabetic neuropathy that affected her hind legs, but most cats suffering from joint problems are those who are advancing in age, and arthritis is slowly taking hold. I am not going to discuss the medical aspects of the many causes or treatments, but will focus on what you can do to maintain your kitty’s mobility in the early and mid stages, which constitutes the vast majority of cats.


     Cats are resilient creatures, and do not complain; thus, you have to be very observant in order to determine how they feel by closely monitoring their daily activities or lack of activity. Problems with their joints or muscles start very gradually, particularly if age related, and their signs are going to be very subtle. The level of activity is not always a good barometer because older cats are not normally as active as the younger ones, and tend to sleep more. Sometimes, it is easier to watch for the signs that they may give you as they pursue their daily activities, such as going to the litter box, jumping on the bed, etc. For example, do you notice that kitty doesn’t always doesn’t make it on the bed on the first attempt any more, sometimes not doing their business in the litter box, or starts taking a different route to a favored high place? Therefore, what can you do to keep older kitties comfortable in their travels, who are having their share of age related aches and pains?


     The simplest solution may merely be the strategic placement of stepstools, ottomans, hassocks, etc. to assist your kitty in reaching the intended destination.


     However, there will be many cases when you just don’t have what is needed and will have to purchase it or construct one yourself. I am going to describe three different ideas, but these are just ideas to serve as seeds of thought to that you may blend your own ideas into the mix and come up with exactly what your kitty needs.


My 3 Ideas

  1.  The simplest contraption is a ramp, covered with carpet to match the room. It makes the most sense to construct one yourself due to its simplicity and the fact that you will be able to customize it for a perfect fit. All you need is some scrap 5/8 in. or 3/4 in. plywood, carpet, carpet tacks, and you are ready to go! A nice touch is the addition of “railings” to the sides that only have to be protrude up from each side only about an inch or two so that a kitty with vision problems can sense the sides of the ramp with the paws. The “railings” may be nothing more than a strip of wood, nailed or screwed securely to the sides. A ramp is most appropriate for destinations that are not very high, such as a bed, and where space is not a limiting factor.


  3. Another simple contraption is one that resembles a tiny chair. The frame is plywood, covered with carpet, as with the ramp. In the photograph, it is placed next to a bed, and this particular one has only one step, which enables kitty to get on top of the bed without jumping. It may be expanded to include an additional step or two to accommodate higher places.

  4. Always be sure when working with carpet tacks that ones used are long enough so that they will not work loose or are not long enough to protrude through the other side. Moreover, always insure that any surface of the wood that will be exposed to kitty is covered with carpet to aid in traction and eliminate the chance of kitty being caught with a splinter.


  6. Finally, let us not forget the all-important litter box! In order to keep the litter confined to the litter box, the sides of commercially available litter boxes are typically quite high, particularly for the larger sizes. My Angel Mitzzi, a fifteen-pound Maine Coon who suffered from diabetes and other ailments, was instrumental in designing an entrance to the litter box that was much friendlier to the older cat.

  7. The photograph reflects the detail of the method used to create a lower entrance without leaving any sharp edges. Being that the photo is quite small, a magnified portion of the front edge shows additional detail. As you can see in the photo, a portion of one side, including the top lip, should be carefully cut out from the box. I say carefully because you will be reusing this piece. Subsequently, from the piece just cut out, cut a strip of material from the bottom, so that when the piece remounts onto the litter box, it now sits lower. The strip remounts to the litter box using zinc plated or stainless steel hardware.



What I just described are just a few examples of what you can do to make life more comfortable for an older kitty or to help in dealing with an ailment, but don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild in order to improve upon them. Finally, they may cost you only in terms of your time, as all materials are frequently available in the average household. Your kitty will be sure to reward you for your efforts!

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Disclaimer: Kathy Fatheree is not at all a medical expert. Contents of this web site are a collection of Kathy’s assist feeding experiences as well as the experiences of other cat owners who have assist fed their cats. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, Kathy Fatheree or anyone associated with this web site cannot be held responsible for anything that may happen as a result of using the information on this site.