Old Cat Falls While Sleeping. What can I do?
December 30, 2008 3:46 PM   Subscribe

My elderly cat is losing her balance - what can I do to make her life easier?

My cat is somewhere between 16 and 18 years old and generally spry and in good health ... but: She has been falling off the top of my (old school bulky) monitor with alarming frequency - five times today - all while napping. What can I do to improve her balance, or more realistically, reduce the falls from the computer monitor, the warmest place in my office/studio.

Her balance has been reduced while awake, too - she's leaping slightly less far, and occasionally misjudges how high she has to jump to get to a high surface, and she has fallen from the narrow rim into our water/lily/fish-filled kettlepot 3 times in the last three months (while slurping, not fishing).
posted by julen to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about a new bed for her, a more stable and secure place but an even more desirably warm place to nap?

There are a number of heated cat beds on the market. That would help with her pain if the clumsiness is due to arthritis (as my uncle's cat suffers from) and also place her in a warm place on the floor.
posted by arnicae at 3:58 PM on December 30, 2008

Can you find a sturdy way to attach a regular cardboard shoebox to the top of the monitor? The sides of the shoebox should keep the cat from falling off. Maybe use stick-on velcro from the dollar store, in large quantities? If you can roughly level the surface of the monitor-top first with wood or something, the velcro will hold very sturdily (whereas on a slant, the cat's weight will tend to make the velcro sloowly detach). The shoebox can be smaller than you think, too- my huge, raccoon-sized cat snuggles himself into comically small shoeboxes and purrs there happily for hours. Kind of like being swaddled.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:29 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the heated cat bed. My recently deceased cat (age 18) and current less-elderly cat (13) both love/loved theirs. One particular favorite is a cat mat that uses the cat's own body heat to warm it up, so you don't have to plug it in anywhere.

I also have carpeted kitty stairs for my cat. "My" bed is really "her" bed if you know what I mean. The stairs ease her way as she's not as limber or agile as she once was.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:02 PM on December 30, 2008

I was going to also suggest a heated cat bed at some safer height. Make someplace else the warmest place in your office!
posted by not that girl at 5:23 PM on December 30, 2008

Here's an approach to advice above: build (or find) a box or shelf to put above your monitor, or just choose a spot that's nearby so she can be with you. Make that place more attractive and just as warm as the monitor top. Voila.

I found a cat bed at Target that my cat -- and any cat -- automatically adored. Tip: don't choose one that's too small, since I think older cats don't want to curl up quite as tightly. Get a nice-sized dog bed. Plenty of cushioning.
posted by amtho at 8:47 PM on December 30, 2008

Also, as she's getting older, you may want to think about an open cat box that sits inside a wood frame with a ramp. (Imagine like how some hottubs sit inside a wood deck.) This will keep accidents and tracking messes down because she won't have to balance on the edge of the box, or stumble around inside the box, with her paws touching everything. And the ramp will help her get up in it, or on the edge.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:32 PM on December 30, 2008

Best answer: Some great suggestions there for wider, heated cat beds, stairs and ramps. But do consider that as a senior cat she may be showing some early signs of senior deterioration that can be easily treated to make her life more comfortable.

This following isn't intended to frighten you about your cat's lack of balance, but to indicate some of the health issues that can present with loss of balance as an early symptom. High blood pressure is one example of a condition that is fairly common in senior cats and can cause issues with vision/balance. At 16/18 she may also have some arthritis in her old bones, stiffness can contribute to jumping short. Muscle wastage from age might also be a factor in her jumping. Thyroid issues can cause balance to be affected. Potassium deficiency affects balance and is fairly common in older cats. Diabetes is in the list for older cats too. Only a vet will be able to advise you if your cat has any of these conditions present.

Consider taking her to the vet for a Senior Check-up and 12 figure blood panel with a thyroid panel as well.

Many problems in older cats can be alleviated/managed with early diagnosis and treatment, making their remaining life much more comfortable.

Best of luck!
posted by Arqa at 11:41 PM on December 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! She rejected the first cat bed I got her (she didn't like the walls or the sense of being boxed in), but she loves the cat mat that uses her own body heat reflected back at her to warm it up. It's soft and warm and flat and big (she can stand, move 3 inches, and then curl up again), and I've put it between my two monitors on my desk (with boxes on top of the monitors to displace her for the short term). I put it down, and she woke up, lept down onto it, curled up and went to sleep immediately. YAY.
posted by julen at 1:46 PM on January 5, 2009

« Older Are we making a huge mistake?   |   Minneapolis bus transfer two-for-one? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.