Publié le by NmNomador
Looking After Older Pets
My first experience house-sitting for elderly pets made me nervous; the two cats were 19 years old and barely moved, except at 4:30am when they were hungry. “They’re old,” the owner told my husband and me. “If they get sick, take them to the vet, but other than that there might not be much you can do.”
Fortunately, the cats remained healthy during our week with them, but it helped to know that the owner was understanding. I’ve since learned that looking after older pets doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it does come with some additional responsibilities and things to think about.
Follow the routine
It’s important to stick to a pet’s routine no matter their age, but especially when they’re older. Those elderly cats lived in Cairns, a notoriously hot part of Australia, so their owner kept the air conditioning on for them when she was away. We made sure to do the same. They also ate small portions 6-7 times a day (and absolutely refused to eat food that had been sitting in the bowl for more than 2 minutes), so we had to be around during the day to maintain their normal eating patterns. Of course this is an extreme example, but it is important to have an understanding of a pet’s routine up-front.
Know the pet’s limits and normal behavior
Talk to the owner to get a sense of the pet’s day-to-day behavior. Older dogs may still need a walk, but find out how long a normal walk usually lasts. The dog may seem keen to keep going, but it may lead to overexertion, which could be harmful. Some older pets may also have issues with vomiting or using the bathroom where they’re not supposed to. It’s helpful to know what is normal behavior and what is not. When taking care of a 15-year-old cat, his owner warned us that he often vomited after eating too quickly. When it inevitably happened, we knew not to panic.
Keep a record
With the vomiting cat, I kept a log of each time he was sick. I was in email communication with his owner, (it’s always helpful to know how often they would like to be contacted) and I let her know how often he had vomited. She was then able to confirm that it was normal and nothing to worry about. A log can help establish a pattern of behavior in case the pet’s health does decline.
Have an emergency plan in place
Talk to the owner about how they’d like you to handle any potential emergencies. Know where the vet’s clinic is and have an after-hours number on hand. Some homeowners prefer to leave cash for emergencies, while others have an account with the vet. Always keep the owner updated on any vet visits.
Older pets may require regular medication. When possible, have the owner show you exactly how it is administered—crushed in with food, given as a whole tablet, it could even be via a syringe—and write down the instructions. Owners usually leave enough medication for the duration of your stay, plus extra to be safe.
As pets get older, their health starts to decline. Pets might have arthritis, decaying teeth, loss of hearing, loss of sight, or a combination of symptoms. The house may be arranged with these challenges in mind, so keep it as is for the pet’s comfort. Ask the owner if there are any special communication tactics for getting the pet’s attention if it has lost hearing or sight; some animals understand and respond to certain signs.
Older pets may have less energy than younger ones, but they can still be great companions. Relax and remember that your job is the same no matter how old the pet is: do your best to look after the pets and communicate honestly with their owner if any questions or problems arise.
Lauren Fitzpatrick is a freelance writer who recently completed 18 months camping and house-sitting around Australia. Read more about her experiences working 30+ jobs around the world on her blog Lateral Movements.