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9 Bucket List Activities to Do With Your Aging Pet

by | Jul 27, 2023 | Cat Behavior & Care, Dog Training & Care | 0 comments

I adore the golden oldie pets. My Seren-Kitty lived to nearly 22 years old, my first shepherd made it to just over 13 years old, and Magical-Dawg lived large and loud until 11 years old. Seren just wouldn’t give up, despite her arthritic clawed paws click-click-clicking as she tottered along. When Karma arrived, he acted like the fountain of youth and gave her a boost.

cat bucket list

dog bucket list

Eight-month-old Karma-Kat showed up (Magic rescued him!), making his birthday in June 2013. Oh, how can my kitty-boy have become 10 years old? He no longer leaps from a standing start onto the countertops. He needs a booster step up. And he sleeps more, and plays less. But Karma still gives his dog brother Shadow fun games of chase and tag and usually wins. He has a wellness check scheduled this week and, I hope, will again get a great report. I’m praying for another decade at least with my kitty-boy.

Karma doesn’t show gray fur or whiskers–yet. He had packed on some pudge that we’ve diligently slimmed down. But I want to keep him as happy and healthy for as long as possible. He can’t count to 10, and wouldn’t care if he could. At the recent AVMA Conference, I attended bunches of sessions specific to aging dogs and aging cats. I want to update the content in my two books on the subject. And, the information offered great reminders of how to stay alert to changes, as well as ensure TODAY keeps our pets as comfy and happy as possible.

Pet Bucket Lists

Bucket lists can be a really fun and engaging way to enjoy your time together, create more memories and preserve them. But here’s the key – the bucket list for an aging dog or cat should improve both your and their quality of life.

Typically, bucket lists for people are filled with fun and or even scary things like skydiving, mountain climbing, giving a TED talk, taking up painting, or auditioning for the latest television talent show. And while some people might do these things with their pet, they can be too much for an aging pet.

When we knew Magic’s time to go was days away, we spent two days doing anything that he loved. We walked down to the tank (pond) and he got to wade in the water and drink as much of the water as he wanted. We found a sunny spot in the fall grass and lay down together and snuggled–because he couldn’t jump on the bed anymore and I couldn’t lift his 85-pound frame. I threw Frisbees for him–but only a few feet away–so he could catch them and play his most favorite game. And we had car rides together, with his face hanging out the window (at a slow speed for safety), giving him the chance to taste the wind. And Magic got to eat anything he wanted, and as much as he wanted–even chocolate–on his last day with us.

But I waited too long. While bucket lists may feel more urgent for pets with declining health, there’s no reason to wait until you know the day/hour of your loss. We lost Bravo just past his third birthday and had so many unfulfilled plans and dreams. Start your memory plans now, even with the new puppy. I want to enjoy a kitty bucket list with Karma-Kat now. Because we rarely know what sort of deadline we each face.

So maybe you’ve always wanted to run along the beach with your dog buddy, or take her on a kayak ride. If arthritis (hers or yours!) prevents the run, spending time at the beach still offers a wonderful way to make memories. Or if your Persian cat dislikes runs at the beach (really?!), plan some special snuggle time without the distractions of other pets, kids, or (fill in the blank).

leash train cats

Things To Consider for A Pet Bucket List

  • Mobility: Just like humans, as pets age arthritis may make movement more difficult. While Karma-Kat in the past loved to leap high in the air after a feather lure, now he’d rather WATCH it flitter across the floor and grapple it now and then. Many cats suffer from arthritis–sort of a whole body ache that reduces mobility. Old arthritic dogs moan and groan, limp, or have trouble rising. Cats hide, and stop moving. I now give Karma-Kat a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement that helps, called Cosequin, that he eats like treats. Bonus! Adjust your expectations to what your pet can do.
  • Temperament: The activity should offer enjoyment not just to you, but also to your pet. Karma-Kat (and many cats) prefer staying in a familiar, known territory. Some dogs also act a bit cranky towards strangers. But if your pet loves a petting party, a trip to the pet product store to get admiration and meet-and-greet fun could turn up the purrs and wags.
  • Overall health: Consider what health conditions might limit different activities. Overweight pets have less stamina, and dogs and cats with pushed-in muzzles like Peeks or Persians might have less enjoyment in hot weather. Be sure your animal can manage the chosen activity. Some dogs like Border Collies keep on playing even when they shouldn’t, so talk with your vet if you have a concern about limitations.
  • Be flexible: Older pets, especially those with chronic health problems, have good days and bad days. Let that determine whether to press on or delay the planned outing for when your pet feels up to it and can really enjoy the experience. The bucket list offers ways to enhance their quality of life and to share special moments together as they age. Let your pet guide you on what they can and cannot do!

  1. A Pet Portrait Session. A professional photo session is not only a lovely experience, it also will help you feel close to your pet once they pass. I took loads of pictures of Bravo, and had a local artist pain his portrait. We have all of our furry wonders captured in beautiful artwork on the walls of our home. There’s no reason to wait–have a photo session or painting created now!
  2. A Feast. A paw-licking feast is a great way to show your pet love. We eat healthy at our house, so the pets now and then get a taste as well. But if your special dog or cat has limited time, why not indulge them since a dietary binge won’t make a difference other than adding purrs and wags? Maybe you already do this for your pet’s birthday, with a special once a year meal treat?
  3. Write a Book. Did your pet inspire big things in your life? Maybe putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) would best honor your time together and help their legacy live forever. I could write about my furry muses…wait, I already do. *s*
  4. Camp Out for A Cuddle Fest in The Living Room. Move a mattress downstairs or wherever is comfy for them and chill out. When Magic could no longer leap onto the bed, we made arrangements to sleep near him.
  5. Throw a Party. If your pet can tolerate it, invite their human and animal friends over for a get-together. Dogs especially may enjoy gatherings with other friendly dogs and people. Or rather than having everyone at once, post times for one or two can visit over a period of days, so you don’t wear out the older pet.
  6. Sleep on the Bed with You. Overnight or for a nap, if your pet doesn’t normally get to sleep on the bed with you, a few special naps could mean the world to them (and you!). Offer a step up like a box or chair for the cat, or a boost up for the dog. Be sure they have an easy way to get off if needed, and don’t hurt themselves hopping down. Make sure they really WANT to spend time on the bed–this should be fun, not scary, for your pet.
  7. Life is Sweet. Dessert Makes It Sweeter. Have dessert together…just because. Try a pupsicle or catsicle, ice cream or other baked goodies. Yes, I know chocolate isn’t good for pets—but if it’s a last treat, why not?
  8. Doggy or Kitty DNA Test. We all wonder where we came from. Finding out more about your pet’s breed(s) and possible relatives can help you complete your family tree! Besides curiosity, many of the DNA tests also help predict potential health issues for you to watch for and catch early.
  9. Plant Something. A tree, a bush, or simply create a memory garden that changes with the season. We have statues in ours representing the pets who still live on in our hearts. And, if they’re pet-safe plants like catnip, you can take your cat on an outing (if he wants to do that) to visit. Part of Karma-Kat’s bucket list now includes walks in the garden, on his halter and leash. If you have a safe outdoor enclosure like a catio, give your cat the gift of grass beneath his paws and butterflies to watch while he can still appreciate them.

What else should be on the list? Let me know!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!





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