Senior Cats

On average, cats have a longer lifespan than dogs. With good medical care, an active lifestyle, cooperative genes and a pinch of luck, a cat can live up to twenty years or more. This means that you are likely to own your cat during many of his/her older years and an understanding of the changes that occur with age helps us care for these senior felines.

Certain changes will occur in your cat’s body as the years go by. Important bodily functions, normally taken for granted, may start to slow down or malfunction. Just like humans, the senses eventually start to deteriorate, leading to impaired vision, hearing, taste and smell. Older cats are also prone to a number of medical conditions, the signs of which can be subtle and that we, as owners, should be on the lookout for as many are treatable. Weight loss is common in older cats, and often is put down to just ‘old age’ by owners  but can be a sign of an underlying disease.

Diseases that are frequently diagnosed in this age group of cats include:

  • Kidney disease, of which the first sign maybe drinking and urinating more as well as weight loss and vomiting
  • Hyperthyroidism, an over-active thyroid gland causes the cat to lose weight, eat and drink more
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure), which can occur with underlying kidney disease or hyperthyroidism, and can result in blindness and yowling at night
  • Diabetes mellitus, which again results in an increase in drinking and weight loss
  • Osteoarthritis, an under diagnosed and painful condition resulting in a reduction in activity, reluctance to jump onto surfaces and litter tray accidents
  • Cognitive behavioural dysfunction, a syndrome in cats similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, which can cause signs consistent with senility including disorientation and inappropriate vocalisation
  • Cancers, the type of which will dictate the signs but any unexplained weight loss, or growths should be investigated
  • Dental disease – older cats often suffer painful conditions of the teeth and gums. They may show little outward sign of this, but occasionally you will notice them chewing on one side of their mouth and taking a long time to eat

If you notice any of the above signs, or any other signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhoea or loss of appetite, or even subtle signs such as a reluctance to be stroked, or unwillingness to play/interact with you, contact your vet.

With the proper degree of love and attention, you can help your cat to grow old in a serene and dignified manner. By being observant, thinking of how your cat might feel, and working with your vet, you can make your cat’s retirement a pleasure for both of you.