Older Cats

Post Published on February 18, 2010 | Last Updated on February 18, 2010 by Jenny

Chances are, if you have kittens, some day you are going to have older cats.

Just as with people, as cats get older, extra attention is needed when it comes to their medical needs. A cat that is 7-9 years of age is considered to be on the threshold of old age. By the time cats are 10 years of age, they are considered geriatric! If that’s the case, then Rags is ANCIENT!

There are steps you can take as an owner to help your older cats be as healthy as possible in their advanced years. Older cats are going to be more likely to develop an illness than younger cats.

Three disorders that occur very frequently are dental disease, chronic kidney dysfunction, and an overactive thyroid. Almost every older cat is going to have one or more of these problems. Problems that occur less frequently but are still of considerable concern are heart disease, cancer (see Rags’s page on lymphoma), and other degenerative diseases.

Be on the look out for signs of disease because cats are probably one of the best animals at hiding their disease until it is almost too late. Watch for drinking of more water (usually an indication of chronic kidney dysfunction), a litter box that has more urine in it than normal (also an indication of chronic kidney failure), an increased incidence of vomiting, behavior changes, unexplained weight loss (a sign of hyperthyroidism), a ravenous appetite (also a sign of hyperthyroidism) or difficulty eating (dental disease is likely). If you see any of these signs or anything else that is unusual about what you cat is doing, please call your vet to have it checked out. Some of these problems like dental disease and thyroid disease can be easily treated. In other cases, medication or diet changes can greatly enhance the quality of life.

Certain testing can be performed to help determine if your cat is having a problem with some of the disease described above. You want to take the steps necessary to help your cat feel as good as it possibly can. And you can manage a problem much better when it is discovered early. Recommended tests are blood chemistry, a complete blood count, a thyroid function and a urinalysis. There are additional procedures like teeth cleaning or tooth extraction, x-rays, ultrasounds of the heart or surgery to get tissue samples to test for cancer.

Physiologic changes occur more quickly in all older animals, so it is recommended at least 2 visits a year are necessary to monitor weight, get a physical exam and discuss potential problems. The average life expectancy of a cat is now 18 years due to owners being more willing to take the necessary steps to care for their older cats and veterinarians being more experienced.

Symptoms of a Sick Cat

If your cat shows any of the following symptoms, do not hesitate to phone your vet.

  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea and/or vomiting
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Red, watery eyes, sneezing, nasal discharge
  • Listlessness
  • Straining with urination or bowel movements; frequent attempts to urinate, bloody urine or changes in litter box habits
  • Dull hair coat

Cat Proofing Your Home

The following items can be potentially fatal to your cat:

  • Anti-freeze
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Rat killer/bait and other poisons
  • Poisonous plants – All Lilies, Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane), Amaryllis, English Ivy, Philodendron
  • Aspirin – unless sunder the direct supervision of a veterinarian
  • Tylenol
  • Strings, coins, rubber bands, balloons
  • Electrical cords


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