Older Cat Health

Cats, like humans, experience many changes as they age. Cat owners should take time to understand what common problems can affect a cat as it ages, as well as what signs could indicate health conditions or issues.

Common Problems for Aging Cats

The aging process in senior cats can manifest itself in both physical and behavioral ways. Some of the most common changes seen in older cats are natural parts of aging and have nothing to do with a medical condition.

Most medical problems that affect the health of senior cats are not correctable, although they can be treated to keep the cat as comfortable as possible. Some common problems include:

  • Arthritis: Older cats often develop arthritis in their joints, which can limit their mobility. Some signs of an arthritic cat are:
    • decreased physical activity
    • difficulty accessing the litter box
    • difficulty jumping.

A veterinarian will most often prescribe glucosamine to help relieve pain in the cat”s joints. Cats do have strong reactions to most common pain relievers, so owners should avoid giving their cat drugs such as aspirin to relieve their pain.

  • Blindness: Loss of vision is a common problem in aging cats. This can affect their ability to navigate their living space and notice changes in their environment. Although blindness is not curable, patience and a watchful eye can help owners make sure their cat deals with this change without too much difficulty.
  • Deafness: Like humans, a cat”s hearing will deteriorate as he ages. The most common signs of reduced hearing are lack of responsiveness when spoken to and a decreased sense of the presence of unseen others. Hearing loss may not be total, so using a stronger voice and incorporating hand signals can help a senior cat adapt to this change.
  • Dental issues or gum disease: As cats age, their teeth can degenerate or cause pain. This is most evident if a cat has difficulty eating and bad breath or symptoms of drooling and weight loss. Consultation with a veterinary dentist is necessary to determine what, if anything, can be done to help the cat.
  • Reduced thirst and appetite: If an older cat is eating or drinking less than usual, this can be a sign of various problems. Conditions such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes and cancer can contribute to this behavioral change. Owners should consult with a veterinarian if they observe this behavior to properly diagnose the root cause.
  • Skin conditions: Senior cats have less elastic skin than younger cats and are not able to clean themselves as effectively as they did when they were young. These factors can contribute to an increase in skin infections, as well as matting and unpleasant scent. Owners should take time to regularly check their cat”s skin for any abnormalities and consult a veterinarian if any are present. Regular brushing can help prevent matting and keep the fur clean.

Ways to Help an Aging Cat

Proper care of senior cats begins with proper care of younger cats. Regular checkups and treatment can help prevent future problems.

Owners of older cats should take care to monitor their cats more closely than they did when they were young. Many of the conditions presented above can be effectively or managed treated with early detection.

Resources

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (n.d.). The Special Needs of Senior Cats. Retrieved on October 3, 2007, from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Web site: http://www.vet.cornell.edu/fhc/brochures/seniorcat.html.

PetEducation.com (n.d.). Older Cats: Health and Care. Retrieved on October 3, 2007, from the PetEducation.com Web site: http://www.peteducation.com/category_summary.cfm?cls=1&cat=1387.

Pet University (n.d.). Senior Cats. Retrieved on October 3, 2007, from the Pet University Web site: http://www.petuniversity.com/cats/health—nutrition/common-health-issues/senior-cats/.