Just as with humans cats suffer all kinds of problems associated with old age. Elderly cat health problems show themselves in many ways, and can be treated or even prevented.
In this article we’ll be looking at some of the more common health problems your cat may develop as she enters her senior years. These include arthritis, diabetes, deafness and dementia.
As soon as your cat reaches seven years old she’s already considered a senior! Many cats nowadays can expect to live in to their twenties with good care.
Keep reading as I outline some of the health problems you may experience with your cat. Never consider yourself a bad pet parent if your cat develops any of them as it’s all part of the aging process!
Kidney disease in elderly cats-and why it’s so common
Chronic kidney disease or CKD is one of the most common diseases in older cats. Felines seem to be more prone to kidney problems than other species, but progression is gradual.
You may not notice anything is wrong until your cat starts drinking more water than normal or loses weight. Don’t panic as this can often be managed very effectively with a combination of medicine and a prescription diet.
As with us, your cat’s kidneys play an important role in geting rid of toxins, and maintain good health. You can read more about kidney disease symptoms in cats here..
Signs of heart disease in older cats
In the same way that middle-aged and elderly humans are prone to heart disease so are our pets. If your cat is overweight or obese you’re increasing the risk of it developing.
Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to notice anything’s wrong until the disease becomes advanced. Panting, laboured breathing or fainting are some of the signs your cat may display if she has heart problems.
Watch the video below as a vet explains….
Arthritis in older cats- keeping your cat comfortable
It comes to us all in our older years, stiff joints and a decrease in activity. Well, your cat is no different!! They are known for their flexibility and suppleness in younger years, but this can decline as they enter old age.
It can be a sad sight to see your beloved kitty struggling to jump on the windowsill, or showing signs of lameness. Your cat may have problems jumping on your lap, and flinch at being petted.
Often, these changes are so subtle you may not be aware of them for some time. Cats are clever at hiding pain or discomfort.
Survival instinct is very powerful and your cat will do her best to hide pain from you. Vets are used to dealing with arthritis in dogs as it’s very common.
However, as cats are living longer this may be in part as to why it’s being diagnosed more often. There are many ways to keep your cat comfortable and ensure quality of life.
Comfortable cosy bed for your senior pet
Provide a nice cosy bed near a warm radiator. You can get hammock style cat beds that fit onto a radiator making it ideal for cold winter months.
If your cat likes sleeping on your bed, provide a step for her to make it easier to jump. An upturned empty box, or stool may work well.
Ensure your cat has easy access to the litter box. Preferably, one with low sides to make it easier to climb in and out.
Even if your cat no longer goes outside you must still encourage exercise. You can get interactive cat toys such as laser pointers. These can be fun for both you and your cat!
Fishing games are also a great way to make your cat exercise. Feather wands are a good example. Playing with your cat strengthens the bond and just fifteen minutes twice a day is enough.
Diabetes in older cats -is your cat at risk?
Is your cat at risk of developing diabetes in her senior years? One of the main risks of developing diabetes in both cats and humans is obesity.
I can’t stress this enough, but keeping an eye on your cat’s weight can prevent many diseases in old age, including diabetes. Though it’s a serious condition it can be managed with medication and dietary changes.
It’s been found that male cats are at a slightly greater risk of developing the disease. Also, certain breeds of cat including Siamese and Maine Coon have a higher risk of diabetes.
Signs to look out for include frequent urination, an excessive thirst, and constant worrying for food. You may also notice your cat has lost weight as fat reserves are broken down.
Exercise plays a big role in preventing diabetes, so make sure your cat keeps active. If she spends a lot of time indoors invest in a cat tree. You want to encourage climbing and stretching.
Scratching poles are a great idea and save your furniture as well! Feline diabetes treatment usually include a low carbohydrate diet combined with injectable insulin.
In some cases a change in diet alone can reverse the condition without the need for insulin. Every case is different and your vet will discuss the best form of treatment with you..
Thyroid problems in older cats-is it the end?
If your cat has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism it can seem like a death sentence. However, with modern medication and diet your cat can expect to live up to another 5 years.
How can you tell if your cat is developing thyroid problems? Some common signs are similar to those found in diabetes or kidney disease.
These include an increase in appetite, weight loss, matted or unkempt fur, and hyperactivity. The key to a good outcome is to get your cat tested and diagnosed as soon as possible.
As with all elderly cat health problems the sooner you get treatment the better. You can’t reverse aging but you can prolong your cat’s life by taking action and seeing your vet as soon as you notice any symptoms.
How common is stroke in older cats?
Stroke in cats is far less common than those suffered by humans and dogs. If your kitty has the unfortunate experience of suffering a stroke she may display the following signs.
- Losing balance
- Loss of vision.
- Temporary paralysis of facial muscles
It’s important to get your cat to the vet as soon as possible for the best outcome. Your vet will carry out a series of tests including a CT scan and MRI. Unlike humans though, if a cat suffers a stroke it will probably achieve full recovery within a few weeks.
Dementia in older cats- what to look for
In the same way as elderly people can suffer mental decline the same goes for cats. Feline dementia can begin to show after your cat reaches twelve
It’s around this age that cognitive skills start to deteriorate. Aging brain tissue is inevitable and can’t be stopped.
Your cat may be fine though and show no sign of dementia right into her late teens and twenties. I’ve had cats that lived into very old age with no outward signs of dementia, but my last cat suffered neurological issues at age twenty one.
Symptoms of dementia can be similar to those of other conditions and may include;
- Avoidance of social interaction
- Odd behaviour not shown before
- Inability to learn new behaviours
- Staring blankly at walls
- Loss of interest in grooming
- Eliminating outside the litter box
Your vet will carry out tests to determine if it is dementia and suggest a treatment plan. Though there is no cure a combination of diet high in antioxidants and mental stimulation can help.
There are also supplements for cats designed to promote brain health. The important thing is to encourage play and keep your cat mentally stimulated.
Deafness in older cats and which breeds are more prone
Cats are known for their acute sense of hearing and mine can hear me shake a box of biscuits when he’s in the garden! However, a deterioration in hearing can ocur as your cat ages.
Pure white cats with blue eyes are especially susceptible to deafness. Norwegian forest cats and Ragdolls are also at risk.
Your cat may show gradual signs of deafness as she enters her senior years. You may not notice until you begin to realise she doesn’t hear you open a tin of food in the kitchen!
Not responding to you calling her name or meowing loudly are other signs to watch for. Have you ever noticed how a deaf person always seems to shout when they talk?
Obvious dangers are from cars. If your cat has easy access to a main road it may be best to keep her indoors if she becomes deaf. Busy roads can be a danger at the best of times, but a hearing impairment makes it far worse.
Keeping your older cat healthy
You can’t stop aging but you can help prevent many elderly cat health problems. I’ve covered a few here today but there are many more.
Feeding your cat a nutritionally balanced diet and encouraging exercise are hugely important. Annual checkups and vaccinations help keep your aging cat in good health.
Diagnosing early signs of illness such as diabetes, thyroid, dementia, and kidney problems can give a better outome and prolong your cat’s life. Our pets give so much and it’s our responsibility to provide the love and care they so deserve.
Wishing you a purrfect day:)