The telltale signs of a cat’s aging are sometimes not noticed right away. Our lives can seem to go on automatic pilot, and when we look back at a period of time, we wonder how it passed so quickly.
This can be the case when we realize that a beloved cat is getting older. Our pets getting older is a thought that we may push to the back of our minds, but eventually it does catch up with us.
There are different stages of aging, and for quite a few years, cats meander along in the mature stage. At some point, they start to exhibit some signs of cat aging.
Cats become officially old at around 11 and geriatric at around 15. Remember that when you are dealing with your elderly kitty extra patience will be needed in addition to being attuned to any changes, that might need a trip to the vet.
Typically, signs of old age are first noticed because the older cat isn’t quite as agile as he used to be and may show signs of difficulty jumping to some of his favorite high places.
Typical Signs Of A Cat Aging
Disclaimer: The following information is to assist the reader with common problems that may occur in aging cats however is not intended in any way to replace advice from a veterinarian but rather supply general information. A veterinarian diagnosis is essential for medical issues.
|Typical Signs Of A Cat Aging||Behavioral Signs Of A Cat Aging|
|Cancer||FCD Or Feline Cognitive Decline|
|Diabetes||Sleep And Play|
|Dental||Litter Box Problems|
|Arthritis And Joint Pain|
Older cats commonly have problems with their vision. If you notice vision problems, for example, if the cat bumps into furniture or trips, or if the eyes have a cloudy appearance or a runny discharge, seek professional help.
If treated in the early stages, there will be a greater chance that the condition can be treated. This article from the Cornell Feline Health Center outlines different vision problems that can affect middle-aged and older cats.
It is stressed that early intervention is crucial. The best way that cat owners can help to prevent some of these problems progressing is from having eye checks when visiting the vet.
Older cats, like humans, will rely on using a different sense, such as smell, if they have vision loss.
Often, vision loss can happen slowly over a period of time, for example, with the formation of cataracts or glaucoma.
For a cat owner, often the first sign of cancer is noticing a lump or bump that wasn’t always there.
Lumps and bumps can have many different causes; however, your vet will assess the possible causes and determine the best course of action.
Like treating cancer in humans, there have been huge strides in pet oncology, and some cats have a good prognosis if the cancer is caught early enough or is treatable.
Don’t ignore newly discovered bumps. It may mean nothing and just be an old war wound, but it is far better to know for sure.
Of the two types of thyroid conditions, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, it is hyperthyroidism that is more common in cats.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in older cats can include:
* loss of weight
* rapid heartbeat
and an increase in hunger.
Older cats commonly lose weight with age. It can be difficult to distinguish loss of weight with normal signs of a cat aging.
An old cat with bad teeth or even no teeth can still manage to eat a nutritious diet.
Cats’ teeth do not work in the same way as ours.
Diabetes mellitus in cats occurs when the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin. Some of the signs of this lack of insulin can be increased thirst, weight loss, excess urine production, and an insatiable appetite.
Being overweight is another factor and if your cat is diagnosed with diabetes his weight will need to be controlled within healthy levels.
If your cat is primarily indoors, these signs of a cat’s aging may be more obvious than if it is often outside for eating, drinking, and urination. These vital signs can then be missed if the cat is sometimes outdoors, as it is not necessarily being observed as often.
Our elderly cat developed diabetes at the age of 14 and required insulin injections twice a day before meals. Once diagnosed, he had periodic visits to the vet to have his blood glucose levels checked. We managed his condition well. He passed away some three and a half years later.
There is more about his diabetes journey here and how we coped with management of the disease.
For a thorough description of feline diabetes and how to administer insulin this is a very good article from Cornell University, College of Veterinary Science.
Here are some tips to make life for your elderly cat more comfortable.
Tartar does build up on a cat’s teeth, and the teeth need to be professionally cleaned from time to time.
The first sign of teeth problems for cat owners is often bad breath; at this point, disease has most likely been present for some time.
Older cats can manage with no teeth and still eat a healthy diet.
If possible you want to avoid teeth problems which if left untreated may then lead to gum problems.
Gum problems can also lead to tooth loss.
Obvious signs of a cat’s aging almost always include grooming changes.
The grooming habits of cats decrease with age, and their fur may become matted or untidy.
On the flip side, your older cat may display signs of over-grooming and even lick patches of skin bare.
The nails get longer and thicker and may be hard to trim. This is something you might prefer the vet to handle.
Arthritis And Joint Pain
Arthritis in older cats means that they can’t move as freely as when they are younger.
You may notice subtle differences in movement, such as stiffness when bending to reach a food or water bowl, difficulty getting to a comfortable lying position, less play, and difficulty climbing stairs.
If your older cat is overweight, this will place an unnecessary burden on already aching joints.
Your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication or a joint supplement. It is vital that these medications are prescribed by a veterinarian and not purchased over-the-counter unless you have been advised by the vet.
The vet may recommend a special diet designed to reduce inflammation and keep your senior cat at a healthy, comfortable weight.
Provide plenty of rest for your elderly cat by creating cozy sleeping spots in warm places with low foot traffic.
Visit The Veterinarian
You may find yourself visiting the vet more frequently. Apart from immunizations and the occasional complaint, our cat did not visit the vet for many years.
This changed as he entered old age, which is to be expected.
If you are unsure about any of the signs of a cat aging you are noticing, such as
- the cat eating more
- or being constantly hungry,
- drinking more,
- showing stiffness in movement,
- having accidents or not using the litter box and so on, it is time to visit the vet.
Behavioral Signs Of A Cat Aging
Displaying signs of aggressive behavior may indicate that the cat is stressed or anxious.
This could be because the routine in the household has changed.
Perhaps a family member has left home or there is a new baby, or maybe pain and illness are causing these changes. One of the signs of a cat’s aging is that he may begin to meow more and with more aggression for no particular reason.
If your elderly cat starts displaying behaviors that may seem out of character, be patient If you feel that something is not right, get professional help.
Signs of a cat’s aging include joint stiffness.
Help your senior cat get up onto the couch, the bed, or the window ledge.
FCD Or Feline Cognitive Decline
You may have read about FCD, or feline cognitive decline, on the internet in relation to signs of a cat’s aging. This is an instance where your vet will give the diagnosis. Behavior changes can be linked to physical changes, and your vet may prescribe or suggest treatment to help with these changes.
If your cat has always been rather aloof and disliked being held or carried when he was younger, he may now, in his old age, be happy to be picked up and even carried around. Some cats definitely display this trait. This is also a nice time to have a little chat with Kitty.
If you decide to get another cat, pay close attention to your senior cat and make sure that everyone is kept happy.
Your aging cat may also enjoy being petted or brushed with a grooming glove. Go easy to see how the cat responds. Most cats (and dogs too) adore these massage gloves. It is also relaxing for the person using the glove and is a nice way to spend some quiet time with your cat.
Sleep And Play
Your senior cat will sleep more as he ages and won’t have the energy he once had.
He won’t play as much or for as long as he used to, but he still loves human interaction.
How do you find the best bed for your aging cat?
Here are the essential things you need to know before you start looking!
Playing with a wand toy is always stimulating for a cat, even if the playtime is now short and sweet.
The beauty of a simple wand toy is that you are in control of the speed with which you wave the wand, so it is super easy to adapt for older cats and their energy levels. Cats also love string and tails attached to the wand for extra fun.
Another great toy for older cats is an interactive laser toy. Chasing the laser light encourages your cat to use its natural hunting instinct. It might take some patience at first, but it’s an exciting way to get your older cat moving again.
Your cat may wander off when he has had enough, but he will return. It’s a bit like going back to the buffet when you know you have really had enough to eat.
Now, we don’t want to set kitty up with psychological issues, but laser pointer toys are entertaining for cats.
Litter Box Problems
Signs of a cat’s aging often include the development of litter box problems.
This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, for example, an underlying medical problem such as a urinary tract infection, stress or anxiety, constipation, kidney stones, or even an eyesight problem.
The vet can treat the medical issues and you can help with the behavioral issues.
Try to leave the litter box where it has always been, making sure the cat can enter and exit the box easily.
Don’t make too many changes for your elderly cat. He knows where the litter box is and where it has always been.
If you move it, he may become disoriented and not know where to go. Provide litter boxes in multiple locations if necessary, as cats like their privacy!
If the cat has difficulty entering and exiting the litter box, a consequence may be not using the litter box at all.
Once these habits are established in older cats, it can be difficult to reverse the behavior (bit like people really).
Low Sided Litter Box For Elderly Cats
A low sided litter box is essential for elderly cats. This article shows the different types available and reviews their suitability for senior cats.
One box is a dog box; don’t be put off by that. It is a great box for senior cats.
The litter box doesn’t need to be low on all sides; it is the entrance that is most important.
How To Look After A Litter Box
Check the cleanliness of the litter box. This article gives step by step instructions to keep the litter box in superb shape.
Cats do not like a grubby litter box and may just say “no thanks,” and who knows where they will choose to do their business.
This is easily fixable, even if it may require a little more monitoring of the state of the litterbox from you.
Consider using PrettyLitter which uses technology to identify potential medical issues.
The pH level of the cat’s urine turns the litter different colors.
The different colors point to a possible problem, which can then be further investigated by the vet.
PrettyLitter is having success alerting owners to potential problems.
This is a game-changing litter. Check it out!
Visiting The Vet
Visit the vet and explain the behaviors you have seen that differ from normal. Ask for a general health checkup.
The vet will also want to know if you have taken any steps to treat any problems.
The changes may be concerning the general behavior of your cat, for example the cat meows loudly more than usual. Also keep a record or a mental note of the steps you have taken to help alleviate the problem.
Working hand in hand with your vet, you will know that you are doing all the right things.
Video Your Aging Cat
Our senior cat passed away, and now that some time has passed, I have cherished looking at the many photos the whole family took of the cat over the years.
It is quite amazing to see how many cat photos we actually took. Many look almost identical to each other.
However nice the photos are, it is the short videos that are really heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
Take a few minutes to make some short videos on your phone to go along with the doubtless countless photos you already have. You will be very glad you have those mementos, even if they are somewhat painful to watch. A video puts you right back there with your kitty, and although that is hard to take, it is lovely too.