The Telltale Signs Of A Cat Aging Are not Always Obvious

Signs of aging in our cats are sometimes not noticed as our lives seem to go on automatic pilot or so it may seem when we look back at a period of time and 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 mind 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 and then at some point they will begin to exhibit some signs of cat aging. 

Cats become officially old at around 11 and geriatric around 15 so 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.

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old cat

Typical Signs Of 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.

1. Eyesight

Older cats commonly have problems with their vision. If you notice vision problems, for example, the cat bumps into furniture, trips or 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 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 visitng 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 be happening slowly over a period of time, for example the formation cataracts or glaucoma. 

2. Cancer

For a cat owner often an initial 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 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 so don't ignore newly found bumps. It may mean nothing and just be an old war wound but it is far better to know for sure.

3. Thyroid

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.  As older cats commonly lose weight with age it can be difficult to distinguish loss of weight with normal aging of the cat.

4. Diabetes

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, loss of weight, excess urine production along with 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 an indoors cat these signs may be more obvious than if your cat is often outside for eating, drinking and urination, as these vital signs can then be missed.

aging cat having an injection for diabetes


Our elderly cat developed diabetes at the age of 14 and required insulin injections twice daily before meals. Once diagnosed he had periodic visits to the vet to have his blood glucose levels checked. We managed his condition well and he did pass away some three and a half years later.  

There is more about his diabetes journey here.

For a thorough description of feline diabetes and how to administer insulin this is avery good article from Cornell University, College of Veterinary Science.


5. Dental

Tartar does build up on a cat’s teeth and the teeth need to be professionally cleaned from time to time. Often the first sign to cat owners of teeth problems is that the cat has bad breath however at this stage disease has probably 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.

6. Grooming

Obvious signs of aging almost always include grooming changes. The grooming habits of cats decreases 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 any may be hard to trim. This may be something that you would prefer the vet to take care of.

7. Arthritis and Joint Pain

Arthritis in 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 and difficulty getting to a comfortable lying position, less play and difficulty climbing stairs.

Ensure your older cat is not overweight as 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 vet.

8. Visit The Veterinarian

You may find yourself visiting the vet more frequently. For many years our cat did not go to the vet apart from immunizations and the occasional complaint. This changed as he entered old age, which is to be expected. 

If you are unsure of any signs of cat aging you are seeing 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 Aging in Cats

10. Aggression

Displaying signs of aggressive behavior may indicate that the cat is stressed or anxious and 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. He may begin to meow more and with aggression for no particular reason.

Be patient if your elderly cat starts displaying behaviors that may seem out of character.  If you feel that something is not right then get professional help.

11. FCD or Feline Cognitive Decline

You may have read of FCD or Feline Cognitive Decline on the internet in relation to your cat’s age. 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.

12. Personality Change

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. This is also a nice time to have a little chat to kitty.

Your aging cat may also enjoy being petted using a massage glove.  Go easy to see how the cat responds. Most cats (and dogs too) adore these massage gloves. It is also a relaxing for the person using the glove and is a nice way to spend some quiet time with your cat.

13. Sleep and Play

Your senior cat will sleep more as he ages and won't have the energy he had once.
He won’t play as much or for as long as he used to but still enjoys human interaction. 

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 level.

Another great toy for older cats is the interactive laser toy. 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.

14. Litter Box Problems

Your aging cat may develop 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 or kidney stones.  The vet can treat the medical issues and you can help with the behavioral issues. It can even be related to eyesight problems.


Try to leave the litter box where it has always been, making sure the cat can enter and exit the box easily. A low sided litter box is essential for elderly cats. Check the cleanliness of the box or the type of litter being used.  These are all things that you can do to help your older cat. 



When you visit the vet, explain the behaviors you have seen. This may mean that you pay more attention to what kitty is doing at certain times of the day. The vet will also want to know if you have taken any steps to treat any problems. This may be behavioral or perhaps a change in diet you have mde and specifically the steps you have taken to help alleviate the problem.

Video Your Aging Cat

Our senior cat passed away not so long ago and I have cherished looking at the many photos, now that some time has passed, the whole family took of the cat over the years. It is quite amazing to see how may cat photos we actually took. Many look almost idntical to each other.

However as nice as the photos are, it is however the short videos that are really heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time.  Take a few minutes to make some short videos to go along with the no doubt countless photos you already have. You will be very glad you have those mementos even if they are somewhat painful to watch.

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The Telltale Signs of an Aging Cat

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