When you’ve been with your feline friend for as long as you can remember, it’s easy to forget that she may now be a senior. Yes, you read that right. Your cat is no longer the sprightly little furball she once was. In fact, she is aging. Once upon time cats were considered geriatrics at the age of eight. But thanks to progress in veterinary care and cat nutrition, Senior Cats can live well into their twenties (in human years). Despite this longer lifespan, cats will still be considered seniors as they reach year seven. It is inaccurate to say that a “cat year” is equal to seven human years. To be precise, a cat who is a year old is physiologically equal to a 16-year old person. And for every year after that, a cat year is equal to four years. Thus, a 10-year old cat is as old as a 53-year-old human. A cat that is 12 years old is about the same age as a 61-year-old human and so on.
As your cat ages, she will begin to show signs of slowing down. They will tend to sleep more and be less active. No longer the nimble kitten, they are less inclined to climb and jump. While these may seem normal for an older cat, symptoms like these could indicate serious health issues that should be addressed.
Common Health Issues Senior Cats Face
- BRITTLE NAILS and THICKENED FOOT PADS – the first noticeable sign of aging is a change in a cat’s coat. What won’t be too obvious are brittle nails and thickened foot pads. Take extra care when clipping your senior cats nails. It may need to be clipped often since they won’t be scratching posts as often as their younger counterparts.
- ARTHRITIS and DECREASED MOBILITY – Arthritis almost always occur in Senior Cats, especially if they’ve injured their joints early on. As with humans, arthritis can either cause slight or debilitating stiffness. You’d notice this if your cat has difficulty jumping or climbing a flight of stairs. Do not give anti-inflammatory or pain relief meds unless your vet prescribes it. Cats have known sensitivities to many anti-inflammatory medications such as acetaminophen and aspirin.
- DENTAL ISSUES – While dental disease can happen to cats of any age, at least 2/3 of older cats (three years and older) suffer from dental issues. This is a painful disease. As such, it can affect appetite and cause weight loss.
- OBESITY – Senior cats, most especially neutered ones, are prone to obesity. Neutering doesn’t cause obesity but it’s a factor. Older, neutered cats eat more and are less active. To prevent obesity, portion your cat’s food and make sure he gets to work out daily.
- HEART DISEASE – The most common heart issue that senior cats face is cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Heart disease can end in congestive heart failure. This is when the heart is no longer able to pump blood effectively and efficiently.
- DIABETES – Diabetes results in an increased blood sugar level. Risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle and excessive weight. Cats who are diagnosed with diabetes will need insulin injections. But with aggressive treatment, remission of diabetes is possible. If remission isn’t possible, your cat will have to live with insulin injections for the rest of her life.
- HYPERTHYROIDISM – this is a disease of the thyroid gland where excessive thyroid hormones are produced. Cats with hyperthyroidism will display weight loss despite a huge appetite. Other symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, an increase in water consumption, and increase in urine.
- LOSS OF VISION – Cats with diabetes are most likely to suffer from loss of vision. This may cause cats to urinate and defecate in places where they shouldn’t. You may want to consider adding litter boxes around your home.