Health problems of older cats are unavoidable but there is much you can do to help. As cats grow older, the effects of wear and tear on their bodies are likely to become apparent. Although it is often impossible to treat the underlying causes successfully, there is no reason why cats cannot enjoy a good quality of life well into their teens, by making simple adjustments to their lifestyles. Regular veterinary checks are especially important for older cats, so that any health problems can be dealt with at an early stage.
Cats are now routinely living for much longer than in the past, thanks to advances in understanding about their nutritional and veterinary needs as they grow older.
Should I change the way that I feed my cat now that she is older? Try offering her smaller amounts of food three or four times a day, rather than one or two larger meals. Canned food can help with constipation which is a common problem in older cats.
Do cats suffer joint ailments like us as they become older? Cats can develop painful stiffness in the joints, to the extent that they may be reluctant to clamber over the sides of a litter box. Always consider this if a cat suffers a breakdown in toilet training in old age.
My cat is eating well, but appears to be losing weight. Why is this? This could be due to overactive thyroid glands. This can be diagnosed by a blood test, and successfully treated in many cases. Cats today are considered to be entering old age from about ten years onwards, although they can live well into their teens. An older cat is likely to be less active than in its younger days and may sleep for long periods. It may also be hesitant to venture outdoors, especially in bad weather.
WARNING SIGNS OF HEALTH PROBLEMS IN OLDER CATS
Be alert to any signs of bad breath — this can be indicative of a dental problem, and it can also be a warning that the cat’s kidney function has declined. This is inevitable to some extent, although only once about 70 per cent of its kidney function has been lost will clinical signs of illness become apparent.
Loss of appetite can be linked with both dental problems and progressive kidney failure, although if your cat has difficulty in eating, then the likelihood is that its teeth need attention. Watch how much fluid your cat is drinking — increased thirst is a typical sign of kidney failure, since the kidneys can no longer concentrate urine as efficiently as before. This means that the cat needs to drink more to ensure that it does not become dehydrated. Urine and blood tests can confirm the extent of the kidney failure.
- Cats may appear to have difficulty walking as they grow older, stumbling more frequently. This is usually caused by overgrown claws that make it hard for them to keep their balance.
- You must keep an older cat’s vaccinations up-to-date, since its immune system may be less efficient, leaving it more vulnerable to infections.
- There are now special diets available for elderly cats which will help to meet their specific nutritional needs.