Changes to Expect in My Senior Cat

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Changes to Expect in My Senior Cat

It may be normal for some cats to begin slowing down as early as 7 years of age. Other changes may be signs of more serious problems that need treatment. Read on to learn about expected health and behavioral changes in senior cats.

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Common Changes in Senior Cats

Thanks to improved veterinary care and pet parents being alert to changes in their pet’s behavior, household cats are living longer, healthier lives. Unfortunately, advancing age does pose some problems for our furry friends.

When cats become seniors, their energy needs and activity levels decrease. Senior cats still need activity, play, and interaction with you, with cat toys, scratching posts, cat trees, and with other pets in the household. While we often think of cats as being aloof and independent, they’re actually quite social creatures and enjoy interacting with us and fellow pets.

As cats age, they may develop osteoarthritis (OA). Some cats with OA show no signs of discomfort. Others have symptoms that can be as mild as decreased activity or increased sleeping. But you might also notice that your cat is hesitant to jump up or down cat trees and furniture, has become less social, or is aggressive or swatting when petted.

Signs Your Senior Cat Should Visit the Vet

Senior cats need close monitoring by you and their vet. They age faster than we do, but when caught early, many diseases or problems can be reversed or managed to prevent worsening of symptoms.

Senior cats should be examined at least every 6-12 months. If they have any health problems, they may need to be seen more frequently. Your vet can help guide how often your cat needs to be seen.

Signs of age-related problems can range from sleeping or hiding in new or unusual places to behavioral changes such as aggression (hissing and swatting) when being brushed or petted.

Cats often hide their pain and sickness so stay alert for any changes in your senior cat including:

  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Having urine or stool accidents outside the litter box
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Hesitant to jump up/down from usual places or perches (cat tree, sofa, bed, etc)
  • Not grooming. You may notice their fur is dull, dry, matted, or flaky
  • Weight loss
  • Change in appetite
  • Increased drinking, increased urination (increased urine clumps in the litter box or urine accidents in their sleeping areas)
  • Dropping food when eating, increased salivation, swelling in and around the mouth/nose area

Common Problems in Senior Cats

The following are the most frequent problems or diseases vets diagnose in senior cats. Senior cats can often have more than one problem.

What tests will the vet recommend for my senior cat?

Your vet will ask for a detailed history and perform a thorough physical exam on your cat. Routine blood work and urinalysis are recommended for most senior pets. X-rays and ultrasound imaging may be necessary to evaluate your cat’s heart, lungs, or abdomen.

It helps to think of your cat’s problem like a puzzle. The history, physical exam findings, and test results make up the puzzle pieces that help your vet solve the problem and recommend appropriate treatment.

Treatment depends on the diagnosis. If you’re concerned about your senior cat’s health or behavior, it’s important to consult a vet as soon as possible. Many common problems can be successfully treated or managed, helping to improve your cat’s quality of life for many more years.

Preventing Disease in Senior Cats

Weight gain and obesity are common in senior pets. Keep your cat active using cat trees, toys, treats, and play. Learn more about obesity in cats here!

Talk to your vet about nutrition and if you need to change to a senior diet for your cat. Read more about diet and nutrition for your cat here!

Your senior cat may not be able to groom herself as easily as she used to. Give her a helping hand by brushing and trimming her nails regularly. Learn more about grooming your cat here!

Have your cat examined by a vet at least once a year to monitor your cat’s health and address any changes. Keep track of your cat’s litter box habits, weight, eating and drinking, activity, or any behavioral changes, and bring this information with you when you visit your vet.

Read more:

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month!

A Guide to Treating and Preventing Constipation in Cats

Can cats develop heart disease?

Have more questions about senior pets?

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Published: 2/5/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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