Veterinary Science and awareness can delay and prevent health issues in senior cats with regular veterinarian examinations.
Senior cat health problems are something that every cat owner should take seriously. Cats, like humans, are living much longer in the 21st century for probably the same reasons that humans do. With the advancement in Animal and Veterinary Science over the years, we have become cognitively aware of early feline vaccinations, balanced diet to strengthen the immune system, and preventing feline infectious diseases by keeping our cats indoors.
Cats set the status quo in their relationships with other species.
Cats, like dogs, have been man’s best friend for centuries! Our furry friends are not as robust and dynamic as dogs but have what I call ‘Pizzazz”! Show me a cat that will fetch! Sit! Rollover! Heaven forbid if kitty is unhappy about something. Your sixth sense is not activated to pinpoint the problem – you, my friend, will be in the dog box and get conspicuously ignored henceforth!
Cats are dynamic in different ways than dogs and other pets. They set the terms and conditions for their relationships with other species. Selective ‘hearing loss’ seems to be a major health issue in senior cats! My cat Lino, for instance, adores our ‘Staffie’ and will come running to give him head nudges and little kisses on his mouth! I, on the other hand, get ignored when I call him. I only receive very vocal complaints and dirty looks if the Staffie’s food bowl is empty! That’s just how it is, and acceptance is easier than trying and changing the status quo!
Aging can lead to common health issues in senior cats
Cats, like humans, do develop age-related health problems. It is said to start when your cat is between 7-10 years of age. Health issues in senior cats need to be addressed at the outset, helping to know the physiological age of your cat.
Although we can’t scientifically prove the accuracy of calculating cats’ actual age, there are principles in place based on animal and human anatomy.
The first two years of a cat’s age is equivalent to a 24/25-year older person. After that, for every one cat year, you add four years for your cat. Believe it or not, there is now an APP that you can install on your mobile device to calculate your cat’s physiological age.
If the browser on your mobile device is compatible with PWA “Progressive Web App,” you can download it here. https://miniwebtool.com/cat-years-calculator/
Conversion Chart to determine your cat’s age
Age of Cat
Age in human years
Age of Cat
Age in human years
Catch my drift? Based on this formula, your cute Whiskers may be a wise 76 years old!
Possible signs of the start of underlying health problems in senior cats
As a loving cat parent, it is important to be tuned into your kitty’s behavioral patterns, likes, dislikes, and general disposition. Suppose your pet reaches eight cat years and starts noticing slight changes, whether physiological or in behavior, please be alert. Start jotting down the changes in a note pad as you notice them and show them to your vet as you visit him the next time.
Hereunder, follows a list of some signs of senior cats health problems:
Hesitant and has difficulty climbing trees
Weight gain or losing weight rapidly
Unusual swellings and bumps on your cat's body
Loss of appetite, especially favorite food and snacks
Listlessness and showing disinterest in the environment
Sings of incontinence or passing urine less frequently
Forgetfulness –forgetting some of its foundational training, like using the litter box properly.
Becomes extremely vocal, meowing and making other unfamiliar sounds.
Constipation or the other extreme, diarrhea (the litter box is your guide here)
Your cat starts bumping into objects in spaces that are familiar to him.
Your cat’s eyes seem dull and cloudy. Your cat constantly paws at his eyes or blinks a lot.
Eyes and nose become runny, like when you have a cold
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more serious health problems in senior cats
For any pet lover, it is stating the obvious that as your cat gets older, regular veterinarian visits and examinations are imperative.
These visits are necessary because cats will instinctively try to hide any discomfort or illnesses. Apparently, due to their predatory instincts, cats know that the weak and ill can become easy prey. Hence it is incumbent on cat parents to stay attuned to their senior cats’ health issues and diarize your pet’s next visit to the veterinary clinic.
Age of cat (human years)
Natural /Holistic Treatments (veterinarian-approved)
7 years and older
The cat will move with difficulty, may limp, grooming becomes very cumbersome.
The cartilage (cushioning) of the joints deteriorates and bone against bone friction occurs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, Acetaminophen, Aspirin, as well as anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids
Supplements: Glucosamine and Chondroitin are naturally produced in the body, repairs cartilage, reduces inflammation.
High Blood Pressure
(Mostly associated with senior cats health issues)
4 to 20 years
Seizures, Circling Disorientation blindness,
No medication specifically for cats. (human) Anti-hypertensive drugs, suitable diet, exercise, Blood tests.
Stress-free environment, prescribed herbal supplements
Chronic kidney failure
From 7 years but doubles between 10 and 15 years
Hiding away, sitting hunched up, loss of appetite, no interest in normal activities and people, meowing, yowling excessively
Signs of kidney disease only become visible when a large percentage (75%) function is lost.
Urine testing, blockages are surgically removed, IV Fluids, special diets low in phosphorous and protein.
13 years and older
Vomiting, losing weight, anorexia, rapid heart rate, increased water consumption and appetite, shedding hair diarrhea.
A non-cancerous tumor (adenoma), the thyroid gland becomes enlarged.
Methimazole, an oral medication that lowers T4 (thyroid hormone) to normal, Prescription diet, surgery or radioactive treatment in exceptional cases.
‘Thyroid Calming’, a natural supplement to help balance hormones, Chinese and Western herbs *as prescribed by Holistic Veterinarian.
Periodontal (Dental Disease)
3 years and older but it can affect cats of any age.
Yellow-stained teeth, bad breath, constant pawing at the face, no appetite, teeth become loose and fall out.
Bacterial infection under gum-line causes inflammation in the surrounding tissue. Stomatitis, Early Gingivitis.
An antibacterial mouth rinse, tiny chip filled with antiseptic, change in diet.
Coenzyme Q10 (an antioxidant) Natural prescription diet to aid in plaque and tartar reduction
As young as 3 months but typically 2-4 years old.
Listlessness, inactivity, shortness of breath, symptoms of paralysis in hind quarters, may faint or collapse, fluid build-up in lungs (difficulty breathing and persistent cough)
An acquired disease as opposed to congenital. Causes can range from , thyroid disorders high Blood Pressure, , heartworm infection or disease of the heart valve
Damage to the heart muscle cannot be reversed.
High quality nutrition with 40-50% meat-based protein,
Diabetes Mellitus and Type II diabetes
8 years and older
Excessive thirst, loss of weight, frequent urination, increased appetite, inactivity.
Cat’s body doesn’t respond normally to insulin produced in the body. The disease is mostly influenced by lifestyle; obesity, high carb diet, lack of exercise.
Insulin therapy and regular veterinarian visits to check blood sugar levels.
A low-carb diet (excluding grains, potatoes green peas, and sweet potatoes)
10 to 12 years and older
Severe loss of weight, listlessness, changes in lymph nodes in the chest
Associated with FeLV (feline leukemia) and Feline Aids (FIV)
Comprehensive tests, X-rays, ultrasound scans Chemo,
*Holistic herbal supplements to enhance the immune system, reduce inflammation.
It appears that most of the common health issues in senior cats have some overarching symptoms and causes. It becomes a source of valuable information for cat parents. You should be armed with information to know when issues in senior cats’ health require emergency veterinary treatment. It can make a huge difference and can save your cat’s life.
Diagnoses and management of an ailing pet can become challenging as some senior cats display more than one disease. Senior cats must be regularly taken for veterinary examinations to age gracefully and without undue discomfort and pain.
Special care and interventions in deteriorating health issues in senior cats
Cats live much longer now, due to improved, balanced diets, natural supplements, regular veterinarian examinations, and more feline-educated, caring cat-parents.
Due to this drastic change in longevity, our feline friends’ life-stages have been adjusted and redefined accordingly. Cats are bestowed senior status when they are between 11 and 14 years of age. From 15 years and up, cats receive ‘super-senior’ status. However, due to the longevity milepost being shifted, it necessitated a new, more creative approach to caring for our aging feline friends and the accompanying deterioration of health.
Behavioral changes in senior cats
It’s not just humans who undergo behavior changes as they enter the golden years. Cats also experience behavioral changes as they age due to normal physiological changes. Additional health issues in senior cats could also add to these changes in behavior.
Various health problems may give rise to abnormal thirst, appetite, and don’t be surprised when you encounter sudden aggression from your cat due to pain! Super senior cats may simply become less active and disinterested in the things that were a source of entertainment for him. Sleeping more and staying indoors have become the norm.
Home care for Super Seniors
It is often the stage where we get a ‘carer’ for elderly parents or grandparents. Similarly, as cats get to this advanced stage of their lives, they need specialized care and attention. With the common, progressive health issues in senior cats, your independent, proud feline may have difficulty with normal activities like grooming and cleanliness.
It is necessary to check your super senior cat’s claws regularly, as aging senior cats cannot effectively retract their claws, which may hook on furniture and carpets. Your veterinarian could advise and train you on safely trim the ‘grand ol’ lady’s claws.
With advanced age and increased health issues in senior cats, grooming becomes a strenuous task for your cat. Use mildly warm, small damp cotton wool balls to swab any discharge in the area of the eyes, nose, and anal areas of your ‘super- senior.’ Brush your cat gently with a soft brush taking special care over bony parts as this can cause pain! Check simultaneously for sores, swellings, and bumps. For severe knots in long-haired super-seniors, rather consult your veterinarian for assistance.
An indoor litter tray is a wise option. Advanced age-related health issues may make your cat less inclined to step outdoors. It is an important time to be tuned to your aged friend’s elimination routines and blood in the urine or stool.
Regular checks of your cat’s teeth and gums, constant bad breath, and growth anywhere in or near the mouth, are necessary. Common health issues in senior cats include Peridontal disease, which can lead to very serious additional health issues. If your cat refuses to eat and constantly paws its mouth, a quick visit to the dentist would be advisable.
Regular health checks
Caring for a super-senior requires vigilance and excellent communication with your veterinarian. Your frail super-senior will require exceptional care at home as well as regularly scheduled visits to your veterinarian.
As cats reach an advanced age, their sense of smell and taste get affected. If the loss of appetite persists, you will have to gently coerce it into taking in food by stimulating its appetite.
Offer a small portion of food, up to six times a day in a quiet space with no distractions. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of food, some of which can be familiar, but new tasting experiences could be helpful.
Your super-senior may be suffering from one or more of the common health problems in senior cats. At this stage, your cat is extremely vulnerable to suffering from dehydration.
Elderly cats are more inclined to suffer from dehydration due to underlying health conditions. Water bowls should be placed in a few places for your super-senior to access with ease. Adding a little water to your aged cat’s wet food will be more beneficial for its health. The water bowl is better raised off the ground, as stiff, arthritic joints may make bending at the neck, painful and difficult.
Cats are the only pets that simply love sitting on a windowsill and looking outside through a window. I’m sure it makes them feel in control, seeing what’s happening outside, without being spotted!
This favorite pastime should be made possible with ramps or shallow steps to climb upon. Jumping up onto the windowsill would be almost impossible, with the painful joints that come with senior cat health problems.
There is nothing as stimulating and uplifting to humans and their pets, as being able to play. Cats will play with anything they can find lying around. Why should this change just because of age? Give your cat his favorite toys, small and large.
Cats under normal circumstances love to lie on their sides while using their front paws to grab the toy and their hind legs to kick at it. It would be an excellent exercise for your super senior’s stiff joints and limbs.
Stress can lead to serious health problems in senior cats
Stress is, unfortunately, a topic not much discussed in terms of humans as well as pets. It is one of the most debilitating and the main catalysts in some very serious physical and mental health problems in humans and cats.
The worst is that a stressed cat or kitten can display very bad behavior, which, being misinterpreted, can lead to more trauma for the poor feline.
Stress in cats can be linked to the following triggers
Any change in its physical environment, such as a new pet being introduced into the household. A sudden change in familiar routine and activities.
An environment that lacks stimulation with no climbing scratching and hunting facilities causes severe stress and depression in cats. This kind of environment allows felines to express themselves and to feel in control of their space.
Poor relationship with cat parents, which could have various causes. Two such causes could be a lack of socialization and unjust punishment.
Conflict arose from a new cat being brought into the household, which led to competition for the same food, water, sleeping and resting spaces, and other resources.
Stress-induced health issues in senior cats are among the following
- Similar to humans, stress can trigger various health issues in cats. The most devastating is the suppression of the cat’s immune system.
- Some of the more serious health issues in cats are directly caused by stress, one of which is Herpes, which gives rise to lung infection and other health issues in cats.
- A range of ‘acquired’ behavioral changes in your cat can harm your cat’s quality of life.
Chemical stress relief for cats
Sometimes it becomes necessary to help restore the delicate balance in your cat’s nervous system by having a veterinarian prescribe medication.
It is beneficial to discuss issues of concern with your veterinarian, especially if your cat displays stress-induced behavior and shows signs of being depressed.
The veterinarian will do tests to look for any underlying medical conditions.
Most senior cat health problems can be avoided or delayed with early veterinary intervention and treatment. Your best friend can enjoy a quality of life for much longer, and you get to enjoy the best friendship on the planet for much longer!