Just like humans there is variation in ageing between cats. Common problems seen in older cats include overactive thyroid gland, reduced kidney function, arthritis, dental disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disease and senile changes.
Signs your cat may be suffering from one or more of these conditions include:
- Weight loss
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Difficulty eating
- Drooling saliva
- Bad breath
- Decreased activity or jumping
- Disliking being touched or picked up
- Loss of vision
- Ongoing vomiting or diarrhoea
- Non healing scabs on nose and ears
- Behaviour changes including toileting.
The issue with cats however is that they are masters of disguise when it comes to illness, so you may see no obvious signs, even though your cat may be suffering.
Regular vet checks and senior screening tests can help us pick up many conditions earlier in their course. Prompt diagnosis often means we can treat or slow the progression of the disease, giving your cat a longer and more comfortable life. Six months for a cat is equivalent to 2 human years so a lot can change in a short time.
Other things to consider as your cat ages:
- Grooming can be difficult if you cat is getting stiff or has a sore mouth. You can help by clipping matted fur and grooming gently using soft brushes and damp cotton wool to clean their faces. Some medications and/or dental treatment may help.
- Older cats may need their claws trimmed to prevent them catching or becoming ingrown.
- We can make life easier for frail and arthritic cats by using steps/ramps so they can get to their favourite spots and an indoor litter tray with low sides.
- Cats need an increased calorie intake in their senior years, as they don’t utilise nutrients as well. There are formulated diets for this which may also contain supplements for joint and brain function.
- Older cats tend to have decreased immune function, so help protect them by keeping parasite control and vaccinations up to date.
Dr Nikki Frost, senior Veterinarian at Franklin Vets Pukekohe.