Cats are living longer than ever before due to better care and diets. There are approximately 2.5 million senior cats currently living in the UK.
It is always hard to tell when your cat is ill and after a recent clinical study it revealed that 20-30% of older cats were perceived by their owners to be healthy but were in fact suffering from medical complaints. For example when arthritis develops some cats will become more withdrawn or aggressive, and some may have less mobility. Signs that are more behaviour based are less recognised and less associated as being connected to pain, but more the cats age and temperament.
Signs that often come with old age such as weight loss and stiff gait may occur on a gradual basis and owners may feel like this is normal and not want to take their cat to be checked out at the Vet unnecessarily.
How Old is Your Cat?
The Feline Advisory Bureau classifies older cats as:
- Mature 7-10 years old (44-56 years human)
- Senior 11-14 years old (60-72 years human)
- Geriatric 15+ years (76+ human)
Cats of all ages should have an annual health check at the Vets, normally when vaccinations are carried out. Their weight and body condition should be recorded and monitored at the same time. Mature cats should have blood pressure and urine checked once a year also to detect any early issues. Senior cats should also have a yearly blood test and once geriatric be checked six monthly.
Things to think about as an owner…
- Has my cat lost or gained weight?
- Has the appetite or thirst changed at all?
- Change in litter tray behaviour? Cats that have inappropriate urine behaviour maybe unable to use the cat flap due to pain because of arthritis. Also missing the litter tray due to pain.
- An increase in diarrhoea or vomiting?
- Has the behaviour of your cat changed mentally?
- Does your cat suffer any mobility issues such as stiffness when walking?
- Has the energy levels changed in your cat, (restlessness can be a sign of hyperthyroidism)
- Poor eyesight or bumping into things?
- Any gum or teeth issues resulting in eating less or acting unwell?
- Grooming themselves as much as they used to? Usually when they get stiff as they get older they have trouble reaching their back and so this can look scruffy.
Common illnesses in older cats include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Cognitive dysfunction which affects more than 50% of cats aged over 15.
- Dental disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Hyperthyroidism – affects about 10% cats over 9 years old
- Chronic kidney disease- affects 30% cats over 15 years old
- Osteoarthritis affects more than 90% of cats over 12 years
- Systemic hypertension