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Once your cat companion has reached the dreaded senior age, it can sometimes be worrying if they are showing any signs of sickness.

Elderly cats tend to be more prone to certain illnesses and disorders but don’t worry because we have listed down the most common elderly cat health problems and how to treat them in this article.

Cats are an excellent choice for most pet parents to be lifelong buddies because, unlike dogs, they tend to age gracefully and more slowly, to the point that we don’t even notice that they have reached their senior age.

With today’s technological advancements and veterinary care improvements, most cats live longer and healthier than previous cats in history.

Although cats’ way of living has developed, being sick is still possible, and it is your responsibility as a pet parent to take care of them and give them proper treatment until they are feeling better again.

In this article, we will be tackling the most common older cats’ health problems and the treatment you can do, with help from your veterinarian.

You can also check out my article on how to tell if your cat is sick for more information about cat sickness.

What is the Average Cat Lifespan? 

Similar to all animals, a cat’s lifespan is affected by their lifestyle, breed, and genetics.

Diet, exercise, and socialization greatly affect how long a cat will live, which basically means that a cat eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise lives longer than those who do not.

According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, on average modern domesticated indoor cats live for 13-17 years.

While stray cats live less, due to the presence of more danger with traffic accidents being the most common, and challenging access to daily necessities such as food, water, and socialization. 

How to Determine Your Cat’s Age?

Let’s say you just rescued a stray cat from the streets and you are planning to take care of him. What should you check to know their age approximately? 

For starters, there is no accurate way to determine the exact age of a cat without assistance from a veterinarian.

They will examine the cat’s body entirely and will check for indications of their age. Prominently, the teeth and the eyes are the most accurate in giving away how old a cat is. 

Knowing the Age Using Your Cat’s Teeth

To find out the approximate age of your cat by checking their teeth, here are some things you have to look for:

  1. After two to four weeks of being born, a cat’s first “baby” teeth should appear.
  2. After four months, permanent white teeth come out.
  3. If yellow stains or tartar can be seen on some of the white teeth, it is most probable that your cat is one to two years old.
  4. On the other hand, if all the teeth are stained yellow with tartar, your cat is most likely three to seven years old.    
  5. If there are missing teeth, then your cat has reached the senior age of 10 to 15 years old.

Knowing the Age Using Your Cat’s Eyes

Eyes can also be a telltale sign of a cat’s age. If the pupils show any cloudiness, it is most likely that your cat is more than 12 years old. 

Cat, Cat'S Eyes, Whiskers, Domestic Cat

Another test vets do to examine if there are any signs of changes in a cat’s organ function, such as the kidneys and the lungs.

Remember that these tests are just scientific ways to guess the age and are not 100% accurate unless the exact birth date is known.

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A Cat’s Major Lifetime Stages

Cats have six major life stages, and knowing about this can be helpful for pet parents since each stage has its own specificities on how to support and take care of them.

Here are your cat’s life stages and what to expect.

Cat, Flower, Kitten, Stone, Pet, Animals

1. Kittens

From day zero until the 6th month, young cats are considered kittens. They are very energetic and social, so this is the best time to introduce them to children and other pets.

This is also the best age to start training them for litter boxes, getting used to nail trimming, and coat brushing.

2. Junior

During the 6th to 24th month period, your cats are considered juniors.

During the late phase of this stage, cats will experience sexual maturity so you might notice some aggression, so it is recommended that you neuter your cat. In addition, to distract an aggressive cat, try to play with them more.

Read our previous article to find out fun new ways to have fun with your cat.      

3. Prime

Cats in their prime are from ages three to six years old. Although, as the name suggests, cats still get sick during this stage.

Even if your cat may be looking energetic and nothing is wrong with them, it is essential to bring them to the vet for a check-up annually to see any underlying medical issues.

4. Mature

Once they reach the 7th to 10th year, you will notice that your cat will begin to move more slowly and will decrease playtime activities. 

Cat, Mieze, Domestic Cat, Animal, Pet

5. Senior

This age 11 to 14 years, is when your cat will have a higher chance of being sick due to less exercise and becoming more finicky when it comes to eating. They will also slowly show symptoms of the most common older cat health problems.

6. Geriatric

Geriatric cats, aging from 15 years old and above, usually exhibit behavioral changes; that’s why it is essential to get them evaluated more frequently for an underlying medical problem.

Here’s an informational video that will summarize a cat’s life stages from the moment they were born:

Signs That Your Feline Friend is a Senior

As we’ve mentioned before, when cats turn this age, they are more at risk of having diseases and illnesses; thus, more attention should be provided. That’s why pet parents need to know the signs of whether a cat has turned to this eventful stage. Here are five signs you should check.

1. Sleepless or Always Sleeping

Same with humans, when cats grow old they tend to move slower and prefer to rest all the time. In their senior years, cats usually sleep more than the average, which is 16 hours a day and more deeply than usual, which is an indicator that there might be something wrong with their health.

Cat, British Shorthair Cat, Sleeping Cat

There are also cases wherein senior cats become more active at night and become sleepless. If this is the case, they may be suffering from hyperthyroidism, which we will be tackling in the next section. 

2. Easily Confused

This phenomenon is similar to when humans have reached their golden age. Elderly cats can get confused with their daily tasks such as finding their food bowl, using the litter box, among many others. 

This forgetfulness can also be a sign that they are suffering from a more complicated cognitive issue, so it is advisable to seek help from your vet.

3. Limping and Having Difficulties in Jumping 

Bone deterioration is one of the signs a cat is aging, and it can be observed when your cat is having difficulties in jumping from one place to another or when they are starting to limp.

4. Sudden Weight Change

According to an article by the University of Illinois School of Veterinary Medicine, sudden unexpected weight loss can be a sign of various health risks.

Senior cats need more energy; thus, they tend to burn more calories that will result in losing weight faster than they can eat to catch up. 

Cat, White, Animal, Pride, Thin, Fur

Meanwhile, there are also cases where elderly cats suddenly gain weight due to the changes in their metabolism rate.

As cats age, they need fewer calories to burn, making them more lethargic. One way to prevent this is to change your cat’s diet to senior cat food which is specifically formulated to meet his nutritional needs.

5. Behavioral Changes

Although personality changes are typical among cats as they are naturally moody, sudden and drastic behavioral changes are one main takeaway that a cat has turned to their senior years.

If there are instances where your cat suddenly becomes aggressive without a known trigger, contact your vet immediately. 

6 Most Common Senior Cat Health Problems and Symptoms

Now that we can determine whether our cat has reached their senior year, we will take a look at the most common health risks he may have. With assistance from your veterinarian, you will be able to provide urgent treatment if ever they have these risks.

1. Arthritis

When it comes to bone risks, arthritis is one of the most common issues. It is a painful condition wherein the joints begin to weaken the cartilage until the bones scrape each other’s end. 

Cat, Soft, Fluffy, Fur, Sleep, Sleepy

Signs that your cat is enduring arthritis include hesitation to jump and walk. If you observe these symptoms, it is best to keep their daily necessities, such as food and water bowl, litter box, and bedding, easily accessible.

Although there is no cure for arthritis, your vet can recommend some suggestions to be done to minimize the pain.

2. Kidney Failure

In our previous article, we explored the reasons why it is challenging to keep our cat’s water intake within their daily needs.

Since cats are very finicky when it comes to drinking water, kidney failures are among the most common risks they could suffer from. 

Cats can be diagnosed with two types of kidney failure: acute and chronic. Acute kidney failure is caused by ingesting poisons such as toxic plants.

To know which houseplants can be fatal when ingested by your cat, check out our previous article.

On the other hand, chronic kidney failure usually affects older cats. And it results in changing their bathroom habits and becoming excessively thirsty.

If you suspect your cat has kidney failure, your vet will examine him and make recommendations for the treatment.

This is why it is essential to bring your cat for a general checkup every year so your vet can examine their blood and urine quality to determine if there’s something wrong with their kidneys.

3. Hyperthyroidism 

The thyroid is a tiny gland at the back of a cat’s throat that manages and controls their body’s metabolic functions. It also affects your cat’s energy level; that’s why abnormality in the sleep pattern can be correlated with this gland’s malfunction. 

Cat, Tiger, Tigerle, Stripes, Trouble

If your cat does not manufacture enough thyroxine that his body requires, it may lead to hyperthyroidism, which is usually characterized by sudden weight loss and being overactive. Most cats also suffer excessive thirst and extreme fur shedding.

If you can see these symptoms, reach out to your veterinarian immediately to get some advice. It is most likely that he will recommend supplements that will help in producing more thyroxine. 

4. Cancer 

Yes, you read that right. Unfortunately, cats can get cancer too, and as we all know it is a severe health risk. There are numerous types of cancer cats can suffer from, but the most common is lymphoma, which causes the lymph nodes to swell.

Pink Ribbon

If you notice a strange lump while petting your cat, it can be a sign of cancer. Additional symptoms of cat cancer are weight loss, diarrhea, and vomiting.

5. High Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure in cats can affect their internal organs and cause seizures, blindness, and other debilitating conditions.

It is often accompanied by other diseases so determining the source is essential, so your veterinarian may recommend medication or a change in diet or both.

6. Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is the sudden increase in blood sugar levels, which are usually characterized by obesity that may lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Diabetic cats typically undergo insulin treatment to balance out the glucose in their blood.

Patience and attentiveness to your cat’s needs will form a strong bond that will ensure a robust and lifelong companionship. It will be a difficult journey, but remember that your feline friend will become a massive part of your life. 

Now that we have tackled everything you need to know about senior cat health problems and symptoms, we hope that we have helped you in making sure they are healthy as always.

Do you have any other questions about elderly cat health problems? Comment down below!

Written By

Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.

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