With more cats living safely indoors and advances in veterinary medicine and feline nutrition, it’s commonplace for them to live 17-20 years or more! Just like ours, their little bodies begin to wear out and may need more help from us than before.
The three main medical conditions seen in older cats are kidney failure, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. All of these can make a cat lose weight and that would be your first clue that something’s going on. With kidney disease and diabetes, you’ll see a marked increase in urination and water intake. It’s important to watch what’s going on in the litter box and monitor your kitty’s weight and appetite. Since we see our cats day after day, it’s sometimes hard to notice weight loss until it becomes quite pronounced. It’s recommended that cats over age of 8-10 have a vet visit twice a year to monitor for such changes. Your vet will likely do a blood test to check for these three conditions and, if present, recommend a course of treatment.
Older cats may also develop arthritis and be unable to jump on the couch or bed or even get into a high-sided litter box. There are stairs you can get from catalogs to help them reach too-high furniture. Arthritic cats will also seek out warm, soft areas to rest. Offering a heating pad set on “low” wrapped in towels will help keep kitty more comfortable.
**Cats do not tolerate anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or adult aspirin. Never, ever medicate your cat without asking advice from your veterinarian.**
Your cat may also not be as comfortable eating from dishes on the floor because of the strain it puts on the back and neck. There are commercially available food dishes in a holder that will raise the level up about 4″ and be more comfortable for kitty or you can improvise something similar.
A cat’s ability to groom themselves often becomes a problem later on and may need your help and even a bath. Be sure to brush your cat and clip the nails diligently. Cats may stop scratching their posts so that their nails’ outer sheathes are not shed. Further, a more horrific consequence of not maintaining your cat’s nails is that they can grow so long in a circular pattern that they’ll eventually pierce their foot pads and continue growing!
Laura Speirs, Feline Behavior Consultant