How to deal with cat health issues in older cats

Posted by Nurse Whiskers. May 3rd 2016.

There are an estimated 8.5 million cats in the UK, meaning 19% of households own one of these cuddly animals – and nearly half of all households have a pet of some kind.

As these animals grow older they will start to need more care and attention but what do you need to know about cat health issues in older cats?


Along with humans, animals grow older and start to have different needs. This can be the time when pets will start to slow down and older cats will need more care and attention.

Getting a cat insurance plan is always a good idea as vet bills can be expensive. Older cats may also need to visit the vets on a more regular basis than when they were younger.

You may be surprised to find they may need more sleep or experience a personality change that leaves them either friendlier or grumpier.

Making sure that you keep a close eye on them and scheduling regular health checks is a good idea.

Older cats may need pet insurance cover for a host of potential illnesses

Cat health issues

Keeping a lookout for health problems as your cat gets older will allow you to intervene and get treatment as early as possible, if any problems arise.

The life expectancy of cats varies between breeds but is typically between 10 and 12 years.

Cats are regarded as geriatric when they are 10 years old.

Elderly cats will sleep more and be less active, which, in turn, leads to decreased muscle tone. This means activities such as climbing, jumping and pouncing are more difficult for your cat.

Other common health issues for elderly cats include:

  • Brittle bones and claws
  • Reduction in appetite due to lower metabolism
  • Problems swallowing or digesting food
  • Weight gain or obesity
  • Dehydration
  • Incontinence
  • Decrease in sense of taste, smell, sight and hearing
  • Dental problems including the loss of teeth

Older cats are also more susceptible to problems affecting major organs.

Liver and kidney disease in older cats

As the liver and kidneys age, they become less able to remove toxins from your cat’s blood,

One of the symptoms may be your cat drinking more water or the urine being diluted.

Liver and kidney disease is often untreatable, but some cats can live with the problem for years.

He or she will certainly need free access to plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent toxins building up in the blood stream.

Elderly cats with heart problems and high blood pressure

As the heart gets older, it struggles to pump blood around the body as efficiently.

One of the early indications is a heart murmur that your vet might discover.

Elderly cats can also become vulnerable to high blood pressure, which is often linked to kidney problems.

High blood pressure might accelerate damage to the kidneys, affect eyesight or provoke neurological episodes such as seizures.

Tabby cats like this may need pet insurance as they grow older

Breathing problems in older cats

Like with the heart, a cat’s lungs might also become less efficient in later life.

You might notice your cat becoming tired more easily and they may become more prone to infection.

Cats that suffer from asthma will generally find the problem gets worse as they get older.

Looking after older cats

Many cats will go through life with no problems at all, but you should always be prepared for the eventuality that age may take its toll.

If your cat starts to show signs that it’s not as agile as it once was then always make sure there is a litter tray available, just in case of an emergency.

You should also make sure your cat is eating properly; there are specially formulated foods for older cats and it’s important their teeth are cleaned by your vet at least once a year.

There are many illnesses that can affect your cat as it grows older, but that doesn’t mean it can’t live a perfectly normal life. Medicine in the veterinary world has kept pace with human medical procedures, so don’t despair.

When your cat is younger it’s recommended that you take it to visit the vet twice a year, but as the cat ages it’s best to take it to the vet up to four times a year or whenever you feel it is needed.

Grooming and cleaning your cat’s fur will also help you keep an eye out for any fleas or ticks – if any are found then treat them straight away. Long-term flea repellents are important if your cat spends lots of time outside and can either be obtained from your vet or over the counter at most pet shops.

Create a cat-friendly home

As your cat gets older and movement becomes harder, it is helpful if you can make your house and garden cat friendly and as easy as possible for them to move around in.

Some people place ramps outside the back door so that the cat does not have to climb steps and this could be something you want to look into.

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