Looking after your older cat


Cats ¬†are living longer and longer these days…..

There is a combination of factors involved, mostly better nutrition, vaccination and neutering and better care from their owners.

We would consider cats older than 7 to be senior and cats over 12 to be in the geriatric category. This is a complete generalisation of course – a cat doesn’t suddenly become old on its 7th birthday. The oldest cats I have treated were 23 and 24.

Common problems in older cats include

  • arthritis
  • kidney disease
  • hyperthyroidism (over active thyroid glands)
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • cancer
  • weight loss
  • dental problems


Arthritis is a very common painful condition in older cats which is very often missed. The reason owners (and vets) fail to recognize arthritis is the changes can be very subtle. Cats are small and agile and can cover up mobility issues caused by arthritis. They tend not to limp like dogs.

To spot arthritis in your cat look out for

  • Hesitance or reluctance to jump
  • Sleeping more and stiffening up particularly after rest
  • Poor coat quality (they may be grooming less)
  • Change in daily routine

If you have she may have arthritis – you can talk to your vet at her next health check about treatment options

At home you can make the following changes…

  • Maintain activity and play – gentle exercise is best.
  • Make food, water and litter tray access easy.
  • Control weight
  • Help your cat to groom
  • Provide deep comfy bedding in a warm easy to reach place
  • Make sure cat flaps etc are easy to access and can be pushed open easily

Kidney disease

Early detection is key. Watch out for decreased appetite and increase drinking or urinating. Routine blood tests at your vets will allow us to pick up signs before you notice any changes in behaviour – this enables us to begin treatment early and reduce associated problems such as high blood pressure. High blood pressure in cats with kidney disease is common and can result in sudden onset blindness. If this occurs emergency treatment is necessary to save sight.

A blood pressure check for a cat requires specialised equipment and we usually prefer to keep them in veterinary hospital for an hour or two to allow them to settle down.

Specialised kidney diets can make a huge difference to cats with kidney disease. Ther are also medications we can give to help. Regular blood testing helps to monitor this condition.


Very common in older cats. Watch out for

  • excessive eating, drinking and urination with weight loss
  • scruffy coat or appearance
  • change in temperment – often become hyperactive

Diagnosis is based on clinical signs and blood testing. Initially treatment involves medicine, however removing the thyroid glands can result in a permanent cure.

Heart Disease

Hyperthrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common type of heart disease in cats. This can be caused by overactive thyroid glands – see above. If this is the case treating the thyroid disease can resolve the problem. In other cases chest x-rays may be helpful and medication will be required to treat this. Cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy risk blood clots – which can result in hindlimb paralysis. Urgent treatment is required in these cases.


Common in older cats Рparticularly those infected with FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) or FeLV (feline leukaemia virus). Watch out for  weight loss,lumps or bumps on skin or any unusual swellings. Cats with white ears are prone to getting tumours on the tips of the ears. Sunblock can help prevent this.

Dental disease

Common in older cats. Watch out for increased salivation, cats that appear interested in food but don’t eat. Cats that drop their food. Check for bad breath and sore gums or lots of plaque on teeth.

Brushing cats teeth is usually not too easy so we general descale teeth with an ultrasonic scaler, followed by high speed polish. If there are any rotting or sore teeth they are removed – the transformation in an animal that had been suffering from tooth ache is unbelievable!