ASK THE VET | Most Common Older Cat Problems

ask-the-vet-old-catsI currently see a lot of older cats in Macau with a lot of similar problems. If we can identify these problems earlier we can start treating/supplementing them and this can have a more favorable outcome. Senior felines are more prone to certain problems. They may also present with distinct behavioral changes. Dealing with an older cat is more difficult, but you need to take the time and have patience to ensure their well-being.

1. Arthritis
Arthritis is more frequent in elderly cats, and is the inflammation of joints. The cat will be in a lot of pain, will have difficulty jumping and even walking due to stiff joints. They may also present irritability and even aggressiveness.
Your cat will need pain medication and the weight of the cat should be monitored, so that the stress on the joints is reduced.

2. Obesity
Senior cats, especially neutered felines are prone to obesity. Neutering alone does not cause obesity but is a contributor factor. Older cats and neutered cats eat more and are less active and this results in weight gain.
To prevent obesity, you can reduce your cat’s food portions and make sure he works out on a daily basis. Or, you can change the food to a neutered diet that helps to keep the weight down and the portion size the same.

3. Heart Conditions
Elderly cats may display a heart condition, especially if they are overweight. See the Vet for a proper cardiac examination with ultrasound and ECG.

4. Inappropriate Elimination
Older cats tend to defecate and urinate in other places, different from the litter box. This behavior may point to a medical condition (such as lower urinary tract infection), so take your cat to a vet.
Elderly cats may also urinate more frequently. Some possible medical conditions for this are:

  • Colitis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Anal sac disease
  • Anxiety and stress


5. Loss of Vision
Senior cats may suffer from loss of vision. Cats with diabetes may be more exposed to this condition. The loss of vision may also cause the cat to urinate and defecate in inappropriate places. You may add some litter boxes in your house, so that the cat uses these instead of the furniture or walls.

6. Hearing Loss
Cats may also suffer from hearing loss at an older age. Cats that have had a lot of problems with ear mites may be particularly exposed to deafness. Always check to see if your cats ears are not waxy or smelly. We have a lot of ear problems in animals in Macau and Hong Kong, so if you smell or see something that is not right, go see your vet.

7. Stress
Older cats are not as able as young cats to deal with stress. Environmental changes, changes in routine or any small alteration will cause great stress for a senior cat. A stressed cat may need stress medication.

8. Aggressiveness
Senior cats may have certain behavioral problems. Aggressiveness is frequent in older cats. This behavior may be caused by a medical condition, which makes the cat less tolerant and more irritable.
Detect any medical conditions and apply proper treatment.
Try desensitizing your cat to different stimuli that may cause the aggressive behavior.

9. Fear
Stress or neurological diseases may make the cat very fearful. Also, senior cats tend to be afraid of new situations.

10. Changing Activity Patterns
Even if your cat was trained to sleep at night, when he gets older, he might keep you awake with meowing and night activity. The cat may wake up during the night due to pain or the need to urinate.

11. Gum and Periodontal Disease
The majority of cats develop dental and gum problems after the age of 3, due to poor dental hygiene. Gum and periodontal disease may cause a lot of pain and the cat may even refuse to eat.
Try to prevent gum disease and tooth decay by brushing or applying dental gel on a daily basis and giving your cat chew treats that will scrape off the plaque from his teeth.

Hope this helps
Till next week
Dr Ruan

Ask the Vet: Royal Veterinary Centre
Tel: +853 28501099, +853 28523678
Emergency: +853 62662268
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