It seems that only yesterday your distinguished senior cat was a handful of kitten fur. They may not jump and play like a kitten anymore, but your senior cat knows how to enjoy life—from a warm nap in the perfect sunbeam, to bird-stalking from the window seat. The caring team of cat lovers at Just Cats Clinic wants your cat’s golden years to shine. Read on for answers to some common senior cat care questions.

When is my cat a senior?

Most cats begin to experience age-related changes when they are 7 to 10 years old, but one cat year does not equate simply to seven human years. To think of your cat’s age in terms of human age, remember that a year-old cat is equivalent to a 16-year-old person, and a two-year-old cat is like a 21-year-old. Thereafter, each cat year is roughly four human years, so a 15-year-old cat is roughly like a 73-year-old person.

What are the most common senior cat diseases?

Each cat is unique, and many diseases can affect senior cats, but kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes are most common.

  • Kidney disease — Many older cats experience a decline in kidney function, often showing no outward signs. If kidney disease is detected through regular physical exams and lab work, we can take steps to delay the onset of kidney failure. Management includes a canned kidney support diet, ensuring your senior cat can always access food easily, and providing water in the manner your cat prefers (e.g., a pet water fountain).
  • Hyperthyroidism — Is your senior cat losing weight despite a ravenous appetite? Are they vocalizing more? They may be hyperthyroid. Our senior cat lab work screens for high thyroid levels, which are common in older kitties. When we detect this problem early, we can offer many treatment options. We also check hyperthyroid cats, as well as chronic kidney disease cats, for high blood pressure.
  • Diabetes — Increased thirst and urination in senior cats may signal diabetes, as the high glucose level in the bloodstream spills into the urine. House-soiling may ensue, because the litter box becomes wet and unappealing. Our feline senior wellness panel screens for elevated blood glucose levels and for glucose in the urine. If caught early and managed well, feline diabetes often goes into remission.

Why is my senior cat’s coat matted?

Because of stiffness, pain, and decreased muscle mass, older cats don’t spend the same kind of energy grooming their thick undercoat as they did when they were younger. Decreased mobility means less time scratching, which can lead to overgrown and ingrown nails. Gentle, regular brushing and nail trimming help deter problems, but watch for sensitivity and soreness. Since cats can hide their pain well, learn to use the “grimace scale” to detect pain.

Do cats get arthritis?

Most cats older than age 7 have some level of degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, yet the majority of these cases go untreated. Cats are good at hiding their pain, so watch for reluctance to jump and climb. A joint supplement preserves joint structure and function. Pain medication, pet ramps, and chiropractic, acupuncture, and laser therapy help many arthritic cats.

Why does my cat’s breath smell bad?

Dental tartar, periodontal disease, tooth damage, and other dental problems become more common as cats age, and the associated bacterial infection causes bad breath. Every six months during your cat’s wellness visit, we will examine your cat’s mouth to determine the extent of dental disease, and recommend ways you can help. A dental cleaning under anesthesia followed by brushing the teeth daily at home are usually recommended.

Can older cats become “senile?”

Signs of cognitive decline in senior cats include increased vocalizing, aimless wandering, staring blankly, seeming lost, and increased sleeping. We can help senior cats by providing antioxidants, vitamin E, special diets, supplements, and medications. Arrange your cat’s surroundings to promote ease of access—for example, pet ramps instead of stairs, and a litter box with an entryway or low sides.

Do older cats eat less?

Cats naturally appear thinner as they age, because of decreased muscle mass. But, weight loss because of decreased eating often signals an underlying problem. If your senior cat is losing weight, vomiting, or has diarrhea, make an appointment with us. Ensure your cat’s food is enticing and accessible, since decreased smell, hearing, and vision may hinder older cats. Simply mixing a small amount of warm water into canned food can make a big difference.

Call Just Cats Clinic with any questions that arise about caring for your senior cat. We want your cat to enjoy a wonderful, long life— for all nine of their lives.