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Health Problems in Older Cats: Senior Cat Conditions

What are the most common health problems in older cats? It seems like no animal has more personality than older cats. They make us smile and give us comfort. So at what age do cats start feeling old? Generally, cats over seven to ten years are considered seniors. Maintaining healthy care for your senior cat can help promote a higher quality of life in your cat’s elderly years.

Age is not a disease, but there are some feline health conditions we need to manage as cats age.

Kidney Disease in Cats

The number one cause of death in older cats is kidney disease. As they age, cats begin to lose kidney function, meaning the kidneys can’t remove toxins as efficiently. Unfortunately, cats have to lose 80 percent of their kidney function before they show signs of disease. The damage cannot be reversed, so we can only improve the function they have left. Feeding them a low-protein, high-fiber diet can help stabilize the problem. Oral treatments like Azodyl and Epakitin slow down uremic toxin build up and help manage kidney disease in older cats. When used daily, these products ease the kidneys’ job of removing toxins from the blood.

Constipation in Cats

Feline constipation is caused by dehydration, lack of appetite, and a lack of colon function. For most cats, salmon oil will help alleviate the constipation, but some need added fiber in their diet, as well. However, added fiber will increase the litter box odor. Geriatric cats often do not drink, which complicates the issue. If they are not water drinkers, increased fluids will help. You can add cat electrolytes, such as Breeder’s Edge Kitten Lyte or Rebound™ Recuperation Formula, to their water to help with dehydration.

Old Cat Won’t Eat

Lack of appetite is a difficult issue in old cats. If they don’t eat, they lose weight. The cause of this lack of appetite is a decreased or lost sense of smell. Cats won’t eat what they can’t smell, so the solution is to add smell to their diet. Adding salmon oil to their food will increase the smell for cats that have a decreased sense of smell. As a bonus, the fatty acids increase their skin and coat health.

Cat Stopped Grooming

Old cats don’t get lazy about grooming – they get overwhelmed! Dry hair becomes matted and contaminated with urine or feces. As soon as they can’t keep up with grooming, they give up. One solution to this is a sterile clip: clip up the rear to the tail, inside of the back legs and the tummy up to the front legs. Cats will groom just fine if you give them this help. You won’t be able to see the sterile clip unless they lay upside down. Cats do not like a body clip, and they will often hide for days. However, they tend to like the sterile clip. Clippers and blades are inexpensive and easy to use. Old cat hair is often dry, so use a clipper spray, like Oster Kool Lube Spray or Andis Cool Care Plus, to keep the blade sliding without pulling the hair or skin.

Bladder Infections in Cats

Feline bladder infections usually affect male cats. Amoxicillin is a good antibiotic for bladder issues. However, as cats age, it’s better to try and prevent the issue rather than treat it. Cranberry supplements, like Doc Roy’s® Cranberry Extra or Doc Roy’s® Potassium Citrate + Cranberry help support normal functions of the urinary tract and bladder. Many supplements are chicken flavored, so cats will eat them.

Dental Disease in Cats

The majority of cats develop dental and gum problems as they age. This is usually due to poor dental hygiene. These feline dental diseases can cause a lot of pain and may even cause a cat to refuse to eat. To prevent dental disease or keep it at a minimum, brush your cat’s teeth on a daily basis. Cat chew treats are also a great option for scraping the plaque off teeth.

Middle Aged Cats: The “Kind of Old Cat”

“Kind of old cat” owners are starting to notice that their cat is aging and not as healthy as when he was younger. Preventing or reversing any possible issues is the goal in middle aged cats.

  • Supplement the diet with vitamins. Even if there are plenty in the diet, the middle-aged cat often loses the ability to absorb adequate amounts. Doc Roy’s® Daily Care Feline is an excellent supplement that comes in a chicken-flavor granular form. Simply sprinkle it on the cat’s food.
  • A sterile clip makes it easier to prevent matted coats, keeping the long-haired cat happy.
  • Use fatty acids, like Omegaderm-3 or Zesty Paws® Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, to support coat health. They will also ease grooming. Without adequate amounts of fatty acids, shed hair gets caught up in the coat, causing mats.
  • As cats groom, hairballs become inevitable. Routine use of Hairball Remedy Laxatone® or salmon oil twice a week will prevent furball vomiting.
  • Feed a diet that will correct future issues! Do not give them extra meat or foods with high protein because a high-protein diet causes kidney issues. Cats require a high-fat diet and benefit if fed appropriately. Added fat can aid digestion and help cats with GI upset. The use of salmon oils will help digestion, increase appetite and relieve hairballs.

By being alert to your cat’s changing physical and nutritional needs, you can ensure that his golden years are the happiest they can be!

If you need help managing health problems in older cats, call us at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.