Did you know your cat is technically considered a “senior” as soon as she hits 11 years old? Cats age really quickly as kittens – their first 2 years are equal to our first 25! – but once they hit adulthood they age at around four-times as fast as humans.
Naturally, senior cats’ health will gradually decline with age, although the affects aren’t always obvious. Here are five sneaky health concerns everyone who owns a senior cat should know about. Because your cat sure isn’t going to tell you.
Fifty years ago, most vets hadn’t even heard of hyperthyroidism in cats. Today, it’s one of the leading health issues affecting senior cats worldwide and no one really knows why. The most noticeable signs of hyperthyroidism include dramatic weight loss, increased or decreased appetite or thirst, diarrhea and/or vomiting, hyperactivity, and matted fur, although every case presents slightly differently. The earlier you catch hyperthyroidism the better the outcome; there are a variety of treatments available that help address the underlying causes of this painful, widespread condition.
Some studies have shown that over 90% of all cats over 12 years old have at least a mild case of arthritis. While arthritis itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, the inflammation it causes around your cat’s joints can make her life a lot more uncomfortable. Sneaky signs of arthritis in cats include new physical limitations (like not being able to jump on the couch from the ground), a lack of proper grooming, apparent stiffness after sleeping, and even an increase in aggressive behavior when petted. The good news is, arthritis in senior kitties is totally manageable through diet and/or medication in most cases.
3. Periodontal Disease
By only three years old, most cats (and dogs) start showing signs of periodontal disease. Long-term, untreated oral health issues can lead to a litany of problems for your cat including pain, infection, and even organ disease. Signs of onset include trouble eating, spitting food out during chewing, and a nasty odor from the mouth. If your cat’s still on the “young” side of senior-hood, check with your vet about whether she might need a professional teeth cleaning to get things back on track. From there, you’ll want to regularly brush your cat’s teeth to ensure plaque and decay don’t creep back up.
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4. Hearing Loss
Partial or complete deafness is incredibly common among senior cats. Hearing loss can be either conductive (external) or sensorineural (acquired over time), but it’s always distressing for cats who are born with keen hearing. You might notice your cat’s hearing loss as she starts meowing louder, sleeping less soundly, becoming jumpier, and “ignoring” your voice. Going deaf will probably be anxiety-inducing for your cat, so work with your vet on strategies to help make her more comfortable. Your vet should also perform a thorough evaluation of your cat’s head and ears to ensure there’s nothing medically-treatable contributing to the issue.
Older cats are more susceptible to common illnesses, many of which can increase their risk for dehydration. Since so many cat afflictions result in lack of thirst, your senior cat is far more likely to become (seriously) dehydrated as she ages. Once dehydrated, her body can’t effectively circulate blood and her immune system becomes even weaker; it’s a vicious cycle. Signs of dehydration in cats include sunken eyes, constipation, lethargy, decreased urination, and poor skin elasticity…if you think your cat might be dehydrated, act quickly. If her condition doesn’t improve within just a few hours you should make an appointment with your vet to administer fluids ASAP.
The absolute best thing you can do for the health of your senior cat? Keep up with her vet visits! Schedule a wellness exam for her at least once a year to catch any subtle, slow-building conditions that cause big problems over time. You could quite literally add years to her life.