Thankfully, thanks to improvements in veterinary care and nutrition, our feline friends are living much longer than before. As our cats live longer, it is important to know the symptoms of common health problems and when to see a veterinarian.
Many cats begin to experience age-related physical and psychological changes between the ages of 7 and 10, so a visit to the veterinarian should be seen twice a year for a health check and diagnosis. A bi-annual check-up and diagnosis based on your veterinarian’s recommendations is the best way to ensure your cat is healthy for reasons including:
- Cats are masters of hiding pain and disease
- Small behavior changes can mean big problems
- Preventive care is better than reactive care
- Cats age much faster than humans
Here are some common changes you may notice as your cat ages, which is an indication that you should contact your veterinarian.
Your cat may become more withdrawn and even start hiding. Our cats are connected to us, love to be involved and be where we are. When your cat suddenly doesn’t greet you at the door, doesn’t sleep with you, and other normal engaging behaviors, this can indicate a problem.
Another common behavioral change that may indicate an underlying medical problem is a change in social interaction. They used to get along just fine with the cats in the house and now they hiss every time. They are avoiding contact with other animals or humans in the home that they once enjoyed sleeping and interacting with. Cats can also be uncharacteristically aggressive. The cat may start growling or hissing when people in the household or other pets approach it, may be uncomfortable being held, and may hate being brushed or groomed. They may also bite or scratch, especially if someone touches or moves the painful area, or if the cat expects you to.
less activity and low energy
You may notice that your cat lacks energy or stamina when engaging in activities that were previously enjoyable, such as playing with toys or chasing that red dot. Your cat may just be lying beside them, clawing at the wand toy verse chasing the toy. Your cat may be reluctant to jump, go up and down stairs, have trouble getting out of bed when lying down, appear restless, and have trouble finding a comfortable place to rest. You may also notice changes in sleep patterns – cats may sleep more or less, and may sleep in unusual positions and places. These can be symptoms of chronic pain and other medical problems.
Trash can change
Your cat will occasionally lose the box or not use it at all. Cats often miss litter boxes due to pain in and out of the litter box and difficulty squatting. Getting into the litter box and staying in a squat can be very difficult for cats with hip or knee pain. Other medical issues, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and kidney disease, can cause cats not to use the litter box, due to the cat’s need to go to the litter box more often, the inability to reach the litter box, and the pain of going to the cat. Bathrooms with issues like constipation and IBD.
Changes in appetite and water intake
You may notice that you fill your water bowls and fountains more often, or that your cat suddenly becomes a picky eater or tries to steal pizza from your plate. Be sure to notify your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your cat’s eating habits. This can be a sign of pain and a variety of other serious medical problems, including kidney disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism.
Your cat seems to be lost
Your cat seems lost or confused in familiar surroundings, which can cause your cat to get stuck in corners or behind furniture, vocalize in the middle of the night, stare at walls or spaces, and have trouble finding their resources (food, water bowls, perch or litter box) and may have memory impairments, such as forgetting they have been fed and repeatedly asking for more food.
These may be symptoms of cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is the result of cognitive decline due to changes in the brain due to aging. Cognitive functions include the mental processes of perception, awareness, learning, and memory that allow individuals to acquire information about their environment and decide how to act. This is sometimes called dementia, just like in humans.
All of the above can be symptoms of various ailments and are often overlooked by cat caregivers as “my cat is just getting old”. Changes in a cat’s daily habits should not always lead to aging. Age is not a disease, but as your cat ages, they are more likely to suffer from pain and other medical problems.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your veterinarian right away. For health-related questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know your pet’s health history, and can provide the best advice for your pet.