Common Elderly Cat Symptoms

The elderly cat is susceptible to several symptoms less likely to afflict a younger animal. Arthritis, urinary tract problems, incontinence, changes in eyesight and hearing, cognitive changes and thyroid changes can start to happen for a cat as young as 9 years of age. Cats can live to 20 so the proper care for these issues is essential.


Arthritis can manifest in different ways, and there are several ways to alleviate the symptoms. A cat with arthritis often becomes stiff in his movements or may seem hesitant to jump up onto furniture. As the cat ages, his joints and muscles become inflamed and less flexible. Supplementing the diet with glucosamine and condroitin can alleviate arthritic symptoms. Transitioning to a more natural food, particularly a raw food formula for the older cat, can improve the cat’s mobility as well.

Urinary Tract Problems

Older cats often develop urinary tract problems including a urinary tract infection or an obstructed bladder. If your cat is straining at the litterbox (i.e. whining or meowing), can indicate pain during urination. A cat with a urinary tract infection will also go to the box more often yet produce less urine. When the problem becomes an obstruction, your cat will yowl and you’ll know he’s in pain. He might also hide under a bed. A bladder obstruction requires immediate veterinary attention.


There are several reasons for incontinence which is more common in the elderly cat. A cat with a urinary tract infection may urinate outside the box but sometimes an elderly cat can’t hold their urine to make it to the box. The elderly cat may feel more anxious or confused which can also lead to urinating or defecating outside the box.

Changes in Perception

As a cat ages, eyesight, hearing and taste can decrease in acuity. You might notice your cat bumping into things or not coming when called. He might not respond to the cat food being opened like he did before. He might start to show disinterest in food if his taste buds are less able to sense the food or if his ability to smell has decreased.

Thyroid Changes

A cat over age 8 or 9 can develop hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. There are two thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism in the cat’s body as well as affecting many other bodily systems. In the first disease, the cat’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough one or both of the thyroid hormones. A cat with disease may gain weight and seem lethargic. A cat with hyperthyroidism has a thyroid gland that’s producing too much of the hormone. This cat can develop excessive thirst and lose weight while eating more. Cats with hyperthyroidism often have an increased heart rate which can lead to heart disease and death. There are treatments for thyroid issues.

Cognitive Changes

The elderly cat may become more confused or anxious. This may contribute to incontinence, aggression or even sleeping in the litter box. Most cats with cognitive changes will show bizarre behaviors some of the time but not all of the time.