Common Symptoms of Illness in Older Cats

Older cats are susceptible to different symptoms and illnesses. Some of the most common include urinary tract problems, arthritis, thyroid changes, and changes in the senses. These can begin to develop for a cat anywhere between the ages of 9 and the end of life. They're most common around age 11 or older.

Changes in Mobility

Arthritis is a common issue for older cats, and the symptoms can vary from cat to cat. Your cat may seem stiff or restricted in her gait. She may avoid her favorite high places like the windowsill or cat tree. This is due to inflammation in the joints and muscles. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that may decrease arthritic symptoms. These are easy to find at your local pet store.

Dietary issues can also greatly affect your cat's arthritis. A cat food with ingredients that are closer to their natural state are best. There are some excellent raw formulas for cats that are safe and provide whole food nutrition. A high quality canned food and lowering the amount of corn, soy, and grains may help as well.

Urinary Problems

Problems with the urinary tract, bladder and kidneys are common in older cats. These can include infection in any of the above which can develop into an obstructed bladder or kidney stones. Pay attention to your cat's urinary habits so that you'll know if something is changing. The changes you might notice include straining at the litterbox (i.e. whining or meowing), more trips to the litter box with less output, or urine that is bloody or especially foul smelling. Your cat may also start peeing outside the box. If the problem is more serious, you may hear your cat yowling and you’ll know he’s in pain. He might also hide in an uncharacteristic manner. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary assistance.

Perceptual Changes

As your cat ages, the acuity of his hearing, eyesight and taste may decrease. Suspect eyesight problems if your cat is bumping into things. If your cat starts not coming when called or seems less responsive in general, it may be because of some hearing loss. Older cats sometimes become more picky about their food because of digestive changes. However, it's often because of less acute taste buds or ability to smell.

Thyroid Problems

The thyroid gland can malfunction in one of two ways in the older cat. The thyroid gland releases hormones that regulate metabolism in the cat’s body. They also affect many other bodily systems. Sometimes, the cat’s thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough one or both of the thyroid hormones which is called hypothyroidism. In this case, the cat may seem more lethargic than usual and may gain weight. In the other disease, the gland produces too much of these hormones which is called hyperthyroidism. This can be quite serious and life-threatening because it often makes the heart beat extremely fast. If you notice weight loss while eating more, he may have this second disease.