Senior Cat Ailments

There are certain cat ailments that tend to present as a cat ages. The average cat lifespan is somewhere between 15 and 17 years, with the onset of age-related conditions usually appearing between to the 8- to 10-year mark. Aging is a natural process for all cats, and the important thing for cat owners to do is to be aware of some of the more common senior cat ailments. Being observant and proactive can help the senior cat get the treatment or supportive care that he or she needs.


Arthritis is one of the most common senior cat ailments that usually cannot be avoided. Arthritis occurs in the joints and presents with pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased mobility. Because cats are very agile and flexible, their joints are made to allow for jumping to high perches and falls from high distances, which are all part of a cat's defenses. As the joints age, they tend to become swollen and inflamed, causing tremendous amounts of pain.

Most cat owners will notice some significant changes in their senior cat that can signal the onset of arthritis, including:

Digestive Complications

In their younger years, cats are very content with their kibble or canned food. As the aging process begins, many senior cats develop complications with being able to properly digest their food. When this occurs, it means that the cat is no longer receiving all of the important fat and vitamin nutrients that it needs to live in a healthy manner. Digestive complications can also lead to electrolyte imbalances, which cause dehydration.

Some of the notable signs of digestive complications are:

  • Regurgitating food
  • Stomach upset
  • Drinking more water than usual
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of desire for regular diet

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is one of the leading causes of death in senior cats, namely because the kidneys are delicate organs that are vital to digestion and the removal of dangerous toxins. While this can occasionally be seen in younger cats, it is by far more common in senior cats. When the kidneys start to fail, many of the waste products and toxins that are normally removed from the body through urination are left behind to build up in the urine and bloodstream, causing life-threatening consequences if not recognized.

Some of the signs of kidney failure include:

  • Unusual excessive thirst
  • Lethargy and lack of activity
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased urination with decreased output
  • Blood in the urine

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is normal in senior cats, but it can sometimes be very difficult to detect. Cats rely very heavily on their sense of hearing, so noticing an increase in the use of other senses, such as sight or smell, can often indicate that a cat is hearing impaired. Most cat owners will not notice this right away, when the cat becomes unusually startled by movements and touch. When hearing loss does become evident, consult your veterinarian because hearing loss can also be the result of parasitic infections.