Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Cats

Select An Article
Font Size

Feeding Your Senior Cat

Expert answers to common questions about aging felines.
By Sandy Eckstein
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Cats tend to age more gracefully than dogs, but they still age. Eventually, they can’t jump to the top of the refrigerator any more. Their appetites wane. They sleep more. What else can you expect as your cat ages? Nationally known veterinarian, author, and television personality Dr. Marty Becker gives you the scoop and explains how to best help them enjoy their older years.

 

Q: How long do cats usually live? Do indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats?

A: When I was a young veterinarian, you didn’t see older cats. But now I know a cat-only hospital in San Antonio, Texas, where, every time a cat reaches its 20th birthday, they put it up on their reader board. And there are lots and lots and lots of reader board messages. It’s like Willard Scott on “The Today Show.” There are lots of people celebrating their cat’s 20th birthday.

As a rule, we think of cats above the age of 10 as older, and at that point serious age-related medical issues could affect them. If you keep your cat lean, that’s going to keep it healthier longer.

Indoor cats live a lot longer than outdoor cats. There was a study done at Purdue a few years ago that said indoor-only cats live 2.5 times longer than outdoor cats or indoor/outdoor cats. That's because they don’t come across poisons and infectious diseases or disagreements with other cats, dogs, or Cadillacs.

 

Q: What physical signs can I expect as my cat ages?

A: Cats are weird because they’re both prey and predator, so they tend to hide things a lot longer. And they’re very light on their feet. Arthritis is a major problem in cats that we didn’t really know about. You’ll see an unkempt appearance. They won’t jump on the high places. But it’s subtle.

They’ll have problems jumping into and out of the litter box. When cats get older, you don’t want a great big tall litter box that’s hard for them to get in and out of.

As they get older, you’ll also see increased or decreased sleep, avoiding human interaction, and dislike of being stroked or brushed.

 

Q: What are the most common medical problems in older cats?

A: The main ones are overactive thyroid, intestinal problems, sometimes cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, and renal disease.

 

Q: Are there mental changes in my aging cat that I should look for?

A: Sometimes they’ll cry in the middle of the night. They won’t use their litter box reliably, and they’ll act confused or won't relate to family members in the usual way. These can be signs of aging. But they can also be signs of arthritis or dental disease or kidney disease, so you don’t want to write them off as just old age.

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

kitten with onions
Slideshow
Night stalking cat
Slideshow
 
Young woman holding Papillon
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
cat on couch
Evaluator
Kitten using litter box
Quiz
 
sleeping kitten
Slideshow
sad kitten looking at milk glass
Slideshow
 
Cat looking at fish
Slideshow
muddy dog on white sofa
Quiz
 
Maine Coon cat breed
Article
Pets: Behavior Problems in Cats
Slideshow