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Healthy Cats

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Feeding Your Senior Cat

Expert answers to common questions about aging felines.


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.

Q: Because my cat is now a senior citizen, does she need to go to the vet more often?

A: I’m really into twice a year wellness visits. There’s a compelling reason to see pets more often. They age much faster than humans, they can’t tell you where it hurts, and they hide illness. There’s a period of grace for many illnesses. If you catch it early on, it’s usually less expensive, and treatment is much more successful. We do these routine tests -- blood tests or urinalysis -- where we can pick up the very earliest signs of kidney problems, diabetes, hyperthyroid in its early stages, or an elevated white blood cell count.

If you notice your pet’s appetite has changed, if you notice its bathroom habits have changed, vocalizations have changed, his activity level has changed, something’s probably wrong. They don’t fake it like we do for sympathy.

Q: Should I change my cat’s diet as he ages?

A: Definitely encourage them to drink more water. To do that, if you’ve been on dry food, you may have to go to canned or semi-moist food. The American Association of Feline Practitioners actually recommends feeding cats wet food throughout their lives now.

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