Old or Sick?
As cats age, they naturally begin to nap more, change their daily activity and diet patterns, and sometimes even have personality changes. So what is normal and what is abnormal?
Here are some ways to determine if your older kitty is getting sick and needs your help:
- Resting Position: Cats can sleep in a multitude of ways, but certain positions indicate pain. Sitting hunched over on the tips of all 4 feet, with a slightly ruffled fur coat and the tail curled around the body/tucked in is an abnormal posture (like the picture above). They sit very still in this posture on a flat surface; this can indicate anything from arthritis to belly pain to chronic low temperature from kidney disease.
- Jumping: No matter the age, cats love to be looking down on us from a high perch. Even a 15-year-old arthritic kitty should be willing to jump up on a bed, couch, cupboard or counter. If they have begun to use an extra step for jumping (example, onto a chair then onto the table), if they have started to hesitate, pause and re-adjust their legs, or have stopped jumping entirely, it is very likely your kitty is painful.
- Routine: Cats can sleep 16-20 hours per day, but every cat has their own routine. Changes in sleeping and activity patterns are very important. Increased activity (running around, playing, interaction with people) in older cats can actually be the first indicator of a serious disease called Hyperthyroidism. Increased sleeping in low locations can be related to arthritis pain. Hiding or sleeping long hours in quiet locations can be related to feeling ill from kidney or liver disease.
- Appetite: Cats have steady behaviors for appetite. They like their food and treats, and they like them on a set schedule. If your older cat has changed their eating patterns, has decreased the amount they eat or are suddenly more picky about what they eat, it can be an early indicator of dental disease, organ disease, and many other treatable illnesses. Other signs that indicate something is wrong including if they have begun vomiting more or having loose stool.
- Accidents: Sudden peeing or pooping outside of the litterbox is your cat trying to tell you that something is wrong. For older cats, the location of the accident compared to where the litterbox is in the house is important. Frequently older cats with arthritis pain will have an accident at the base or top of stairs because going up/down them to get to the litterbox is just too painful.
- Body Condition (Muscle): As cats get older, losing weight or muscle without trying is very, very serious. Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, Kidney Disease, and many other health conditions that are treatable can be the cause of an older cat’s weight loss.
If you find that any of your cats are showing any of the signs listed above, please call us for a Senior Wellness Exam at 506-857-4271. We can help make your cat’s life longer, healthier and pain-free.
Written by Moncton Animal Hospital