As veterinarians, our job is to help cats grow old. As their fur starts to grey, our job is to ensure that they remain healthy and active as they grow old. Making sure that you provide extra attention to your cat in their later stages in life is essential in helping them stay happy and healthy. A big part of that is ensuring that your cat is regularly examined by your veterinarian.

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What are the stages of a senior cat’s life? How do you spot the signs of ageing?

Cats become classified as mature at 7-10 years of age, and are seniors from 11-14, and geriatric from 15 years and up, with the average life expectancy of a cat being 16 and a half years. During this time, subtle signs will indicate that your cat is ageing. More sleeping, less playing or engaging with toys, less interest in normally preferred stimulation (birds outside, cat grass, TV Shows, etc), difficulty or issues getting up or down stairs, weight loss, and litter-box challenges are the most common issues that develop in ageing cats.

My senior cat is losing weight, what can I do?

Senior cats can lose weight for many different reasons, varying in severity from a mild illness to severe diseases like diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. We do know that muscle mass loss in older cats is directly related to a decrease in life expectancy, so we need to figure out why they are losing weight as soon as possible!

How can I care for my senior cat?

Senior cats need easier access to soft sleeping locations: purchasing a set of stairs to gain access to the bed or couch, lower cat trees and step stools, and low-sided litter boxes are critical. Ageing means illnesses can develop quickly, regular exams and blood tests by a veterinarian should be done twice a year to make sure no diet, supplement or medication changes are needed to keep your senior cat healthy and happy for as long as possible.

What are some common health issues?

Arthritis, diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, dental and heart disease are all common serious illnesses that affect older cats more commonly than younger cats.

Why is my senior cat having behavioural issues?

There are many reasons why older cats start acting differently. Any behaviour change could be a strong indication that your cat may be unhealthy or have an illness. Being more grumpy, sleeping more and in different locations than their preferred spots, defecating and/or urinating outside the litter box when they have never done so before are all common warning signs, and all indicate something is troubling your older cat. It is advisable to take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.