Seven Signs that Your Cat is Getting Older
Despite having the same number of days in each trip around the sun, we humans may age differently. After all, “age is just a number” and “you’re only as old as you feel, right?” So, what about our feline friends? How can we tell when they are starting to “feel their age”?
Most cats will show some outward signs of aging by 12 years of age, and these signs may begin as early as 7 years. It’s helpful to be aware of the signs that your cat is starting to show their age so you can help provide them with the best care possible as they’re getting on in years.
Here are seven signs that you might see as your cat’s age advances:
1. Change in weight
This may be seen as weight loss or as weight gain. Decreases in activity levels and a slowing metabolism may lead to weight gain. Meanwhile, loss of muscle tone may lead to weight loss. However, a range of diseases may also lead to weight loss. Such diseases as hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, and dental disease. Therefore, it’s important to bring your cat in to see its veterinarian if you see changes in your cat's weight.
2. Changes in Appetite
Along the lines of changes in weight, older cats may have changes in their appetites. An increase in hunger, together with weight loss, is a possible symptom of cancer and of diabetes. Decreased food intake may be present in cats with a declining sense of smell, in addition to some of the causes of weight loss mentioned above. As such, sudden appetite changes should be taken seriously and are cause for a visit to the veterinary clinic.
3. Decreased Activity Levels
Older cats tend to be less active than younger cats and may spend more time sleeping or lounging around the house. It is estimated that the majority of cats over the age of 12 have some degree of osteoarthritis, a chronic progressive degeneration of the cartilage that makes up the joints. The joints that seem to be most affected are the hips, elbows, ankles, and knees.
Since cats cannot verbally tell us when they are in pain, it is important to watch for subtle signs of arthritis, such as difficulty when going up and down the stairs and hanging out closer to the ground than usual. If you suspect your cat is in pain due to arthritis, try to see your home through their eyes and make sure they can easily access food, water, and litter boxes. Your veterinarian can help you with this as well as investigate the source(s) of the pain.
4. Changes in Outward Appearance
As our cat's age, their coats become thinner, and their skin becomes less elastic. They may also have difficulty maintaining good grooming habits or reaching all those tough-to-get spots leading to matting or skin infections. Skin infections can also be an outward sign of a slowing immune system. And as you gaze into your feline friend’s eyes, you may notice some haziness in the lens and thinning or holes in the iris. Some of these changes can represent normal and benign processes, but others may require veterinary care, so keep your vet informed of any changes to your cat’s appearance.
5. Increased Vocalization
Older cats may begin or show an increase in meowing, especially at nighttime. In addition to being difficult to live with, these evening chatter sessions may be a sign of cognitive dysfunction, hypertension, or hyperthyroidism so it is important to have your vet look into new meowing behavior.
6. Other Changes in Behavior
As cats age, they may become more irritable and less tolerant of being handled by humans or other animals in the household. They may also become clingy and demand more attention from their owners than usual. While it may be easy to check these changes up to your cat becoming a grumpy senior citizen, it is important to maintain regular vet visits to check for discomfort or pain stemming from a disease or potentially manageable condition.
7. Increased Urination
Older cats may start urinating outside of their litter box or show an increase in urine output. It can be hard to parse out what is a behavioral concern and what is a medical concern when it comes to changes in urinary habits. To complicate matters, what began as a medical concern may become a behavioral change too if the underlying condition is not resolved swiftly.
How Pet Insurance Can Help
Pet insurance can help you care for your senior cat by providing financial support for eligible veterinary expenses. As cats age, they can become more susceptible to accidents and illnesses. With cat insurance, you can have help finding peace of mind and caring for your pet.
Accident & illness pet insurance plans can cover a range of eligible veterinary expenses. Overall, pet insurance can help you get the best possible care for your senior cat and ensure that it can get the medical attention they need.
While aging itself is not a disease, it can be accompanied by changes that may be benign or may be caused by serious illnesses in need of medical intervention. Maintaining regularly scheduled checkups with your cat’s veterinarian can increase the chances of catching disease processes early and help determine which signs are simply harmless tokens of your cat growing older.
If you find that your elderly cat is suffering, and medical interventions are no longer working or not an option, euthanasia may be the kindest next step. As you carefully consider the options of “if” and “when” to proceed with euthanizing, you may also consider “where.” At home euthanasia is a peaceful option and especially beneficial for pets who dislike traveling to the veterinary office.
As your cat enters their golden years, you can help them find enjoyment by continuing to show them love and affection, spending quality time with them, and keeping a close eye on any changes.
[context note – the Spot blog page on Spot’s website already includes the full insurance disclosure]
-by Dr. Bethany Hsia, Co-Founder of CodaPet
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