ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Care for a Senior Cat

Updated on July 15, 2009

Aging in cats is not a disease: it's a natural process

Thanks to the diligent care of loving pet owners along with the technological advances of veterinary medicine, cats are leading much healthier and longer lives. This is also attributed to the fact that many owners spay and neuter their cats and many cats are being kept as indoor only pets, significantly raising the cat's life expectancy.

Often owners erroneously portray aging in their cats as a sign of disease. Aging in reality is not a disease, rather it is a natural process. With routine wellness exams, cats may be helped in maintaining a good level of health while recognizing early warning signs before they become harder to manage. Many veterinarians suggest nowadays, a twice a year wellness exam ideally six months apart from each other.

This gives a good time frame to allow veterinarians to check for early signs of trouble before they progress. Geriatric blood tests are highly recommended during these wellness exams. In many cases, shots are not recommended after a certain age. Owners should consult with their veterinarian about excluding shots after their cat has reached a certain age.

Just as car owners perform more maintenance checks as their cars get old, owners of senior cats must try to keep up with these important exams in their feline friends.

Changes in Senior Cats

Just as humans get grayer hair, more wrinkles and bouts of arthritis, senior pets develop a variety of signs suggesting they are aging. Following, are some evident and less evident physical and psychological changes observed in geriatric cats.

  • Reduced grooming

As cats age, owners may notice a change in their grooming habits. While once they cats used to spend a lot of time in keeping their fur soft and glossy, now their cat may refrain more and more from keeping up with their fur. Often, their coat will manifest this lack of care, becoming matted, dull and sometimes even smelly. Owners can help their feline friend keep up with their grooming, by lending a helping hand. Some cats suffering from artritis pain are unable to reach certain areas as they used to when they were younger.

  • Dehydration

Senior cats may reduce their water intake. This often results in a less elastic skin which becomes more prone to infections. Senior cats should be encouraged to drink more. It can help to place more water bowls around the home to remind the cat to drink. A water fountain may often entice finicky drinkers that look for the freshest water. Some cats will become dehydrated as a result of kidney disease, a common ailment of senior cats.

  • Feline's Alzheimer

Just as humans, cats develop a feline version of Alzheimer's disease known as Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD). Affected cats are often found wandering in the night and howling as they have a hard time finding their way and get disoriented. Some may forget where their litter box is and they may have accidents in the night. Turning furniture around may acerbate these episodes as the cat wanders in unfamiliar territory. These episodes can be reduced by administering a veterinary prescription medication known as Anipryl.

  • Brittle Nails

As cats age, their nails become quite brittle. Also because senior cats may not exercise much, their nails tend to get long fast requiring more often than usual nail trimmings. In some cases, their overgrown nails may embed into their paws causing infections and pain. A thorough inspection is recommended.

  • Hear Loss

As cats age, they may also lose some hearing. A cat may get startled when pet suddenly or may not respond anymore to owners opening a can of tuna or calling their name. Cats with hear loss should not be kept outdoors as they may not be able to hear upcoming dangers such as a car or a dog.

  • Ocular Haziness

Some senior cats develop a cloudy, hazy appearance in their eyes. In most cases, fortunately this does not affect the cat's vision. Cats however, as they age may develop high blood pressure which may cause sudden blindness because their retinas may detach. This sudden blindness may be reversible if the cat is taken to the vet promptly and administered blood pressure reducing medications.

  • Reduced Sense of Smell

Senior cats are often finicky cats. They may turn their nose away at what once was their favorite food. This can be due to a decreased sense of smell, since smell plays a big role in a cat's appetite. Sometimes warming up some canned food in the microwave may help release some smell that may entice the cat to eat. Boiling fish or chicken may also wake up a cat's sense of smell.

  • Periodontal Disease

As cats age they are more vulnerable to dental decay. Their teeth may appear dark yellow or brown often accompanied by an unpleasant odor. Affected cats may appear to be grumpy at times, they may also paw at their mouth, have trouble eating kibble and drop some kibble on the floor as they eat. Dental cleanings are performed on senior cats, and owners often report significant behavior changes after ward, almost as if the cat gained back a few years.

  • Arthritis

Just as humans, cats get joint problems as well. Owners may see this when their cat no longer enjoys jumping up and down their once favorite high chair or is no longer visiting the window sill to do some bird watching. Some cats may even have difficulty getting in their litter box, choosing a more easier place to access. Because most cats are stiffer in the morning, providing a cozy bed for the night may help them wake up better. Warmed up beds may be extra helpful.

  • PU/PD

These abbreviations stand for polyuria and polidypsia which mean respectively increased urination and increased drinking. Of course, a cat that drinks more will consequently urinate more. The causes behind these two symptoms are often correlated to some common conditions found in senior cats such as kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

  • Weight loss/obesity

These are two opposite problems yet they are both common in cats. Obese cats should shed the extra pounds to avoid extra strain on joints and lower the chances of diabetes.A light exercise regimen may help. Some cats instead appear to become skinnier as they age. It is important to weigh senior cats once a month and report to the vet any subtle and progressive signs of weight loss. In some cases, these lost pounds an ounces may be indicative of an underlying condition such as kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, liver disease or hyperthyroidism. A scale showing accurate digital pounds and ounces is ideal.

It cannot be repeated enough the importance of keeping a close eye on senior cats to report any suspicious changes. It is thanks to these observations that many times cats can be found living with dignity at 16-17 years old and even 21 in some cases. The key to a long, healthy living cat is therefore, careful observation, routine wellness exams, exercise and a stress free, loving environment.

K&H Pet Products Thermo-Kitty Heated Cat Bed Small 16 Inches Sage/Tan
K&H Pet Products Thermo-Kitty Heated Cat Bed Small 16 Inches Sage/Tan
Give your favorite feline friend a cozy and warm place to nap all winter long inside this circular, heated cat bed. The bed plugs in to any standard household outlet and starts working instantly. Dual thermostats regulate temperature using only 4 watts for minimal power consumption. With Fifi lying on the thermostatically controlled bed, the she can bask in the perfect comfort of 102 degrees F; maintaining an ideal feline body temperature for healthier joints and deeper naps.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • AllCatHealth profile image


      11 years ago

      Excellent article. I am now an avid reader

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      11 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Great advice. I see that you have many such articles related to caring for pets. Thumbs up!

    • alexadry profile imageAUTHOR

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      11 years ago

      Twenty is a great age! You must have been a great owner! At the vet hospital I have seen both dogs and cats die in a similar time frame one from another when they lived together for many years. I guess they seem to have a hard time coping with the mourning process.

    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 

      11 years ago from Mississippi

      very imformitive

      Melinda Winner

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      11 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      My lovely cats in the UK lived to be 20 and then just shut down, I guess they thought that was enough, they died within a week or two of each other. I still miss them, my constant companions.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)