While we want to forever see our cats as kittens, the reality is they, like all animals, age over time. Cats always seem so spunky until suddenly, one day we realize they are sleeping more and jumping less.
Cats go through a number of different changes as they age, and while some changes are harmless, others can be much more concerning. Here are some of the 10 most common age-related changes.
Sleeping A lot
Many of our kitty cats become less active and sleep more as they get older. A very noticeable change typically occurs when they move from kittenhood to adulthood. Then, a more gradual change takes place as they transition from adulthood to becoming seniors. Sleeping more with age can be very normal, but it’s important to know that cats are extremely stoic and this can also be a sign of discomfort or disease. If you notice your cat sleeping more than usual, a veterinary visit may be warranted.
All animals develop arthritis over time, where changes in the joints take place that make them painful and difficult to move. Cats most commonly develop arthritis in their hips, but it can develop in any joint or along the spine.
Typically, cat owners notice their cats having difficulty jumping in and out of their litter boxes and leaving accidents around the house. They may also show reluctance to jump onto higher surfaces, furniture, or cat trees. Joint supplements, such as Wellnergy Pets QBOW Hip & Joint, and maintaining a lean, healthy weight can help keep our cats limber for longer.
Cats are fastidious groomers who are usually very adept at keeping their hair and fur clean. However, as they get older, they tend to take care of themselves less. Often, older cats develop hair mats, dandruff, loose hairs, or can have litter stuck in their fur. This is because older cats have less of the energy and flexibility needed to properly groom themselves. Unfortunately, arthritis is a big impacting factor on a cat’s ability to maintain a good, healthy coat. Wellnergy Pets Hairball Control are a great supplement that can help replenish your cat's coat, along with preventing hairballs when they groom themselves!
Occasionally, older cats can develop dementia. Dementia is a disease of exclusions, meaning it can only be diagnosed once all other diseases have been ruled out. A cat with dementia may howl for no reason (especially at night), pace, or experience other abnormal behaviors.
Bad breath and dental disease
Just like us, plaque, bacteria, and food particles build up over time on cats’ teeth. And just like your human dentist would advise, daily or twice daily brushing of the teeth is important for maintaining good feline oral hygiene. Unfortunately, most cats don’t understand or tolerate it. Over time, the gunk on the teeth and under the gum line hardens into a substance called calculus, which is almost impossible to remove without an ultrasonic cleaner. Calculus causes inflammation and infection within the mouth and slowly eats away at gum tissue, periodontal ligaments that hold teeth within the gums, and even the surrounding bone within the jaw.
When you start trying to brush your cat’s teeth, I recommend wrapping a piece of gauze around your finger and gently using it to rub a kitty-safe toothpaste against the teeth and gums. Cats have small mouths, and so they may tolerate this method better than a toothbrush. If these methods seem too difficult, you can also try Wellnergy Pets Dental Care Water Additive and Dental Care Wipes. They're my favorite combo improving our feline friends' dental routine!
Weight gain and weight loss
As cats move from kittenhood to adulthood, many of them become less active and start to put on more weight. Indoor cats are especially prone to weight gain because they get less stimulation and exercise.
As cats continue to age into their senior years, many start to lose muscle mass. Cats start to require more protein in their diets in order to maintain their muscle tone. However, many older cats can’t maintain good muscle mass due to the development of a chronic disease, such as diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or cancer. These will be covered next.
Unfortunately, many older cats develop cancers. One of the most common of these is lymphoma, a primary cancer of a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. Lymphoma can develop almost anywhere in a cat’s body, including in the eye, the gastrointestinal tract, or in the lungs. Signs of lymphoma depend on the organs being affected, including sudden blindness when in the eyes, coughing and difficulty breathing when in the lungs, and vomiting and diarrhea when in the gastrointestinal tract. Extreme weight loss is commonly seen in cats with lymphoma. Unfortunately, many lymphomas are difficult to diagnose without extensive testing or until the disease has advanced.
Chronic kidney disease
This is an extremely common disease that develops as cats age. Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys aren’t able to reabsorb water into the body, thereby causing their urine to become extremely dilute. This leads to chronic dehydration that further injures the kidneys. Uncontrolled kidney disease can also lead to other serious conditions such as weight loss, anemia, vomiting, and hypertension.
Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. Cats suffering from hyperthyroidism often lose weight rapidly, develop voracious appetites, and become extremely vocal and anxious. Hyperthyroidism can also lead to secondary serious heart arrhythmias.
Many overweight cats eventually develop type 2 diabetes, or diabetes mellitus. The first signs of diabetes include sudden weight loss, increased drinking and urination, and sometimes a neurological problem where cats begin walking on the heels of their hindlegs.
We hope this article helps you identify some age-related changes and diseases that your cat may be experiencing. It’s very important to speak to your veterinarian if any abnormal behaviors or changes occur. Furthermore, once your cat reaches senior status at around 7-8 years of age, it’s imperative to have his or her bloodwork and urine checked annually for the opportunity to catch many diseases early.
Of course, feel free to reach out to our team on Facebook, Instagram, email, or the comments section below if you have any further questions. We’d love to see pictures of your older pups so don’t forget to tag #wellnergypets!
About the Author:
Dr. Debra Chen, D.V.M. has been a practicing companion animal veterinarian for over three years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to moving to the Bay, she received both her veterinary and undergraduate degrees at the University of Minnesota. After spending a third of her life in Taiwan, she is also fluent in Mandarin Chinese. Her veterinary interests include preventative medicine, animal behavior, and surgery. When not practicing medicine, Dr. Chen can be found camping, hiking, eating, or traveling with her husband and Formosan Mountain Dog, Tuna. They also share a home with their two feline overlords, brown tabby cats Cairo and Khaleesi.