9 Common Health Problems Senior Cats Face

Dental Disease

Is your cat picking up his food and then dropping it or having trouble chewing? He may have painful periodontal disease, a common problem in aging cats. Plaque and tartar build up heavily over the years, especially if teeth aren’t brushed or professionally cleaned on a regular basis.

Schedule a thorough cleaning, and then follow up by brushing your cat's teeth every day to keep them clean. Keeping the teeth and gums sparkling is an important part of maintaining your cat’s good health.

Failing Vision

You may notice that your cat doesn’t move as confidently through your home, especially in the dark. That may signal vision loss.

Cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment are among the eye conditions that can affect older cats. Look for signs such as cloudiness or whiteness of the lens (cataracts), cloudiness and enlargement of the eye (glaucoma), or dilated pupils (retinal detachment).

Medication can help, depending on the type and severity of the problem. Cataracts can be removed surgically, but cats typically get around so well using their sense of smell that it’s often not necessary. Just remember not to move the furniture around, or he might bonk his head.

Hearing Loss

Does your cat no longer hear the whirr of the electric can opener? Bet you never thought that would happen. But even with cats, the sense of hearing begins to go with age; it’s just a fact of life.

You can’t purchase hearing aids for your cat — yet — but you can still communicate with him. Teach hand signals, stomp your foot, so he feels the vibrations and knows you are nearby, or use the time-honored method of going to him to alert him that it’s dinnertime. He’ll appreciate it.

Heart Disease and Hypertension

An old cat’s heart doesn’t always tick the way it used to. Get your cat to your veterinarian if he has any or all of the following signs: unexplained weight loss or gain, a swollen abdomen, restlessness at night, trouble using his hind legs, difficulty breathing, and fainting or collapsing. All of these may be signs of heart disease. Depending on the problem, your veterinarian may prescribe medication or a special diet to help manage the condition.

If your senior kitty begins to have seizures or frequently circles, develops eye problems, and has an enlarged heart or a heart murmur, he may also be suffering from hypertension. High blood pressure is a common problem in senior cats age 7 and older. Causes include kidney disease, diabetes and hyperthyroidism.

The good news is that medication is available for cats diagnosed with hypertension. Your veterinarian may also recommend a weight loss program or a special diet.


As he ages, it’s not unusual for a cat’s thyroid gland to get out of whack, producing far greater levels of thyroid hormone than necessary. We often see hyperthyroidism in cats around 10 years and older.

The diagnosis can come as a surprise if you think your cat is doing great, because he's so energetic and has such a good appetite. Even though that seems like a good thing, it’s a clue that maybe something isn’t right, and your cat needs a visit to the veterinarian for blood work that can diagnose the condition. Less positive signs, which range from mild to severe, include unexplained weight loss, irritability, depression, vomiting, diarrhea and a coat that looks as if it has seen better days.

Cats with hyperthyroidism are prone to hypertension and, eventually, kidney failure or heart disease if the condition goes untreated. Depending on factors such as your cat’s age and general health, as well as your budget, your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the thyroid gland, a radioactive iodine treatment, a therapeutic diet or antithyroid drugs, which must be given for the rest of the cat’s life.

Kidney Disease

Kidney failure is one of the most common problems veterinarians see in senior cats. Kidney function can be as much as 75 percent destroyed by the time signs become obvious, so it’s a good idea to schedule a regular geriatric exam, starting early in your cat’s golden years. Blood work can help your veterinarian detect signs that kidney function is deteriorating. Kidney failure isn’t reversible, but in many cases, diet, subcutaneous fluid therapy, and sometimes medication and certain vitamin and fatty acid supplements can help to manage the condition and add months or years to your cat’s life.

Last but not least, one of the best ways to ward off disease or limit its effects is to keep your cat at a healthy weight throughout his life. That can help give him a reprieve from arthritis, heart disease and other conditions.

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