It may come as a surprise that older cats should see a veterinarian twice a year as their functions decline. But, as any cat owner knows, taking a feline of any age to the vet is never easy. Your cat somehow senses the impending vet visit and suddenly develops feline superpowers to try escaping the whole ordeal. The older your cat becomes, the more you'll likely notice some new and sometimes alarming behaviors that mandate a trip to the vet. Though sleeping more is not always an indicator of problems other than age, keep an eye on these signs and keep the kitty carrier handy.
Senior or Geriatric?
Now that cats live longer, they're classified as geriatric once they reach a certain age. A cat that's between 11 and 15 years old is considered to be a senior. A cat that's over 15 years old is considered to be a geriatric feline.
Your Cat Drinks a Lot of Water
If you notice your cat is drinking substantially more water, it's rarely because of old age or heat-related weather. The most common causes of a cat's increased water intake are kidney disease and Diabetes Mellitus. When a cat has urine leakage or has accidents outside of the litter box, it's a signal of other problems that are unrelated to drinking more water. Accidents with older cats may indicate an infection, loss of sphincter control, or another underlying disease that needs attention.
Your Cat Eats (A Lot) More
An older cat's change in appetite likely indicates a health problem. If your cat is eating more while at the same time losing weight and vomiting frequently, it may be a common age-related glandular disease called feline hyperthyroidism. This condition is typically caused by a benign tumor on the thyroid gland that increases the production of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism. A cat developing hyperthyroidism can also become restless and more vocal. Your vet can recommend dietary changes and medication to alleviate this hormonal imbalance that can cause havoc with your cat's functioning.
Your Cat Has Bad Breath
A cat typically licks its owner's face less frequently than a dog would, and it's tough to brush a feline's teeth, which is why you may miss the signs of your pet's declining dental health. But, if you do catch a whiff of your older cat's bad breath, it's time for a vet visit. Tartar, tooth loss, and oral ulcers are usually the cause of bad breath, and it's painful, as well. Oral cancers, infections, metabolic diseases (kidney disease, Diabetes Mellitus) are also potential causes for your cat's bad breath and need immediate and aggressive treatment from your vet.
Your Cat Moves Slower
Though you may be used to your cat tearing through the house in sudden bursts of energy, those amusing episodes of behavior diminish as your pet ages. But if you sense your cat is moving slowly because of pain or stiffness, or you notice some loss of muscle in your pet, visit your veterinarian to check for arthritis. Your veterinarian can discuss home treatments, including medications, that can relieve your cat's painful joints.
Beds for Older Cats
Provide an older cat with a comfortable bed to alleviate arthritic pain. Consider an orthopedic bed for your cat to ensure a better rest. These types of pet beds are made from memory foam that's covered in waterproof material.
Your Cat's Eyes Are Changing
If you notice your cat's eyes developing a bluish haze, that's a sign of lenticular sclerosis, which is a normal and non-painful aging of the eye. If the eyes appear opaque or milky, it's a sign of cataracts, which is a rare condition for cats. Though cataracts don't cause pain, it may lead to blindness. If your cat seems to be suddenly blind, or your feline's head is tilting more often, see your vet immediately to determine the cause. It could be more than just old age. These signs may be related to an infection, poisoning, cancer, or the sudden onset of diabetes.
Your Cat Seems Disoriented
Cats, like people, can experience age-related dementia. There's a medication for dementia, called Anipryl, that's available for cats through your vet. Most of the studies and data on this condition relate to dogs, but your vet can advise you about using the medication for your cat.