Too often I hear people comment that their cat is

[insert symptom or condition here] because it is old, and old cats just “get that way.” While it is true that many disease processes are more likely to occur in an older cat, the cat’s age is not a prerequisite for disease. Younger cats can also develop kidney disease, arthritis, and other diseases commonly associated with old age. Cats of any age should be active with play, grooming, and normal social behaviors. If they are not, then it is a sign that something is wrong; and if it is occurring for more than a few days, then the cat should be examined.

Just like us humans, the earlier that a disease can be identified, the more that can be done to slow down progression of the disease. Cats, in general, are notoriously subtle with showing clinical signs. Signs can include–but are not limited to–sleeping more, decreased or stopped grooming, not using the litter box consistently, decreased social interactions, change in appetite (increased or decreased), weight loss, decreased activity, and changes in breathing. Almost all senior cats will have one or more of these signs, which many people associate as being “normal” for an older cat. Most often these cats have some sort of (or combination of) chronic disease occurring such as arthritis, chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or a gastrointestinal issue.

So, what can be done to help our senior feline friends? All cats 10 years and older should have semi-annual examinations and annual blood work. An adult cat ages at a rate of 4 years to every 1 human year, and a 10 year-old cat is the equivalent to a 56 year-old person. So, an exam every 6 months for a cat would be the same as an examination every 2 years for a human. A semi-annual exam will help assess changes in weight, body condition, teeth, or any other abnormalities upon physical examination. Annual blood work will help detect changes in organ function, many times revealing potential problems before obvious clinical signs have developed. This will allow earlier start of treatment to help slow down or stabilize disease. Once obvious clinical signs are evident—such as chronic kidney disease, there is often little that can be done to help extend the life of the cat.

We would all like our feline friends to live to be 20 years-old, but realistically most will not (just as most of us won’t live to be 100). However, that doesn’t mean that their golden years can’t be as full of life as their younger days. With consistent care, most cats can live comfortably well into their teen years. In the next few newsletters, I will be discussing the most common diseases seen in senior cats: chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and arthritis.

As always, give us a call at (406)728-0022 or visit our website at if you have any questions or concerns about your kitty. May all of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! =^_^=