Care of the Older Cat

The basic elements of care that are needed for owning a cat for all of its life are the same – a warm, safe environment; good food; clean water; companionship and the ability to know and respect your friend’s behaviour.

As your cat ages, these elements remain the same, however, your ability to read these and observe for changes are more important.


The things to look for are changes in routine;

  • does the cat drink more?
  • urinate inside? (when they never have),
  • eat more?
  • eat less?
  • sleep more?
  • seem stiff/sore?
  • groom less?


The types of illnesses that older cats get are:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis


Early detection of these diseases is essential in their successful treatment. Diseases such as kidney disease are really hard to detect early on and it is often not until 75% of the kidneys are damaged, we start to see the common symptoms of drinking and urinating excessively.

As with human medicine, the advances that have occurred have immensely helped our ability to diagnose and treat many of these diseases. There are great new insulins that allow better management of diabetes plus several new drugs that allow us to treat heart disease and help with kidney disease. Tools such as ultrasound machines give us a view into the heart and allow us to directly measure changes in such things as blood flow through the heart and also the thickness of the muscular walls of the heart itself. Heart disease can be accurately diagnosed and then treated appropriately. Blood pressures can be easily measured and treatments administered.

We have one patient that comes to see us who had a large abdominal cancer, the owners had been told, by another vet clinic, that there was nothing that could be done and the cat should be taken home to die. We saw the cat’s blood tests were favourable and chest x-rays clear, so surgery was done and the mass biopsied. The cancer was treatable and the cat referred to a referral centre for chemotherapy. This cat was still alive a good 6 months later and is stable in remission and a very happy cat.

Chemotherapy always stirs emotions in animal owners and is definitely not for every owner or patient.

People often say Fluffy is thirteen he is just old, yes he is old, but that should be an excuse to say let’s make sure that he is well, rather than just use the excuse of his age as a reason to do nothing.

So on top of your caring for your cat at home, there is a huge amount that can be done, diet, pain control for arthritis, supplements for tired joints the list goes on. So if your feline friend is “old and tired” get them checked as there may be a reason for the tired component that could be treatable and lead to both an increase in the quality and also the length of their lives.

Recommendation – if your cat loses weight rapidly, has an increase or decrease in appetite, changes behaviour suddenly such as less active or can’t jump up on the furniture, drinks more or from unusual places (like the shower) get them checked, as the sooner we act the easier it is to help with some of these problems.

Don’t just rationalize things away with the old “old” excuse!