Health Care Needs of Older Cats

Dr. Jennifer Creed, a veterinary consultant based near Chicago, has cared for cats and other domestic animals for more than 20 years. In addition, Dr. Creed maintains an award-winning cattery where she raises and sells Ragdoll kittens.

Like humans, cats’ medical needs change and become more sensitive as they age. First of all, an older cat has a less efficient immune system than a younger cat, so he or she is likely to be vulnerable to infection than in previous years. This is particularly true when the cat’s system is fighting off a chronic or age-related disease. Older cats should see their veterinarians regularly to monitor health. Owners of older cats should call a veterinarian if the cat experiences new or unusual symptoms such as frequent vomiting, difficulty voiding, seizures, or unusual sores or discharge. A cat’s regular veterinarian can also suggest warning signs that the animal may experience.

For many cats, kidneys and joints are susceptible to age-related deterioration. Many cats experience arthritis, for example, which can impair a cat’s ability to reach water, food, and litter. Owners should be careful not to assume that their cats can reach the same heights they did when they were younger. This is of particular concern when water bowls become difficult to reach, as older cats need a high water intake to balance reduced kidney function.