Health Concerns In Aging Cats [Comprehensive Guide]

Aging cats are like aging humans; they need special attention and care. Whether your cat has been with you since it was a lively kitten or joined your family as a senior, the golden years of a cat's life present unique health challenges.

In this article, we'll guide you through what to expect when your feline friend enters their senior years. From the natural effects of aging to common geriatric medical conditions like arthritis and renal failure, understanding what's normal and what's cause for concern is crucial.

Don't worry, we're here to help you navigate these changes with ease and ensure your cat enjoys their golden age in good health. Read on to learn more about health concerns in aging cats.

The Golden Years in Cats

Cats, just like people, have unique needs as they age. Their golden years, often starting at age seven, bring specific medical conditions that require your attention.

Individual cats can differ greatly in their physical well-being and age-related issues, so it's not always easy to pinpoint when a cat is considered a senior. Veterinarians usually assess each cat's individual state to make this determination.

With today's advanced nutrition and veterinary care, many cats don't show visible signs of aging until they reach their teens. Some conditions might even affect younger cats, but they are particularly prevalent among seniors.

Predicting who will develop age-related illnesses and who will remain healthy can be a challenge. Genetics can play a significant role, but often, cat owners may not have detailed information about their pet's family health history.

But don't worry, your love and care can make all the difference. Your cat's overall well-being depends greatly on your ongoing attention to their needs. Providing good care, balanced nutrition, and regular veterinary visits will be your vital tools in ensuring that your cat enjoys their golden years to the fullest.

Your Cat's Natural Aging Process

As cats grow older, their bodies change in several ways. These changes are a normal part of aging, and they're usually not something to worry about.

Let's explore what you can expect as your cat enters its golden years and what you can do to keep them comfortable and healthy.

Sensory Changes in Aging Cats

Cats may lose some of their sensory capabilities as they age. Sometimes, these changes are hard to notice because cats adapt well to their environment. They don't rely on hearing, smell, or sight as much as they would in the wild.

Deafness in Cats:

Keep an eye on your cat's response to sounds. If they seem less responsive, it may be a sign of hearing loss.

Blindness in Cats:

Look for symptoms like bumping into objects or difficulty navigating. These could indicate vision problems.


Dental Health in Aging Cats

Your cat's teeth may show visible signs of aging. Tartar buildup, cavities, and other dental problems can lead to infections and gum disease in elderly cats. Regular dental care can prevent these issues, so consider scheduling dental check-ups with your vet.

Changes in Body Organs and Systems

Other organs and systems in your cat's body slow down with age. This slowing down is normal, but it means that regular check-ups with the vet become even more crucial. Having your cat examined twice a year, rather than once, will help catch any potential issues early.

Weight and Body Form Fluctuations

Weight changes are common in older cats. Some may become more sedentary and gain weight, while others may lose weight and fat layers. These fluctuations are typical but pay attention to sudden or extreme changes.

Weight Gain:

If your cat gains weight, make sure they are still getting enough exercise and eating a balanced diet.

Weight Loss:

Weight loss may make your cat more attracted to warm places. Provide cozy spots for them to rest, and consult your vet if the weight loss continues.

health concerns in aging cats

Recognizing and Addressing Common Geriatric Medical Conditions in Cats

Older cats are more likely to face specific medical conditions, although some may also affect younger cats. Awareness and understanding of these conditions can help you take better care of your senior cat and provide timely veterinary care.

Let's cover these common conditions, their symptoms, and what you can do to manage them.

Cancer and Tumors in Senior Cats

As body tissues age, the likelihood of cancerous mutations increases. Tumors as a whole are a concern with older cats, and some of those prove to be cancer.

Skin cancer, lymphoma, breast cancer, oral tumors and digestive-tract tumors, and bone cancer, are all relatively common in senior cats. Fortunately, many of these can be treated or maybe slow to progress, so a diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence.

Early Detection: Regular check-ups can identify cancer early, leading to more successful treatment.

Arthritis: A Degenerative Disease

Also called osteoarthritis, this is a degenerative disease in which the cartilage (that soft tissue that "cushions" the joints between the bones) gradually wears out.

This is a painful chronic condition afflicting many old cats, many of whom excel at hiding initial symptoms.

If you notice a decrease in the level of physical activity, especially where the cat avoids stair climbing and jumping, or you suspect that these activities may be painful to your cat, it's time to consult your vet.

Arthritis can also be the cause of litter box avoidance in senior cats, especially if they have to make a physical effort to get to the box.

Consult Your Vet: If you notice these symptoms, consult your vet. Read more on Arthritis And Joint Pain In Cats.

Kidney (Renal) Failure and Aging

Age-related kidney (renal) failure can have a gradual onset making it difficult to detect at first.

Keep an eye out for increased urination (and related litterbox problems), excessive water intake, lack of energy, weight loss, vomiting, and diarrhea or constipation.

Diabetes in Cats

This metabolic disorder prevents the cat's body from processing food into energy they can use. Symptoms include sudden weight loss, along with excessive drinking and urination.

Learn More: You can read more about feline diabetes here.

Heart Disease in Senior Cats

There are several kinds of heart disease, and they all take their toll on the heart itself and the lungs. Affected cats tend to tire easily, and may react to mild exercise with labored breathing.

A bluish tinge to the skin is sometimes visible. Long-term symptoms include loss of appetite and sometimes paralysis of the hind legs.

Hyperthyroidism: Hormone Imbalance

Increased production of hormones in the thyroid glands is not rare among senior cats and can cause a chronic disease with a variety of symptoms.

Symptoms may include overall poor physical condition, weight loss, increased appetite and excessive water intake, and changes in behavior.

Fatty Liver Disease

Also known as Hepatic Lipidosis, senior cats can be more susceptible to this life-threatening condition if they go without food for more than a day or two.

Symptoms may include jaundice and loss of appetite, but your main concern here is with the trigger: pay special attention to your senior cat's eating habits, and avoid drastic dietary changes.

Supervise Diets: Any weight loss diet must be supervised by your vet.

Pancreatitis: Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation of the pancreas causes enzymes from this small organ to affect it and sometimes other organs around it.

This can be a tricky condition to diagnose, with symptoms flaring up in some stages and subsiding in others.

They may include loss of appetite, dehydration, low body temperature, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Strokes and Seizures

Many medical conditions can cause seizures in cats, or it can be a primary seizure disorder (with no underlying cause).

There are various types of seizures, but you're not likely to miss any of them should they occur in your presence, as seizures can be quite dramatic.

While seizures are related to excessive electrical activity in the brain, actual strokes are caused by problems with the blood vessels in the brain.

A seizure can be a symptom of a stroke, or it may be expressed via milder symptoms such as dizziness, or even behavioral changes.

Read More about seizures in cats.


Aging feline brains are susceptible to senility. Loss of memory and cognitive functions in cats can lead to disorientation, confusion, disrupted sleep patterns, and litterbox problems.

The cat may display anxiety by yowling, crying, compulsive pacing, or other behavioral changes.

Keep an eye out for odd behaviors which may indicate the cat has trouble identifying family members, humans, or felines.

This could trigger territorial aggression towards another cat in your household, for example.

Monitor Behavior: Watch for changes that might indicate dementia or senility.

health concerns in aging cats

Call to Action

Ensuring the health of your senior cat is paramount. Regular veterinary check-ups can make all the difference in detecting and treating the conditions mentioned above.

Don't wait until it's too late; schedule an appointment with your vet today.


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional veterinary care or diagnosis.

Always consult with a licensed veterinarian for personalized advice and treatment options for your pet.


Note: We may get commissions for purchases made through links on this page.

17 comments on “Health Concerns In Aging Cats [Comprehensive Guide]

snowshoesiamese06081967 April 30, 2024
I lost my sweet Meezer boy a few months ago to hyperthyroidism after a 3 year battle. He went from 12 lbs. at diagnosis to 7 lbs. when he lost his battle. I tried everything to get him his medication from: ear paste, compound chewy, paw gels, flavored oil compound, pills(losing battle) and sprinkles. He literally withered away before my eyes. He was always hungry and thirsty but his body was taking what ever nutrients he ingested but it wasn't enough to fight it off. It was so hard on him because mentally and personality wise he was fine. I wish extra good luck to any furbaby mama/daddy that battles this horrible disease.
RexinMinn2 January 30, 2023
Dear Author, Your grammar needs attention. Please use "senior" instead of "seniority" in the sentence ending " years or older to be entering their seniority years..." at the start of the piece. Otherwise I do look forward to reading this.
Anne April 7, 2014
@Only1sandy it's best to keep questions to the forums, so I moved your question into a thread form here -
only1sandy April 7, 2014
I salvaged (sandy) from street .how can I tell her age?
maggie22 March 16, 2014
Thanks for writing this article. Maggie is 16.5 has just been through a rough patch, but we are on the way up at this point, to the best of my knowledge. very helpful article.
fyreflair December 8, 2013
I just took in two senior cats a few months ago and the only problem they've had so far is litter box problems but that was actually more due to being relocated so suddenly (they're 11 and were with their last family since they were kittens) than any health problems they're dong much better now.
white shadow December 2, 2013
"As your cat ages, its body goes through a natural aging process, affecting it in many ways. These are considered normal changes...and can be pinned down to aging itself...   ...weight fluctuations and changes in body form are also common in a cat's advanced years....some cats...become thinner and gradually lose fat layers..."   Skinny old cats are commonplace.........BUT DON'T NEED TO BE SO.   Weight loss and wasting in geriatric cats are commonly perceived as a normal part of the aging's a study showing how these CAN BE PREVENTED:   And, flee from the "Vet" who will prescribe "senior food"!!!!!!!!!!!!
    35 year catdad October 5, 2020
    Yes yes yes!!!! its NO NO NO to that junk prescription diet with corn and wheat gluten in it!! Hills and Royal Canin should be ashamed of what they sell as healthy kidney diets. Thanks for the skinny old cat article link! my 19 yr old is getting skinny and I have tried everything to put weight on her.
      35 year catdad October 6, 2020
      I read the study and just took 400 mg vitamin E myself! (A lady I once knew lived to 101 and took E every day). and will put some in kitties food. I wont use the acetate version just mixed tochopherals...Off to see if their Wysongs has chicory root. Imagine if they had added ascorbic acid? Sad thing about leaving dry food as seniors has LOTS of good things added that wet doesnt. At least the wet food I can afford. This summer heat and northern ca. smoke is not good for appetites and every hot spell for years now, the cats get leaner. Thanks again for the study link! E helps recycle C and it has much longer half life in presence of E. My 19 yr old Tortie promised my 22 yrs but I have my part in this for sure. She was running upstairs chased by a 3 yr old just 6 months ago but has slowed down a lot since.... dog gone it
        RexinMinn2 January 30, 2023
        What did you mean when you said, "Sad thing about leaving dry food as seniors has LOTS of good things added that wet doesnt." What's amazing is how many of these senior issues could be avoided if the cat was fed wet food, AND ONLY WET FOOD, all their lives. Why don't cat owners understand that cats are obligate carnivores? Whatever they might be adding to dry food to make it more nutritionally complete doesn't begin to compensate for the damage being done by the grain that comprises the basis of all dry food. Grain and cats are a NO NO!!
      john January 22, 2023
      I have had success with feeding my 16 yr old ,meat baby food in a jar.She loves it .I wait until she finishes eating her food when she decides she has had enough.then I put a large spoonful of baby food on top of her food and she goes back to eating it,Then when she is done with that I put a big dollop on my finger and she licks it off.then when she is done with that I take another finger full and wipe it on her tongue(she does not love that move) and she eats that too.This works for me.Worth a try!!
        RexinMinn2 January 30, 2023
        As long as you're leaving the dry food OUT of the equation I think it's great as cats are obligate carnivores. Careful of what's in that baby food though, because there could be ingredients in it that cause inflammation, such as sugar. Try a high quality wet food such as the Farmina N-D. You'll find a little goes a long way.
rdragonlady719 June 11, 2013
My 22-year-old cat, Aurora, has arthritis, is hard of hearing (except when food is involved) and her appetite has decreased (she's about 5 pounds). She is still the matriarch of our house though and our 2 11-year-old, 14+ lbs boys listen and obey her! LOL
mopseys 1st toy June 11, 2013
Have two 14 yr. old sisters with lymphoma. One of them refuses her prednisone chewy (smashed into a wet cat food ball). I`ve tried smashing it on her fur, aqueous prednisone, and shooting a pill with a pill gun. That latter is the method I`m using now. It takes between 1 to 1 1/2 hours to get it down her. The last session she slobbered 7 pills before the eighth stayed down. It drains both of us and is taking a toll on her attitude toward me. Help PLEASE.
    Sophia October 26, 2021
    You made the above comment years ago, but, just in case you still take care of any cats, please know that your vet can give you transdermal/topical steroids (i.e., prednisolone is usually preferred for cats, rather than prednisolone -- safer, as I understand it). Many other vet medications are available in this form (now?). In this case, the prenisolone is rubbed into the top inner ear. Usually alternating ears each day and wiping ear with a damp cloth prior to each dose. I hope that, if this doesn't help you anymore, that it will help someone else, especially because pilling cats can be extremely difficult.
traxwalker November 19, 2012
Smokey and Chloe are around seven or eight. They joined the household when they were two or three or thereabouts and have given me, their forever mom, all the love I can imagine.
angels mommy November 15, 2012
Good information!! Angel is 8 or 9yrs. old, most likely 9, so I guess that makes him a senior now. :(

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