What To Expect As Your Cat Ages

Have you ever wondered how your cat's experience changes as it ages? As your cat ages, our furry pals start to show signs of aging, just like us. In this article, we'll talk about what these changes might look like, ranging from health transformations to shifts in behavior.

We'll explain what age qualifies a cat as "elderly" and what changes you might see. You'll get to understand how your cat's muscles, senses, and teeth can change with age. We'll discuss degenerative diseases and changes in behavior that can come with age. Finally, we'll talk about what you can do to make this time easier for your cat.

As a cat owner, this guide will help you understand what to expect when your cat becomes a senior. It provides valuable insights into the senior stage of your cat's life.

Understanding Age-Related Changes In Cats

The health and behavioral changes your cat experiences as they age can be perplexing. It can be challenging to tell the difference between what’s normal for an aging cat and what isn’t.

You can expect an array of transformations, some obvious, some subtle. Much like us, cats experience shifts in their body and mind as they age. We'll take a look at:

  • Changes in their senses
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Dental issues
  • Degenerative diseases

As your cat ages, you may observe a decrease in their energy levels and activity. They may also exhibit a reduced appetite compared to their younger adult years. You may have to make adjustments to your cat’s environment and diet to accommodate these many changes.

So, what does all of this mean in regard to the health and happiness of your older cat?
What can cat owners do to increase their pet’s comfort and quality of life as they grow old?

Continue reading to discover essential information about your cat's golden years. Learn how to enhance their quality of life during this special stage of their life.

At What Age Is A Cat Considered “Elderly?”

Cats are now living longer due to improved care and nutrition provided by their human caregivers. This has contributed to an increased lifespan for our feline companions. This means that what is considered “elderly” has changed quite a bit in recent decades.

Generally speaking, a cat is considered to be approaching old age once they reach ten years old. However, this number is not definitive for every cat.

A veterinarian might not define your ten-year-old cat as a senior if they appear to be in overall good health. The breed and size of the cat will also likely influence your vet’s determination, at least to some degree.

As your cat approaches the end of its natural lifespan, another stage of old age comes into play. This stage brings additional considerations and challenges for cat owners to navigate. A cat is referred to as “geriatric” after the age of fifteen in most circumstances.

During this age, cats are more prone to developing various health issues and exhibiting noticeable changes in behavior. It's important for cat owners to be aware of these potential challenges.

The older your cat becomes, the more apparent these will become to you.

Health Changes In Aging Cats

All animals experience changes in their health as they approach old age, and cats are no exception.

The signs of aging in cats can occur gradually or seemingly overnight. However, over time, your cat will inevitably start displaying visible signs of aging.

When these changes occur, it is crucial to understand what is happening. Taking appropriate steps to address your pet's health needs and adapting their lifestyle accordingly is important.

Muscle Wasting

Have you noticed that your cat is becoming a skinny kitty? Perhaps they no longer have the robust and muscular appearance they once had for years.

Muscle wasting, also known as muscle atrophy or simply the loss of muscle mass, is common in aging cats. This tends to occur most obviously in the hind legs but can affect the cat’s entire body.

While muscle wasting is common in aging cats, it can also indicate other health concerns. For example, diabetes can cause nerve problems that affect muscle mass in the hind legs.

If your cat is experiencing sudden muscle mass loss and has difficulty walking or standing, it may be more than typical muscle wasting. In such cases, it is important to consult your veterinarian for further evaluation and treatment.

Deterioration Of The Senses

The way that your cat perceives the world around them will change as they get older. Their senses will change, diminishing in strength and even drastically declining the older they become.

Eyesight In Aging Cats

Iris atrophy is a common condition that sometimes, arguably rarely, impacts the vision of elder cats.

The iris, which is the colored ring around the pupil of the eyeball, is prone to atrophy as cats age. Where the coloration used to be, owners may see black dots or streaks instead.

Fortunately, this condition does not typically indicate anything near blindness and often doesn’t affect most cats’ sense of sight.

Another condition that may look alarming is lenticular sclerosis. It creates a cloudy effect on the pupil but doesn't actually impede a cat's vision. This is not the same as cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

High blood pressure is common in senior cats. It can lead to blindness due to retinal bleeding or detachment caused by the condition.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can be caused by kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease.

Unfortunately, a cat’s sudden blindness is often the first indication of hypertension that owners notice in their feline pets.

To get ahead of this condition and prevent blindness, it is recommended to have your cat's blood pressure measured when they reach their senior years. This will help in early detection and timely intervention, if necessary.

Hearing In Aging Cats

Cats have phenomenal hearing. Fortunately, it is very likely that your cat will retain their sharp hearing throughout their lives.

Hearing loss is not at all unheard of, however, and can range from barely noticeable to complete deafness.

Oftentimes, the loss of normal hearing is associated with conditions that impact the functionality of the ears, such as:

  • Parasites
  • Infections
  • Growths appearing in the ear canal
  • Skin cancer

The sense of smell in aging cats

A cat’s sense of smell is its most refined sense, as it relates directly to their interest in and ability to identify food. As a cat ages, cellular breakdowns occur that can adversely affect the cat’s ability to smell. While your cat isn’t likely to completely lose their sense of smell, it may grow weaker as they grow older.

What indicates this problem for many cat owners is their pet’s refusal to eat the food that they had previously loved – and presumably loved the smell of.

If you try giving your cat food that possesses a stronger aroma, they may be more inclined to eat it because they can actually smell it.

However, a diminished sense of smell is not the only age-related reason behind a cat’s reluctance to eat. If your cat is refusing all food outright, it is time to take them to a vet and see what you can do to ensure adequate nutrition for your furry friend.

The Condition Of The Aging Cat's Teeth

Dental concerns are among the top most common reasons for owners of elderly cats to seek the help of a veterinarian. A cat’s teeth need to be strong and healthy so that they may adequately eat and sustain the standard of nutrition that their body needs.

Periodontal Disease In Aging Cats

This dental disease is caused by the inflammation of the periodontium, the tissue around the teeth. The presence of plaque, the white buildup that forms on and around teeth due to the presence and growth of bacteria, is responsible for this common senior cat condition.

The inflammation is triggered by the immune system in response to the plaque, which at its beginning stages is known as gingivitis.

Fortunately, gingivitis can be reversed. The second stage of periodontal disease, or periodontitis, is irreversible and requires more extensive treatment for the purpose of controlling the damage.

To treat periodontitis in cats, they may be subjected to x-rays, antibiotics, and cleanings conducted under anesthesia. Additional home dental care will be required to keep the condition from wreaking havoc on the cat’s mouth and, quite possibly, resulting in having to have one or more of their teeth pulled.

Tooth Resorption

This condition can affect cats of any age but is especially prominent in older adult cats and seniors. Some studies have suggested that as many as two-thirds of all cats will experience tooth resorption, a painful condition that leaves the root of the tooth exposed as the cat’s body attempts to reabsorb the dentin of the tooth.

Lesions appear on the affected tooth or teeth and require examination under anesthesia to be properly diagnosed.

Some signs of tooth resorption to look for are:

  • Pain during eating
  • Reluctance or refusal to eat
  • Food falling out of the cat’s mouth while eating
  • Behavioral changes, particularly aggression
  • Increased salivation
  • Bleeding of the mouth
  • Pain when the jaw is touched

To prevent this problem from rearing its head in the first place, or from advancing to a painful stage, cats should get dental cleanings from a vet every six months.

If the painful lesions of this condition are already present, removal of the full tooth (including the root) or partial removal of the tooth may be a required course of treatment.

Whitening Of The Fur

As your cat advances in age, you may begin to notice some silvery fur coming in. Just like humans and many other mammals, cats can “go grey” when they become older.

This isn’t necessarily a health concern, but it can be surprising – especially in darker cats, where the color change is often more visible. This loss of pigmentation tends to be more prominent around the eyes, nose, and mouth but can occur in patches over the whole body.

Degenerative Diseases

The aging process can be unkind, leaving cats vulnerable to a host of degenerative diseases as a result of their bodies’ internal changes.

Diabetes In Aging Cats

Diabetes presents itself with the same symptoms that it does in humans, including frequent urination, out-of-control hunger and thirst, and weight loss.

Most commonly this condition is diagnosed in male cats ten years of age or older, especially those that are over 15 pounds and have been neutered. Though senior cats are the most vulnerable to developing diabetes, it can happen to cats of any age.

Obesity is the greatest common thread among diabetic cats, so the best way to minimize the risk of your senior developing diabetes is to monitor their weight, make sure they have ample opportunities to exercise and are fed a healthy diet – throughout their lives.

Blood and urine tests are required to diagnose diabetes. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet will teach you how to care for the condition at home, what elements to remove from or introduce to their diet, and other techniques to help promote their good health despite diabetes.

Arthritis In Aging Cats

Sometimes, cats can become afflicted with a condition that causes inflammation of the joints and the breakdown of cartilage that prevents bones from touching each other during the animal’s movement.

This condition is called arthritis and it is – perhaps surprisingly – common in senior cats. Unfortunately, cats are notorious for being subtle in their acknowledgment of physical pain, unlike dogs. This fact traces back to the history of cats as both predator and prey.

However, there are some indications of arthritis that you should be able to see if you look closely, including:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Difficulty jumping or moving
  • Limping
  • “Bathroom accidents” outside of the litterbox
  • Changes in the cat’s grooming habits

Arthritis can affect a cat’s shoulders, elbows, hips, and lower back the most often. This condition is best left to be diagnosed by a veterinarian. They will then be able to tell you which forms of treatment for the pain and inflammation are viable options for your feline companion.

Read more on :
Arthritis And Joint Pain In Cats

One way to help arthritic cats, particularly during cold winter months, is by offering a heated bed for those aching joints. This one by K&H would be a good choice (Amazon link).

Kidney Disease in aging cats

Chronic, meaning long-term and degenerative, kidney disease occurs in up to 30% of geriatric felines and is one of the most common causes of death in older cats.

Kidney disease compromises the cat’s natural renal abilities to produce high-quality urine, eliminate protein wastes from the body, and balance the water, salts, and acids found within the feline’s body.

Weight loss and increased frequency of drinking (and resulting urination) are often the first indications that an owner can see to suspect that something might be wrong with their cat’s kidneys.

Early detection of kidney disease is an essential part of helping the cat live their longest, fullest life. Treatment can often be done at home, though hospitalization may be required in some cases.

Heart Disease In Aging Cats

Cats experience the symptoms of heart disease in the same way that dogs do, but there is one key difference: Cats are much better at hiding their symptoms, thus prolonging their diagnosis in many cases. Some cats will never exhibit signs at all and will live for years with the condition.

Heart disease is something that a cat can acquire over time and can occur secondary to a number of conditions, including:

  • Heartworm infection
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Primary cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle)
  • Diseased heart valves
  • Thyroid disorders

Maine Coon and Ragdoll cats are two breeds known to be especially vulnerable to heart disease, but any breed of feline can get it. Because cats often present no visible symptoms of the disease, a vet’s physical of your pet will likely be the first and most important step in diagnosing the condition.

A murmuring of the heart and irregular heartbeats can suggest heart disease and prompt further testing.

Upon making the diagnosis, your vet will likely prescribe medication to promote healthier heart function. Unfortunately, there is no way to reverse the changes done to the heart after it has become diseased.

Senility In Aging Cats

Feline senile dementia sometimes accompanies the decline of cognitive abilities that cats begin to experience around the age of eleven and is directly related to the aging of their brain.

However, dementia doesn’t tend to become fully present until the cat reaches geriatric age, around fifteen years old. When it does, it will impact the cat’s memory, learning, responsiveness, and awareness of their surroundings.


There are many behavioral changes that you will likely observe as your cat reaches the farthest end of the age spectrum for felines:

  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Social avoidance
  • Forgetting behaviors that they have learned
  • Meowing more often
  • Lethargy
  • Accidents outside of the litter box
  • Reluctance to groom themselves

Many of these symptoms can be seen in other conditions that affect senior cats, such as diabetes and arthritis. Your vet may recommend running tests to pinpoint the exact cause before diagnosing senility.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this type of cognitive decline. However, your veterinarian can provide helpful advice on the care you can provide for your aging pal. There are also dietary suggestions that they could make to help bolster brain health.

Behavioral Changes In Aging Cats

As your cat ages, you may notice that they are acting a little unlike themselves. They might even surprise you with brand-new behaviors, some of which are troubling. Keep an eye out for these changes in your cat's behavior as they age. If you become worried about your cat's health, don't hesitate to visit the vet.

Difficulty Jumping

Arthritis is a common condition in aged cats and can cause pain. This pain may prevent your feline friend from jumping onto your lap or other surfaces. Quite simply, age takes a serious toll on our joints.

That’s why you don’t generally see senior humans climbing around in jungle gyms.

If your cat is in pain related to their age, they may be reluctant to jump. They might also find it impossible to jump to the desired height.

It might be tougher to realize your cat isn't jumping up as much. This is especially true if jumping was never a part of their routine.

But if your cat has always loved to prance around on couches and counters, and then suddenly stops, you should get them to a veterinarian. A proper arthritis diagnosis is important in such cases.

Many cat owners simply do not see the signs of this common kitty ailment. However, it can be fairly obvious, depending on the cat's pre-existing patterns of behavior.

Read more on :
Arthritis And Joint Pain In Cats

Becoming Sedentary

Just like humans, cats tend to slow down as they age.

This is a normal and expected part of the aging process. However, there could be underlying medical reasons to blame as well.

Arthritis is common in older cats and can slow them down drastically. However, there are treatments available to help mitigate the progression of the condition and promote a better overall quality of life. These treatments may even increase their energy levels if their

If your vet has ruled out conditions that could be dragging your cat down, you might simply have a sleepy senior kitty on your hands.

Eating Less

Dental health is a top concern for aging cats. It should be addressed early to minimize pain and discomfort.

Tooth or mouth pain can affect a cat's eating habits. If your cat is not eating well or at all, it is cause for concern and requires veterinary attention.


Cognitive decline in older felines presents itself much as Alzheimer’s Disease does in humans.

What used to be a part of the cat's daily routine may become forgotten. They may even forget the location of their food bowl and litterbox.

This confusion can make a cat irritable as well, stressing them out even further.

One thing you should do is keep their routine as solid as possible. Also, make sure never to move the items they need around the house, such as food, water, and the litterbox.

If the cat is in a state of senility-induced confusion, they may struggle to find where you have moved their belongings. This can further add to their disorientation and stress.

Litterbox Problems

There are numerous reasons why your aging cat might not seem so keen on using the litterbox. Rest assured that he or she is probably not trying to be outright defiant.

Mobility problems like arthritis, the confusion caused by senility, diabetes that can cause increased urination, kidney disease, and other medical conditions could be preventing your cat from eliminating in their box.

Increased Aggression (Grouchiness)

Has your happy-go-lucky adult cat become a grumpy old man? Well, you’d feel a bit touchy too if you found yourself feeling stiff, sore, or weak, or discovered that your senses aren’t what they used to be.

Cats suffering from cognitive decline may also become a bit more aggressive due to the disorientation and confusion that they’re experiencing as part of their advancing age. If your cat is settled into one spot comfortably, try not to bother or move them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Your cat needs extra love and patience as they settle into their twilight years.

What Can You Do To Help Your Aging Cat?

Older felines require greater care and consideration than the majority of younger adult cats. Because their bodies and minds are succumbing to the effects of aging, you may find that what used to be routine for your cat isn’t the best thing for them anymore.

Making these adjustments to their lifestyles will help to keep them happy and healthy, even if they are slowing down.

Routine Vet Visits

Because older cats are especially vulnerable to a host of medical conditions and diseases, it is always best to take them to the veterinarian when they are exhibiting new and unusual behavior or medical symptoms.

Cats are experts at concealing the symptoms of something being wrong with them, medically speaking, so the average cat owner might not even have a suspicion that their cat is arthritic, diabetic, or suffers from periodontal disease.

The expert training and tools that vets have at their disposal should be your favorite and most trusted allies in determining the health of your aging cat.

Adjustments To Their Nutrition

Senior cats often need a more specialized diet due to the health problems that afflict them in greater numbers than younger adult cats.

Obesity and diabetes are very common in cats that have become too old to be as active as they used to be, so you may have to switch to a food that’s designed with these conditions in mind or take to a different feeding schedule. Cats with kidney disease may need to be placed on food that is low in salt and protein.

Because of the diminished muscle mass present in many senior cats, a higher-protein diet may be recommended by your veterinarian to preserve their muscles and encourage ongoing, healthy muscle growth.

Some conditions make it so that your cat’s body doesn’t absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals as it should. In this case, you might be recommended to pick up some supplements for your feline friend.

Consult with your vet before making any drastic changes to your pet’s diet and always remember to keep water available to your cat to avoid dehydration.

Don’t Make Your Cat Jump

If your cat is feeling stiff, tired, sore, or simply not up to much physical activity, like the jumping and playing that you observed in their younger years, don’t try to force it on them. This will only stress them out and could cause them to respond with aggression. Instead, work on getting down to their level and finding ways to engage with them that don’t cause them any additional pain or stress.

If your cat is showing signs of arthritis, consider offering pet stairs (Amazon link) to make it easier for her to get up on the couch or other favorite spots.

You might find that your once active, energetic playmate is now more content with being a lap kitty, and that’s fine. It comes with old age.

Offer Lots Of TLC - Tender Loving Care

All domestic cats need the love of their humans, elderly cats especially so. Don’t withdraw from your cat just because he or she has become grumpier and requires more downtime than they used to. Instead, interact with your cat on their terms.

If they just want to be petted, pet away! If they want to curl up on your lap while you read a book, enjoy the reading buddy!

Even though your cat might be slowing down, that doesn’t mean that their love for you has diminished in any way. You just might need to adjust the way you show this affection to each other.

Enjoy Time Spent With Your Cat

You can and should enjoy that special feline-human bond regardless of Kitty's age. By following the advice given here, keeping a close eye on your cat's condition and turning to your veterinarian when needed, you can make sure your cat can enjoy his or her many golden years with you.

Read more on : What Will Happen To My Cat If I Die?


What To Expect As Your Cat Ages: Health and behavior changes in senior cats

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5 comments on “What To Expect As Your Cat Ages

More Happawness January 24, 2022
My cat was dead toothes. what should I do ?
    Ralph August 2, 2022
    Pate cat food.
IndyJones January 19, 2022
My boy is 13 -14 years. He was in for his regular check up at the vet and they did a senior panel on him and said he is in excellent condition for his age. He really doesn't look like a senior at all. He sleeps more and has a bit of arthritis but otherwise still is himself.
nunnc84 December 13, 2018
I got a older cat 8 months ago. She was ok. Now she is getting mean. I don’t know how to take her.
    lorrilee March 31, 2023
    Maybe she's in pain , I know vets are expensive ,but if you can get her to the vet, might be something as easy as some pain medication, I'm sorry to read this, Try to stay calm & quiet around her, pay attention to when she is most grouchy , might be something you see that's setting her off,

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