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How to Tell If Your Cat Is Aging: Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Watching Your Cat for Signs That His Needs Are Changing

It is a fact of life that from the smallest microorganism to the largest mammals, we all are aging. Cats, nine lives or not, are no exception to this rule. As cats age, their dietary, activity, and healthcare needs change. As a responsible pet owner, you want to make sure that your cat is well taken care of, regardless of his age.

Unfortunately, the journey into aging doesn't begin for all cats at the same time in their lives. Adopted strays and re-homed pets may not come with paperwork that lists their birth date.

So how do you tell when your cat is ready to be treated like a senior? Here are some signs and symptoms of aging in cats that you should look for.

Appetite and Digestion Issues with Aging Cats

One of the first signs you may notice as your cat enters his elder years, is a drop in his appetite. Elder cats do not require the same amount of food or number of calories as their younger counterparts. Check with your veterinarian and get them on an appropriate diet for their age.

Some cats experience trouble moving their bowels as they reach old age. Watch your cat for signs of constipation, including an empty litter box and visible straining or vocalizing while trying to defecate.

Older Cats' Motility and Activity Changes

Another common sign of aging in cats involves their ability to move around, jump, play, and engage in what may have been normal levels of activity, as little as a few months prior. Some cats develop arthritis, which can be treated with supplements or medication, while many do not. But all cats experience a loss of motility, mobility, and a natural drop in activity level as they age.

Behavioral Changes in Aging Cats

Personality is challenging to understand in human beings; it can be even harder to understand in our pets. Generally speaking, you can tell when your cat is just “not acting like he normally does.”

Changes in behavior and personality are a natural part of crossing over into old age for some cats. If you notice a major change in your cat's behavior or personality, it may call for a trip to your veterinarian.

Skin, Nail, Coat, and Pad Changes

External physiological changes that cats experience as they age may affect the quality and appearance of the skin, coat, and the pads of their feet. Black cats may get gray hair, and nearly all cats experience some thinning of coat and loss of luster as they age.

Also, aging cats experience a general thinning of the skin as they get older, as well as brittle nails and general thickening of the footpads. All of these are subtle signs that your cat is getting on in years.

Providing the Right Level of Nutrition and Health Care for Your Senior Cat

All cats age and as they do they can develop a need for specific types of healthcare, require different levels of nutrition, and naturally slow down. If you pay careful attention to your cat as he ages, you may do both you and your feline friend a favor by being able to differentiate between the normal signs of aging and conditions that may require medical attention.

Marking the entry of your cat into old age lets adjust his level of activity, to change his diet to more directly serve his nutritional needs, and to provide a comfortable and safe environment for him to enjoy the last of its nine lives.

About the Author

Dr. Evan Ware

Dr. Evan Ware is a veterinary practitioner in Phoenix, Arizona. He received both his undergraduate degree in microbiology and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Ware is currently the Medical Director of University Animal Hospital (VCA) and is also the owner of two other hospitals, including Laveen Veterinary Center and Phoenix Veterinary Center. His areas of expertise include orthopedic medicine and surgery, veterinary oncology and chemotherapy, and general and advanced soft-tissue surgery.


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