Just getting old?

by Anita Breyholtz

Do you have an older cat? Noticed that she is less active these days, sleeping more, grooming less, or maybe lost a little weight?  Are you putting it down to your cat just getting old?

Weight loss, grooming less, sleeping more or being less active can mean more than ‘just getting old’ — usually these are signs of underlying issues.

Many of these can be successfully treated or well-managed, making your cat live a longer and happier life. 

Common causes of weight loss in older cats include hyperthyroidism, dental disease and chronic kidney disease. 

Hyperthyroidism is a hormonal disorder, usually caused by a benign tumour in one or both of the thyroid glands, which are located in the neck. These tumours cause the thyroid gland to overproduce thyroid hormones, which are important for regulating metabolism. When a cat’s thyroid hormone level is too high, its metabolic rate increases causing many body systems to work harder than normal.

Problems associated with hyperthyroidism include damage to the heart, kidneys, liver and eyes. The good news is that hyperthyroidism is a treatable and potentially curable disease.

Dental disease is common in cats, even more so when they get older. Decreased food intake, weight loss and reduced grooming are possible symptoms. Many cats still eat normally, but dental disease is painful and left untreated, it can cause damage to internal organs such as the kidneys or heart.

Owners are often worried about the anaesthesia involved with dental procedures, but with proper monitoring and the right precautions in the vast majority of cases, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Chronic kidney disease in older cats is commonly the result of an age-related decline in kidney function. It is a disease that tends to get worse over time. Unfortunately, it is not curable, but management of the disease can slow the progression, and cats can sometimes experience a good quality of life for many years after being diagnosed with the disease. 

If your ageing cat has become less active and resting more, there is a high chance she or he has developed arthritis. 

Arthritis in cats is common, and one of the most underdiagnosed conditions in cats. Although your cat is not telling you that they experience discomfort, it is very likely that they are. Treatment can make a big difference.

Cats are good at masking disease. Often it is hard to realise how much a condition affects our furry cat friend until they are treated, becoming a happier, ‘younger’ cat again. 

If you feel your cat has ‘gotten old’, book them in with your vet for a health check. You may be able to make them feel younger again.