How to Tell if Your Aging Cat is Healthy

WASHINGTON, July 6, 2016—It may be difficult to know if you aging cat is healthyLike humans, cats are living longer thanks to advances in diet and medicine. This has brought about a larger population of older cats, and it is important for veterinarians and owners to be able to tell whether changes in their cat are due to normal, healthy aging or whether they are deteriorative.

Approximately one in five pet cats in the U.S. are age 11 or older. A cat reaches a “geriatric” life stage at age 15 (roughly equaling 76 years in humans), but many cats live into their 20s. At the age of 21, cats reach the equivalent of a 100-year-old human.

The good news is that it is now generally accepted by most experts in the field that healthy aging in cats is achievable—like for humans—through mental, social and physical wellbeing and function. Until now, however, there was little information regarding how to identify healthy aging in cats versus deteriorative aging.

A special issue of the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS), an international, peer-reviewed publication, addresses the question of healthy aging in cats. The issue features two comprehensive reviews that describe common changes in aging cats in an extensive range of health areas covering behavioral, cognitive and physical factors.

In addition to reviewing existing data on cats, both studies discuss resources used in other species, which can be applied to cats, as well as developed new resources to determine healthy cat aging.

The work is expected to aid veterinary practitioners in identifying healthy aging in a growing population of pet cats. Authors also hope that their work will kick off further clinical research in a growing field.

What to look for in an aging cat:

Arthritis is a physical sign of aging that can be identified when a cat starts to exhibit an unkempt appearance, won’t jump on high places or has trouble getting in and out of the litter box. However, the signs of arthritis may be subtle, and a vet can help with management and treatment. Other changes due to arthritis may be by avoiding interaction and dislike of being brushed or stroked.

If a cat is acting confused, not using the litter box reliably and shows increased or decreased sleep, these changes may be due to normal aging, but can also signal kidney, dental, or other disease and should not be ignored. If a cat exhibits these changes or has changes in their vocalization, it is advisable to consult a vet.

Read the July issue of JFMS on healthy cat aging for FREE here:

Featured image: Nick Kenrick, Flickr Creative Commons