Your Aging Cat – Physical Changes to Expect and How to Help
When humans get older, the visible physical signs are often obvious; but what about your aging cat? Are there physical signs you can look for that signal aging-related changes in the cat’s health? And which signs are normal for the aging cat versus those that should be considered warning signs of a serious physical condition or ailment? Let’s explore what physical changes to look for in your aging cat:
In Human Years…When is a Cat “Older”?
Cats mature rapidly, reaching a human age equivalency of about 24 years old in its first two years. After that, their aging slows, but each “cat year” still equals roughly four human years. This makes your seven year old cat around 45 in human years, or middle age. While some breeds live longer than others, a cat kept safe indoors has a normal life span of 14 to16 years
Physical Changes in Your Aging Cat
Physical changes in your aging cat can be slow and subtle and easy to miss. Most of these changes will merely be natural and normal parts of the cat becoming older. But if you have any concerns that your cat is experiencing unusual or rapid changes, consult with your veterinarian.
Skin and Fur
When humans age, our hair often turns gray or white. The same can be true for older cats, although it is often hard to detect because the amount of graying is subtle and may occur more slowly over time. Your cat’s fur may also become thinner and lose some of its sheen. This could be a sign of normal aging, but could also signal nutritional deficiencies or even an underlying disease; again, changes can be subtle and happen so slowly they are hard to recognize.
As your feline ages, it can often be helpful to groom your cat more frequently. This will help promote a healthy coat, help minimize hairballs, and may even stimulate surface glands for healthier skin. Of course, if you detect unusual changes to your cat’s skin or coat, including slow-healing skin injuries, consult with your veterinarian. These changes might be normal signs of aging, but could be symptoms of something more serious.
Cats may lose muscle tone and strength as they age and you will likely notice their decreased mobility. Try to encourage playful exercise for your cat, but understand that as their mobility decreases you might need to place a ramp or steps near their favorite elevated sleeping spots.
Loss of Hearing and Eyesight
Hearing loss can be a common condition in aging cats but there could be other conditions causing it such as inflammation, nerve damage and inner ear problems. Of course, you might not notice it until it becomes more severe. Hearing loss might first be noticed if the cat frequently becomes startled when touched because she didn’t hear you approach. Other signs are very loud meowing and lack of response when you call her name, especially at dinner time. This may be a reversible condition so consult your veterinarian
Loss of Eyesight
Likewise, diminished eyesight can be a normal part of aging for your cat, and you might first notice it when she can’t quite see that kitty treat you placed in front of her. If you notice any obvious or sudden changes in the appearance of your cat’s eyes, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. Cats can experience eye problems and disease like humans, but if caught early, these problems might be slowed or corrected.
Cats of all ages seek out sunny spots to enjoy the warmth. If your cat loves to be in a window sill, make it more accessible if jumping is not possible any more. Our pets live on the floor which is colder in all seasons. As cats get older, they will be less able to handle temperature extremes.
To make their resting areas more comfortable:
- Offer an elevated area (pet bed, couch or chair with a ramp or stairs for accessibility if they can’t jump easily)
- Add a heated pad made especially for pets (so it doesn’t get too hot)
- Put extra blankets in their living space (some cats like to fluff and burrow their way into these)
- Keep them out of drafts. Placing pet beds near registers just means they get blasted with hot or cold air. A place with a steady temperature is better.
The Bottom Line
Your cat will experience many physical signs of aging. Some of these will be so subtle and natural that you probably won’t notice. But if you see sudden, severe or surprising changes in your aging cat, consult your vet at once. And if you need help caring for an aging cat while you are away from home – for a few hours, a few days, or even longer – we’re here to help. Just contact us at 317.224.5243.
If you are looking for a pet sitter in Indianapolis, Carmel, or Zionsville, Indiana, you’ve come to the right place. At Ask Linda Pet Sitting, we specialize in cat sitting, dog sitting, dog walking, and professional in-home pet care. We are not veterinarians, but we follow pet safety procedures and are trained for pet emergency situations. Above all, at Ask Linda Pet Sitting, we believe in education and proactive pet health. Linda is the only NAPPS certified pet sitter in Indianapolis, and is also a certified pet First Aid/CPR/Wellness instructor. Want to learn more? Ask Linda!