As with any animal, there are natural changes in the body that occur with advancing age. Cats are no exception. There are expected behavioral and physical changes that most cats will exhibit in their senior years.
What is Normal for an Aging Cat?
It is important to notice normal age related changes so we can more clearly identify abnormalities and address these concerns early on. It is also important to recognize that most of the normal age related changes we see are very gradual. Any abrupt physical or behavioral change should prompt a veterinary visit. The following is a list of some of the more common age related changes to expect:
- Claws can become thicker and more brittle. Because older cats don’t sharpen their claws as much, they also tend to over grow and can grow around into the pad leading to infection and pain.
- Diminished hearing is very common in older cats. Diminished vision also occurs but generally not to the same degree as hearing loss.
- Lenticular sclerosis (cloudiness of the lens of the eye) is a normal age related change and can be seen as early as 8 years. The pupils are not as “jet black” as they used to be. Lenticular sclerosis is not to be confused with cataracts, however. Cataracts are never normal and can be seen in cats with sugar diabetes.
- Older cats tend to lose muscle mass and are thinner than when they are younger. Much of this muscle wasting is normal but can be an indicator of conditions like kidney disease or sugar diabetes.
- They are less playful and tend to sleep more. They may become increasingly finicky about their food and eat with less vigor.
Remember, many of the above signs of aging can also occur with medical problems. If there is any question regarding a particular sign in your aging cat a physical exam is warranted. Additionally, cats older than 10-12 years of age should, ideally, be examined every 6 months. Many signs of illness are very subtle. Because older cats are more likely to develop problems, early detection of disease via more frequent visits will aid us in promoting healthier, longer living senior citizens.