By Dr Megan Kelly:
Cats generally live to about 16-18 years old and from the age of 14 they are considered geriatric. The oldest cat ever according to the Guinness World Records is Creme Puff who was born on 3 August 1967 and lived until 6 August 2005 – an amazing 38 years and 3 days!
Once your cat reaches geriatric age I would recommend at least a 6-monthly check-up with your veterinarian. Some geriatric conditions, if picked up early, can be treated and this could save your cat’s life.
Go through the following geriatric checklist. If your cat is displaying any of these symptoms, please get your cat checked out by a veterinarian.
1. Teeth – check for bad breath, swollen red gums, broken teeth, and neck lesions (cats get a type of cavity on the side of their teeth which are very painful and may prevent them from being able to eat). Tartar and periodontal disease can also affect the kidneys and the heart.
2. Check for signs of weight loss : this may be a sign of something more sinister such as, hyperthyroidism, diabetes or may be as simple as a dental problem or worms.
3. Is your cat drinking more water than normal? This may be a sign of chronic kidney failure, diabetes or a liver problem. Kidney failure is the most common illness in older cats and if caught early can be treated. Once it is advanced the damage is done and only symptomatic support can be given.
4. Is your cat regular? As cats get older their bowel movements may slow down and they can be prone to constipation. This leads to absorption of toxins which can make them really ill. Sometimes this can be exacerbated by hair balls. Laxapet or animalax are animal laxatives that can be given on a regular basis to assist with passing of faeces.
5. Is your cat urinating inappropriately? Is your cat urinating more than normal? This may be a sign of chronic renal failure, diabetes, a behavioural issue or a urinary tract infection.
6. Is your cat struggling to get up onto the couch? Is your cat weak in its hind limbs? This can be a sign of arthritis, neurological disorders and even a symptom of diabetes.
7. Older cats can find it hard to groom themselves. Always make sure they are brushed and their coat is not matted. This can cause them extreme discomfort as well as skin infections which are not visible due to the matting. Cats can be shaved in the summer.
8. Check your cat’s nails especially the toe on the inside of the leg. As cats get older and less mobile their nails do not wear down enough and the nail can grow into their skin or paw pads resulting in pain and infection. You may need to clip them on a regular basis. Ask your vet to show you how.
9. Make sure your pet is on a senior food which is developed to provide optimum protein, mineral and nutrient levels.
10. Is your cat overweight? Overweight cats are prone to diabetes, arthritis and inflammatory disorders.
If you are worried about your cat ask for a geriatric blood profile and senior check-up from your vet.