Mr. Whiskers greeted me as I walked into the exam room with a sweet head rub and then began to happily walk around the room. Besides his lovely personality, the first things I noticed were his skinny little body, stiff hind limbs and his inability to gracefully jump up to the chair to sit next to his mom.
His caretaker and I began to discuss his body and history which alerted me to several health concerns even before completing the physical exam. She was surprised at my concern, given that she thought these were all normal signs of aging in a cat. During the physical exam along with lab work and a blood pressure, we discovered several issues including arthritis, hyperthyroid disease and partial blindness from hypertension.
Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario, when our older cat’s health problems are dismissed by thoughts that their cat is “just getting old”. Part of this comes from the fact that cats are masters at hiding pain and disease. They are designed to make themselves appear as healthy as possible to avoid appearing week or vulnerable. This instinct makes it difficult for us to detect any pain or health problems that may be brewing beneath their strong character.
One of the best ways to ensure your cat is not suffering in silence is to start with a complete veterinary exam every 6 months starting at the age of 7 years old. Cats age quite a lot faster than we do. For example, an 8 year old cat would be about 50 years old in human years. A 15 year old cat would be about 76 years or older in human years.
Bring your kitty in to see us on a regular basis, and you can help make your cat’s health issues easier to prevent, easier to manage and even cure in some cases.
Other guidelines for you to follow in order to help your senior kitty live a happy, healthy life are to look for the following abnormal signs (and bring them to the veterinarian’s attention):
- Weight loss
- Vomiting (hairballs included, even if vomiting has been occurring for months or years, frequent vomiting such as more than once a month to every other month may be a sign of illness)
- Drinking more water than normal or larger clumps of urine in a litter box
- Having harder, more segmented stool versus log like a healthy bowel movements or not pooping as much
- Changes in behavior such as being more vocal or anxious
- Lethargic (less energy) or more active, such as pacing
- Less able to jump up or down with gracefulness
- Bad breath
- Change in coat (less groomed appearance)
- Urinating or defecating outside of the litterbox