Common Problems For Older Cats


Symptoms: Eating and drinking more but loosing weight, Sometimes diarrhoea or behavioral changes occur (uncharacteristic loud mewing is common). If not corrected hyperthyroidism leads to renal failure and a heart condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

Tests and Treatment: A blood test to confirm. This condition is very treatable if caught early and cats can live normal length lives. Treatment can be either tablets or surgery or a combination of both.

Kidney insufficiency/Kidney Failure:

Common in older cats.

Symptoms: Early signs can be subtle for example drinking more, eating less or weight loss. Some cats get recurrent urine infections or start to urinate in unusual places.

Tests and Treatments: A urine test or blood test can usually confirm this diagnosis. Although renal failure in older cats cannot be reversed, cats lives can be markedly improved with early diagnosis and treatment. Treatments include changing diet to prescription renal food with low protein and phosphorus and sometimes tablets (not always). Diet change in cats with renal failure is essential and can extend a cats life by years and reduce clinical symptoms.


Common but very underdiagnosed - Often seen as 'getting old' but arthritis can be very painful and make a cats quality of life very poor if untreated.

Symptoms: Not getting onto window sills/sofas when used to, Sitting up rather than lying comfortably, becoming more 'grumpy' when groomed or handled, avoiding going outside, sometimes constipation or defecating in unusual places when a cat is too sore to position his/herself.

Treatment: Is very varied - In severe cases a painkiller such as metacam may be used, but often it is not necessary to use this long term. Other treatments include cartrophen, and supplements to aid rebuilding of cartilage. On rare occasions there may be surgical options but in cats this is uncommon. Treating arthritis in cats can improve thier quality of life and owners often report the cat is 'young again'.

Senile Changes:

Common in elderly cats (14-18yrs)

Symptoms: Being confused when it is night and day (waking owner up, or noisy), Urinating/defecating in odd places (remember this can also be a sign of more serious diseases so your vet will probably want to perform a urine or blood test if this is happening).

Treatment: There are capsules that can improve a cats ability to cope as they age. 'Aktivait' is a common choice and does not require a prescription, but we recommend you have your cat checked over first as hyperthyroidism and neurological disease can also cause similar behaviour changes.

Heart Disease:

Symptoms: Exercise intolerance - breathing heavily when running up stairs, being very lazy and not going out, sleeping all the time. Sometimes sudden onset coughing or weak back legs. Heart disease in cats can progress very quickly and as cats do not go for regular 'walks' it is often is not noticed until it is very serious. Commonly cats present with a thrombus in the back legs (paralysis), or with fluid on the chest. It is worth seeing a vet early on if you are concerned about this. A heart check is performed at every vaccination and is vital in identifying heart disease early.

Tests/Treatment: An xray or scan may be required to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment depends on the heart condition diagnosed but often involves tablets. Cats identified and treated early can live many happy years after diagnosis.


Occurs commonly in cats aged 7-10years old.

Symptoms: Drinking excessively, weight loss and usually eating huge amounts. Often cats have a history of being overweight in the past. Without treatment cats will develop 'ketoacidosis' which causes collapse and often seizures. This is hard to reverse and they die rapidly (within days-weeks).

Tests/Treatment: A blood test can diagnose this easily. Treatment does involve injecting your cat daily and is not to be taken lightly, however cats that are well controlled put weight back on, eat and drink more normally and live years after diagnosis.

Address: Badgers Oak Veterinary Clinic, Hastings road, Northiam, East Sussex, TN31 6NH  Telephone: 01797 252321

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