Monday, 10 August 2015

‘What care does my elderly cat need?’ and other older cat FAQs

If you’re looking for some older cat advice you've come to the right place. Here’s a round-up of Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie's recent live Q&A hosted on Facebook.

Question: Can you offer any general advice for looking after older cats? We just recently adopted a 10 year old. She's settled very well and within 24 hours she’s sleeping soundly on the windowsill.

Answer: I would recommend regular health checks at your vets. Some vets will actually run geriatric nurse clinics, where they will carry out a health check, weigh, take a blood pressure reading and clip your cats nails if needed. Check out our Elderly cats leaflet for more information.

Question: My older cat who's 12 has start getting little black-like beauty spots on his bottom lip; see the photo of him below. Is it because he's getting old?

Answer: Ginger cats can often develop black pigment spots on their pink skin around their eyes and on their lips as they get older. This is usually normal and nothing to worry about. However if you're worried it's always a good idea to get him checked out by your vet.

Elderly ginger cat with pigment spots
Elderly ginger cats can develop black pigment spots on their lips. Photo by Angel Lord via Facebook
Question: My 19-year-old cat has got so thin; I can feel all her ribs and vertebra under her fur. She only ever weighed 4lb at her heaviest so now she's as light as a feather. She had a check over at the vets when she went for her booster and the vet said she seemed fine for her age. She's eating and drinking fine but she's lost her hearing and seems like she doesn't know if she's coming or going most of the time – entering a room then leaving over and over. Is it normal for her to become so thin due to her age? She looks so frail and every day I'm nervous to come downstairs in case she's gone to Rainbow Bridge.

Answer: Nineteen is a great age. If your vet has ruled out all medical problems it is likely that old age is causing her to become more frail. Cats can suffer from senility similar to people and it sounds like this may be happening. You'll find more information about this in our Elderly cats leaflet (see link above).

Question: My cat seems to be limping on one of her paws and her front paws seem to shake when sits up. She's 15; do you think there’s anything wrong?

Answer: I would recommend that you get your cat's leg checked out by the vet. As cats get older they can suffer from arthritis, check out our Arthritis leaflet for further information.

Old tabby cat
Cats can suffer from senility similar to people. Photo by Diana Parkhouse via flickr / Creative Commons
Question: One of my 17-year-old cat's eyes seems to have changed in colour from a bright green to a darker, duller shade. It doesn't seem to be bothering her. Does this indicate that she is losing her sight in that eye?

Answer: As cats get older the iris in their eye does tend to change colour and they may develop flecks of pigment. I would however recommend that you get your cat's eye checked by the vet as there are other causes for colour change, particularly if only one eye is affected.

Question: What kind of exercise would be appropriate for a 13-year-old cat who is still active but has a touch of arthritis? I don't want to overexert her.

Answer: I would recommend being guided by your cat. Even though she has a touch of arthritis it's still important that she gets some exercise. Playing with her with toys such fishing rods can help to keep her stimulated. Ball and puzzle feeders are also fun (here are instructions explaining how to make your own cat puzzle toys). When she's had enough respect her and leave her to have a snooze!

White elderly cat
Older cats still need exercise. Photo: CP Library
Question: Is it better to feed your elderly cat on demand or at set times? I would love some guidance!

Answer: It really depends on your cat whether on demand or set time feeding is better and how they have been fed over their life. If you do choose on demand feeding ensure that you only feed the quantity recommended for the day. As older cats slow down their calorie requirements may reduce and they can gain weight if overfed. Using a senior cat diet is preferred. Our Feeding and obesity leaflet may be helpful, do give it a read.


Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care and behaviour here.

Would you like to ask one of Cats Protection’s feline experts a question about your cat? Don’t miss the next live Facebook Q&A sessions: Cat behaviour specialist Nicky Trevorrow will be taking questions on 14 August; vet Vanessa Howie returns on 3 September; and neutering expert Jane Clements will host on 10 September. All our live Q&As are held on Cats Protection's national Facebook page from 2-3pm. See you there!

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