Problems with older cats

Updated November 21, 2016

Cats' health can deteriorate as they age. Cats older than 10 years old are considered senior, and at 15 years old they are geriatric. Senior and geriatric cats sometimes need more medical care and preventive medicine to keep common diseases and health problems at bay. Knowing which health problems and diseases are common in older cats can prepare you as your cat ages.

Activity Levels and Joint Problems

Older cats tends to become less active as they age, which can result in a loss of muscle tone. Less muscle tone and less activity can make problems such as stiff joints worse, according to the FabCat website of the Feline Advisory Bureau. Arthritis flare-up and fluid build-up in joints are common causes of stiff joints in older cats. Arthritic cats can have trouble getting to litter boxes, food and water bowls, and difficulty climbing stairs, jumping on beds and couches. Having trouble getting to food bowls can worsen weight and muscle loss problems, and reduced water consumption can increase fluid retention in joints.

Weak Immune System

Cats' immune systems weaken as they age, making older cats more likely to develop infections and diseases, according to the website for the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Infections in older cats are most common in the urinary tract, the upper respiratory tract and eyes.

Dehydration is a common consequence of many diseases in older cats,and it can reduce blood circulation and further weaken their immune system. Older cats are also more susceptible to skin infections because their skin has become thinner and less elastic, and because of poor blood circulation and the weakened immune system.

Reduced Senses and Brain Function

Cats' senses of smell, vision and hearing worsen as they age, much as in humans. A reduced sense of smell and taste might cause a cat to lose interest in food. Dental issues are another common problem that discourages eating. Cats are also susceptible to memory loss and changes in personality known as senility. Older cats sometimes wander aimlessly, miaow excessively, appear disorientated or confused at times, or suddenly appear shy or scared of people and other animals.


Kidney failure is one of the most common problems in older cats and the most common cause of death, according to the Little Big Cats website. Some of the most noticeable symptoms of this disease are an increase in water consumption and urination.

Other health problems common with older cats are hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure that is often a result of either kidney failure or hyperthyroidism, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. Hyperthyroidism is the most common hormonal disease in older cats, according to the Society for Endocrinology.

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