As cats age, their behaviors may change. Some changes are normal, but others are signs of health troubles. By knowing common health issues that affect senior cats, pet parents will be able to provide their cats with preventative care that will help them live long, healthy lives.
Common Health Issues Affecting Senior Cats
Some health conditions, such as genetic conditions, are not preventable. On the other hand, even if a condition isn’t preventable, it may be manageable or treatable.
One of the most common health problems in cats is obesity. This condition can be detrimental to a cat’s health and cause a number of other dangerous conditions. As a cat gets older, their energy level and activity will decrease, making it easy for them to gain weight. This is especially true for indoor cats who spend little time playing or exercising.
There are many actions pet parents can take to help prevent their cat from becoming overweight, beginning with the cat’s nutrition. Cats should be fed a high-quality and balanced diet, not cat foods that contain a lot of artificial colors and flavors. Also, pet parents shouldn’t leave food out and allow their cats to have access to it all day.
Exercise is also important for keeping a cat healthy and preventing obesity. The following toys can help motivate a cat to be active:
- Interactive food puzzle toy
- Feather toys
- Laser pointer
- Wand toys
- Cat towers to climb
- Cat running wheel
Additionally, pet parents can play games with their cats. Some cats will play fetch with a plush ball. If a ball isn’t motivation enough, pet parents can throw pieces of the cat’s dry food down the hall. The cat will have to come back to the pet parent before another piece is thrown. Pet parents should try this game before feeding time. When the game is over, then the pet parent can put the rest of the food down or put the remaining food in a feeding toy.
Dental disease in cats is very common and can cause serious health problems, including renal (kidney) failure. Dental diseases like root rot and gingivitis are usually caused by a poor diet and little to no dental maintenance. Vets recommend pet parents brush their cat’s teeth daily, if possible. There are specialty cat toothbrushes and toothpastes available to pet parents. Human toothpaste can be toxic to cats and shouldn’t ever be used.
However, brushing a cat’s teeth isn’t usually an easy task. It can take time to train a cat to allow a pet parent to brush their teeth. The process should be done slowly and the cat should always be rewarded, since it can be a high-stress activity. Aggressive cats may not let their owners near their mouths and may need more frequent professional cleanings.
In addition to brushing, pet parents can offer their cats treats and water additives that help reduce the build-up of tartar. Also, pet parents should make sure to avoid feeding treats or foods that increase tartar build-up.
Sarcomas are tumors that senior cats are prone to developing; fortunately, sarcomas are not often cancerous. Sarcomas can be caused by a variety of environmental factors or genetics, but they cannot be prevented by pet parents. A pet parent may be able to determine if their cat has a high risk of developing a sarcoma if they have detailed information about their cat's genealogy.
Treatment for a sarcoma will depend on its size and location. Most of the time, the sarcoma can be surgically removed, but some cases may require radiation or chemotherapy.
Carcinomas are a common type of skin cancer. Skin cancer is not a preventable disease and there’s no known singular cause. White and lighter-colored cats do seem to be more prone to developing this type of cancer, so it’s recommended pet parents try to limit their cat’s sun exposure.
Treatment for carcinomas usually entails surgery to completely remove the cancer. Cats that develop carcinomas will likely develop more even after surgery.
Nasopharyngeal polyps are masses that grow in the back of a cat’s throat. This mass can grow to block the cat’s airway and must be surgically removed. Signs of nasopharyngeal polyps are:
- Constant sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Discharge from the nose
- Change in cat’s vocal sound
Osteoarthritis is a very common joint condition that occurs when the cartilage is worn down and the joint bones rub together. There is no cure for this condition; however, pet parents can manage it with medications, supplements, and accommodations in the home. This is an under-diagnosed condition in cats because they often hide signs of the condition.
Cats are very good at hiding their ailments. Pet parents need to be vigilant and highly observant of any changes in their cat's behaviors or habits to help spot a health problem early. For additional questions about supporting a cat during their golden years, pet parents can reach out to the Fuzzy Veterinarian Team 24/7 for a consultation.