by Kathy Graff
With many cats routinely living well into their teens or even twenties, many owners and veterinarians wonder, when is a cat truly a senior citizen? Mature to middle-aged would be 7 to 10 years, seniors age 11 to 14 years and geriatric 15+ years.
Knowing the general age range of your cat can help you monitor your pet for early signs of any problems. For example, as cats grow older, their bodies become less able to cope with physical or environmental stresses. Their immune systems become weaker, and they are more prone to developing certain diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or cancer. That’s why a senior wellness visit with your veterinary can be so important for the long-term health of your cat.
Just as with people, it’s important for feline patients to see their doctors more frequently as they age. During a senior wellness exam, your veterinarian will screen your pet for a variety of age-related health concerns. Most experts agree that healthy senior cats should see their veterinarians every 6 months. Cats age much more rapidly than people do, and health problems can occur quickly. It’s also important to realize that cats are very good at hiding signs of illness.
You can help your veterinarian by keeping a close eye on your cat between exams. Unexplained weight loss or gain is often one of the first indicators of underlying disease. Weight management itself can also be an issue: many mature cats are obsess, while senior or geriatric cats often have trouble maintaining their weight and can become too thin. Obesity itself can contribute to the development of diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other conditions. Behavior problems also become more common as pets age. If you see any changes in your cat’s behavior (e.g., unusual cries) or regular routines, bring your cat in for a check up and inform your veterinarian.
Finally, a senior wellness exam will include a panel of laboratory tests to check your cat’s blood for signs of disease and to assess your cat’s kidney and liver function. We recommend this and other wellness testing be conducted at least once a year in cats that are 7–10 years old, and more frequently as the cat ages. Healthy cats are happy cats!