As your cat ages, the likelihood she will develop various changes in the function of her body systems increases. Some of these will be normal changes due to the aging process, others may be indicative of disease. To be more easily alerted to possible signs of disease early in the disease process:
- Groom, check and clip nails, look for any lumps, bumps, or non-healing sores; are there any abnormal odors, any change in size of abdomen, or increased hair loss?
- Monitor behavior: is there a change in sleep patterns, tendency to be around people, easily startled, sleeping in an abnormal or unusual position?
- Monitor activity and mobility: is there a difficulty with stairs, bumping into things, sudden collapses, seizures, any loss of balance, any lameness or change in gait?
- Look for any changes in respiration: is there noticeable coughing, panting, or sneezing?
- Provide home dental care: brush your cat's teeth, regularly examine the inside of her mouth; is there excessive drooling, any sores, bad breath, are the gums swollen, yellow, light pink, or purplish?
- Monitor food consumption: how much is being eaten, what type of food is being eaten (e.g.; does your cat leave the hard kibble and only eat the canned?), any difficulty eating or swallowing, any vomiting?
- Monitor water consumption: drinking more than usual or less than usual?
- Monitor urination and defecation: note color, amount, consistency, and frequency of stool; note color and amount of urine; any signs of pain while urinating or defecating, any inappropriate elimination (urinating or defecating outside of the litter box)?
- Measure weight every 2 months using a mail or baby scale, or the scale at your veterinarian's office
- Monitor environmental temperature and the temperature at which your cat seems most comfortable
- Schedule regular appointments with your veterinarian
Some of the more common signs indicative of diseases are shown in the table below. Remember, just because your cat has a sign of a disease, does not necessarily mean she has the disease. What it does mean, is that your cat should be examined by your veterinarian, so a proper diagnosis can be made.
References and Further Reading
American Association of Feline Practitioners. Academy of Feline Medicine Panel Report on Feline Senior Care. 1998.
Becker, M. Caring for older pets and their families. Firstline. August/September 1998: 28-30.
Epstein, M; Kuehn, NF; Landsberg, G; et al. AAHA Senior care guidelines for dogs and cats. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association 2005; 41(2):81-91.
Fortney, WD (ed). Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice: Geriatrics. W.B Saunders Co, Philadelphia, PA; 2005.
Harper, EJ. Changing perspectives on ageing and energy requirements: Ageing and energy intakes in humans, dogs and cats. Waltham International Symposium on Pet Nutrition and Health in the 21st Century. Orlando, FL; May 25-29, 1997.
Hoskins, JD. Geriatrics and Gerontology of the Dog and Cat, Second Edition. W.B Saunders Co, Philadelphia, PA; 2004.
Hoskins, JD; McCurnin, DM. Implementing a successful geriatric medicine program. Supplement to Veterinary Medicine; 1997.
Landsberg, G; Ruehl, W. Geriatric Behavior Problems. In Hoskins, JD (ed.) The Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice: Geriatrics. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 1997: 1537-1559.
Ogilvie, GK; Moore, AS. Critical Issues in Senior Pets: Disease Prevention, health and wellness. Veterinary Forum 2006 (Dec):40-46.
Overall, KL. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby-Year Book, Inc. St. Louis, MO; 1997.
Thompson, S (moderator). Roundtable on pediatric, adult, senior, and geriatric wellness at every stage of life. Veterinary Forum; 1999 (January);60-67.