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Geriatric Cats

As cats age and come in to that middle age period from around 7 – 8 years of age, it is important for owners to keep an eye out for symptoms that could indicate the beginnings of a disease or syndrome. Middle aged to older cats are very prone to developing diabetes, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, arthritis and sometimes sadly, even cancer.


Thankfully many geriatric cat diseases can be picked up early on by watching out for several symptoms.

The main one to look out for in these cats is what we call in the Veterinary world PU/PD – otherwise meaning excessive urination and excessive drinking. This is a symptom associated with a number of diseases, but particularly diabetes, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. Keep an eye on your cat – is he or she always at the water bowl? If your cat is drinking more than 100ml per kg per day, then he or she is definitely drinking excessive quantities of water and this definitely warrants a full check up.

Weight loss is another major symptom that while being easy to pick. This weight loss however, is generally only realized once the at has lost a large amount of weight. This is another good reason for regular check ups with your Vet as it is very important to monitor weight loss as this can be associated with all of the diseases listed above. Also be aware that cats who are overweight are also prone to diabetes AND arthritis so be sure to try and get your cat to his or her optimal weight before they reach ‘middle age’.

Inappetance is another obvious symptom to look out for and if you notice your cat won’t eat his or her food despite trying several different options, then get this kitty to your Vet sooner rather than later. Whilst this can also be associated with all of the above, inappetance alone can cause a problem called ‘fatty liver’ or ‘hepatic lipidosis’ which can quickly become fatal.

While there are many other symptoms that are associated with the diseases mentioned above, these are the major ones to keep an eye on in your middle aged to geriatric cat. If you notice any of these, it would definitely be worth getting your cat to the Vet for a full check over as well as blood and urine tests.


Feline diabetes is more common than most people realize and is definitely more likely in an overweight cat. The first symptoms noticed are excessive drinking and urination, increased hunger and lethargy. Diabetes is a syndrome where the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin and as a result glucose remains in the blood rather than being utilized by the cells. As a result most of this glucose also spills over in to the urine causing your cat to urinate more (and hence want to drink more too). Thankfully we can test for glucose in the urine of cats and check the blood for the glucose level. Diabetes is definitely treatable and there is a product now that requires you to give your cat only one injection of insulin per day. This insulin helps drive the glucose into the cells to be used! In some cases insulin injections are no longer needed after several months, but this has only been seen in some animals on a certain type of insulin. Ask your Vet for more details.


The thyroid glands are situated next to the windpipe (trachea) in the neck of the cat and make a hormone (thyroid hormone) which is responsible for metabolic rate. In this condition a benign growth forms in one or both of these glands causing excessive production of thyroid hormone. As a result these cats are in metabolic overdrive and we commonly see them eat more than usual, drink more, toilet more, vomit, lose weight and seem hyperactive in some cases. This problem can be detected by your Vet via these symptoms as well as a simple blood test. Thankfully treatment is available either via tablets once or twice a day, a skin paste rubbed on the ear or by iodine131 treatment (chemotherapy to help remove some of the benign thyroid tissue causing the problem).

Kidney failure

Chronic renal failure commonly hits older cats for a variety of reasons and causes weight loss, inappetance, excessive drinking and urination as well as sometimes vomiting and lethargy. The kidneys are responsible for keeping some electrolytes and removing others, as well as retaining water when needed. In kidney failure or insufficiency the kidneys lose their ability to retain water and the correct electrolytes and so we commonly see electrolyte imbalances and dehydration in these cats, and it is also for this reason that they drink and toilet more than normal. Sadly there is no cure (although some countries now offer kidney transplants for cats), however we can definitely manage the problem and slow the progression of the disease.


There are many types and varieties of cancers that can affect older cats and these can all cause a range of symptoms. Your Vet will ensure to feel your cat from tip to toe to check for lumps and bumps. Feline cancers can be on the skin, under the skin, in bone or in the thorax or abdomen! Cancers typically cause weight loss and lethargy, but this is not always true and there are a wide range of other possible symptoms a cat with cancer may develop. Be sure to get your boy or girl checked up regularly for this reason though.


Feline arthritis is very common and not many owners realize their cats can become so painful moving around. Cats get arthritis in their old age, just like we do. This can slow them down jumping off the couch or getting up and down the stairs. They may not be as keen to play anymore and might commonly just lay around the house for the majority of the day. Thankfully there are a range of products available to help with this now. These include an oral liquid anti inflammatory all the way through to ‘nutriceuticals’ such as green lipped mussel extract and glucosamine. Ask your Vet about products for your cat if you suspect he or she is slowing up nowadays.


Cats can live up to 21 – 22 years of age if they are well cared for and have a little bit of luck with regards to their health! There are of course a large variety of disease that can affect older cats than haven’t been mentioned here so Veterinary check ups are definitely indicated. If you are able to keep a close eye out for behavioural changes or symptoms mentioned above, then you will be able to hopefully catch any problem that does arise very early on meaning treatment is much more likely to be effective. Be sure to have regular Veterinary visits with your cat and feed a premium food and your kitty is bound to live to a ripe old age.

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