Adult cats comprise the largest category and can have the most diverse illnesses based on their history, diet and environment. Typical signs of problems include: vomiting, trauma, skin abscesses, decreased appetite, straining to urinate, urine marking in the house, hiding or lethargy and many other potential signs can occur. Adult cats are usually more resistant to viruses (due to previous vaccines) and parasites, but we’ll see problems such as dental disease, urinary tract infections, organ disease, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, behavioral issues, foreign bodies, ear and eye infections and much more. It is impossible to list all potential problems, so the safest course of action is to have your cat examined yearly by your veterinarian and certainly examined at the first sign of illness. Adults are often the forgotten group as we often just expect them to remain healthy. However, just as adult people can become ill, so can adult cats. The best recommendation I can give is to have a regular annual vet exam for all adults and so pay close attention to your pet’s normal behavior and activity. Frequently, the only sign of illness in a cat is a subtle change in behavior and perhaps less social interaction with more sleeping or hiding. This seems to be especially true for periodontal and urinary diseases.
The age at which cats are considered seniors will vary from one doctor to another, but a good rule of thumb is to consider all cats at 10 years and older to be seniors. For senior pets it is always advisable to monitor their water intake and urine output. If you are suddenly seeing your kitty at the water bowl all the time, this may indicate a problem. Likewise, if your kitty has gone from making little puddles in the clumping litter to large lakes than the urine output is likely too high. Increased drinking and urination (pd/pu) is very common in cats with kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes. All of these diseases will often look very similar and therefore it is important that your veterinarian examine your cat and run blood work and urinalysis to check the organ status and the abilities of the kidneys to concentrate urine (retain fluid).
Four common diseases associated with aging in cats are:
- Kidney Failure: A loss of the cat’s ability to retain fluid, results in increased drinking and urination
- Diabetes Mellitus: Inability to regulate blood sugar, commonly causes increased drinking and urination with weight loss, more common in obese cats
- Hyperthyroidism: An over active thyroid which often causes weight loss in spite of a good to ravenous appetite.
- Neoplasia (cancer): Cancer can occur in animals of any age, but is more common in older pets. Many times there are few signs of illness but weight loss and problems specific to the site of the tumor may be seen.
Seniors should be examined by a veterinarian every 6-12 months and should have lab screening done yearly. Typical screening includes a complete blood and urine profile with a thyroid level.
Dental disease can also be a problem in older cats and many will require yearly dental cleaning. All types of dental disease occur in cats, but a common one at any age is called cervical line lesions. These are little craters formed in the teeth, often at the gum line, that result in inflammation and pain. Teeth with CLLs should be extracted. We’ll often also see tooth loss and abscess formation with pronounced dental disease. And finally, some cats develop a condition of severe inflammation (Gingivitis/Stomatitis) involving their gums and oral cavity and these pets must be medicated and treated aggressively to control their discomfort.
A five month old kitten who already has severe gingivitis and oral pain. Note the red gums around all the teeth. Preventative dental care is important with these patients and many will need to have their teeth extracted at some point to control the pain. The disease is thought to be associated with a over active immune system that is reacting to the teeth allergically. Medical treatment involves regular dental cleaning, antibiotics and steroids for pain and inflammation. The disease can occur at any age. Owners will often notice drooling and a decreased appetite. Many cats will have saliva staining on their front feet from rubbing their mouth.