By its definition a geriatric patient is one that has lived 80-85% of its life expectancy. Given the average lifespan of a cat is around 16-17 years this means that the average ago of a geriatric cat is 14 years and that of a senior cat is 11 years of age.
This might be a bit surprising to some of you! At Far North Vets we commonly get people in consultation who believe the reason their 6 to 9 year old cat isn’t doing well or is losing weight is due to old age! Something isn’t adding up here.
There is still a population of people out there who see cats as just a pest control service. The old mainstays that a cat has “9 lives” and the ability of a falling cat to always land on their feet means that cats are seen as somewhat indestructible.
Unfortunately this is not the case. Here is a quick list of some of the many problems that cats can suffer from:
Cat Flu – especially a problem where you have a lot of unvaccinated strays and a stressful environment – presents as sneezing, coughing and weepy eyes
FIV (Feline Aids) – sounds terrible when we think of it from a human point of view however the disease is not as immediately fatal as the human version. Cats normally get infected from bite and scratch marks from other cats and results in suppressed immune systems. These cats never thrive and get repeat infections
Hyperthyroidism – a hormone imbalance leads to an over active metabolism. These are the cats that are most often wrongly judged as being old. The overactive metabolism leads to weight loss despite a great appetite, poor coat condition and constant crying/attention seeking.
Heart disease – surprisingly common but difficult to detect, the fast heart rate of a cat make it difficult to hear compared to dogs. One of the earliest forms of detection is actually dental disease. The reason for this is not fully understood. By the time you can hear a heart murmur it is often too late to treat.
Dental disease – this can be caused by poor diet, FIV, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, heart disease so it is often worth checking for an underlying cause when you do see it.
Kidney disease – this is the most common reason for euthanasia in cats. Most cases are chronic (slowly develops over time) although some happen quickly. Cats are particularly good at masking this so when you do see it is often too late to treat.
Arthritis – They may be good at landing on their feet – but a lifetime of wear and tear gets to us all eventually –even cats! This is often undiagnosed for long periods of time as the most common signs of arthritis are sleeping a lot (which cats do anyway) or reluctance to jump up and down off things. Trying to jump up on things and missing – despite making a funny YouTube video is often an early sign of problems.
Cancer – everyone is at risk of it and depending on the type and severity it can be found in any body system. Cancers can occur in young animals but are most common in animals over 7 years of age.
There are many more things I could list here, the important thing I hope you will take from this is that yes cats can lose weight as they get older but more often than not weight loss means something is wrong so if in doubt please consider a check up at Far North Vets clinic in Kaitaia to make sure that there isn’t anything else going on.