Updated: Oct 13, 2020
“Kitten proofing” is a popular search term on Google, but “elderly cat proofing” doesn’t have nearly as many results. Why? Senior cats have plenty of special considerations. Of course, their decline is a bit less fun to think about than cute, playful kittens. But consider this: Cats are considered elderly once they turn 11, and the average domestic cat lives to be 15. Therefore, most cat owners spend about a third of their pet’s life caring for a senior kitty.
As cats enter their twilight years, owners should prepare to look out for warning signs of declining health, and make sure their home is ready to meet the changing demands of an older cat.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Owners should keep an eye out for cats making frequent trips to the water bowl and litterbox. Dehydration can be a symptom of a wide variety of illnesses. Chronic kidney disease is an especially common illness in older cats, and signs of chronic kidney disease include increased urination and thirst. Kidney failure may lead to worsening grooming habits, as well as a loss in appetite.
Cats can develop acute kidney problems at any age — for instance, cats can suffer from kidney failure after accidentally eating a poisonous chemical or plant — but they’re much more prone to chronic renal failure at an older age. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of cats over the age of 10 will suffer from chronic kidney disease. When kidneys don’t work properly, a buildup of toxins in the blood may lead to cats feeling poorly all-around.
Unfortunately, by the time noticeable symptoms arise, chronic kidney disease has already progressed to the point when the kidneys have begun to fail. At this point, fluid therapy or dialysis could be the only way to manage toxins — steps that comes with a steep price tag that most owners find unaffordable. But that doesn’t mean cats can’t live with chronic kidney disease, especially with a few healthy changes to their diets (more on that below).
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure — aka hypertension — often appears in elderly cats with chronic kidney failure. Because the two are so closely related, they have many of the same symptoms, like dehydration and a decrease in appetite. Hypertension can also affect a cat’s eyesight, leading to sudden blindness. If a cat suddenly can’t find their way around, a veterinary consultation is immediately in order.
Similar to chronic kidney disease, the primary signs of diabetes in cats are increased thirst and urination. Cats with diabetes also have an increased appetite, but still manage to lose weight. Vets can diagnose diabetes with a blood and urine test, and then owners can treat the co