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Vet Vanessa offers advice on caring for elderly cats, including common conditions that develop as cats age.

If you’re looking for some older cat advice you've come to the right place. Here’s a round-up of Cats Protection vet Vanessa Howie's recent live Q&A hosted on Facebook.

Can you offer any general advice for looking after older cats?

We just recently adopted a 10-year-old cat. She's settled very well and within 24 hours she’s sleeping soundly on the windowsill.

I would recommend regular health checks at your vets. Some vets will actually run geriatric nurse clinics, where they will carry out a health check, weigh, take a blood pressure reading and clip your cat's nails if needed. Check out our Elderly cats page for more information.


Why has my old cat got pigment spots?

My older cat who's 12 has started getting little black-like beauty spots on his bottom lip; see the photo of him below. Is it because he's getting old?

Ginger cats can often develop black pigment spots on their pink skin around their eyes and on their lips as they get older. This is usually normal and nothing to worry about. However, if you're worried it's always a good idea to get him checked out by your vet.

elderly ginger cat with black pigment spots on their lip

Elderly ginger cats can develop black pigment spots on their lips. Photo by Angel Lord via Facebook


Is it normal for an old cat to lose weight?

My 19-year-old cat has got so thin; I can feel all her ribs and vertebra under her fur. She only ever weighed 4lb at her heaviest so now she's as light as a feather. She had a check over at the vets when she went for her booster and the vet said she seemed fine for her age. She's eating and drinking fine but she's lost her hearing and seems like she doesn't know if she's coming or going most of the time – entering a room then leaving over and over. Is it normal for her to become so thin due to her age? She looks so frail and every day I'm nervous to come downstairs in case she's gone to Rainbow Bridge.

Nineteen is a great age. If your vet has ruled out all medical problems it is likely that old age is causing her to become more frail. Cats can suffer from senility similar to people and it sounds like this may be happening. You'll find more information about this on our page: Elderly cats – health issues.


Why has my elderly cat started limping?

My cat seems to be limping on one of her paws and her front paws seem to shake when sits up. She's 15; do you think there’s anything wrong?

I would recommend that you get your cat's leg checked out by the vet. As cats get older they can suffer from arthritis, check out our Elderly cats – health issues page for further information.

elderly tabby cat

Cats can suffer from senility similar to people. Photo by Diana Parkhouse via flickr / Creative Commons


Why has my older cat's eye changed colour?

One of my 17-year-old cat's eyes seems to have changed in colour from a bright green to a darker, duller shade. It doesn't seem to be bothering her. Does this indicate that she is losing her sight in that eye?

As cats get older the iris in their eye does tend to change colour and they may develop flecks of pigment. I would, however, recommend that you get your cat's eye checked by the vet as there are other causes for colour change, particularly if only one eye is affected.


What exercise should senior cats have?

What kind of exercise would be appropriate for a 13-year-old cat who is still active but has a touch of arthritis? I don't want to overexert her.

I would recommend being guided by your cat. Even though she has a touch of arthritis it's still important that she gets some exercise. Playing with her with toys such as fishing rods can help to keep her stimulated. Ball and puzzle feeders are also fun (here are instructions explaining how to make your own cat puzzle toys). When she's had enough respect her and leave her to have a snooze!

Elderly white cat in centre pen

Older cats still need exercise. Photo: CP Library


When and how should elderly cats eat?

Is it better to feed your elderly cat on demand or at set times? I would love some guidance!

It really depends on your cat whether on demand or set time feeding is better and how they have been fed over their life. If you do choose on demand feeding ensure that you only feed the quantity recommended for the day. As older cats slow down their calorie requirements may reduce and they can gain weight if overfed. Using a senior cat diet is preferred. Our cat diet advice may be helpful, do give it a read.


Please note that we are unable to give specific advice on your cat's health or any change in behaviour observed. For medical problems consult your vet who will have access to your cat’s medical history and will be able to examine them. You’ll find more information about cat care here

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