By Courtney Prue | July 12, 2022

Common Diseases in Older Cats

When is My Cat Considered ‘Old’?

Ever wondered how old your cat is in human years? After the age of two, cats age about four years to every one human year. This means cats are considered ‘seniors’ by the time they are 11 years old, equivalent to a human aged 60 years. By the time they are 14 years old, they are considered to be ‘geriatric’ and comparable to a human aged 76-100 years!

What are the Common Conditions Seen in Older Cats?

Older cats need extra special care and attention. Many bodily changes occur as cats age, which can lead to the onset of numerous diseases and disabilities.
Cats are masters of hiding any signs of illness and pain. In the wild, sick or old animals are an easy target for predators, so cats have evolved to disguise if they’re unwell or in pain. Often the only thing pet owners will notice is their cat has become ‘more quiet and withdrawn’.
It is so important to recognise and manage the more common illnesses that can occur as cats age:

  • Dental disease is the most common disease affecting all cats. Cats are prone to a painful condition called ‘tooth resorption’ where the enamel becomes destroyed and the sensitive dentin and nerves become exposed. In addition, tooth decay and oral infections are frequently seen as cats age. If left untreated, the condition can lead to poor appetite and pain when eating, weight loss, organ dysfunction and strokes.
  • Osteoarthritis affects the majority of senior cats. The condition causes significant joint pain and stiffness, which manifests in reduced activity, inability to jump or climb stairs, aggression and less playing. Cats may begin urinating and defecating outside of the litter box. For more information, see our resource on the topic here.
  • Kidney disease is very common in senior cats. This condition leads to increased water intake and urination, poor appetite, weight loss and urinary tract infections. For more information, see our resource on the topic here.
  • Thyroid disease results from an elevation in thyroid hormone levels. Cats with this disease become more vocal and nocturnal. They begin to lose weight quickly despite having a good appetite.
  • Cancer in elderly pets is unfortunately quite common. Loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, increase or decrease in thirst, weight loss and poor body condition (unkempt hair coat and muscle wastage) are common signs.
  • Cognitive decline can occur where cats show similar signs to humans with dementia causing many behavioural changes such as aimless wandering, vocalising, staring into space, nighttime waking, restlessness, irritability and accidents outside the litter tray.
Common Diseases in Older Cats



We always tell owners: any slight change in an older cat’s behaviour, water intake, appetite, toileting habits or weight is usually significant and warrants a visit to the vet.

The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the more successful the treatment will likely be.

We are incredibly passionate about end-of-life care for old and terminally ill pets and have dedicated our careers to supporting our beloved pets in their final days. Contact our team for personalised advice.

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