As a cat ages, it is expected that there may be some changes in his or her behavior and the best thing that an owner can do is to be prepared and recognize these changes to ensure that they are not indicative of some other underlying health issue. This is a basic overview of two of the most common behavioral changes in aging feline companions.
In general, cats who have reached approximately 10 years of age are considered to be “senior.” Older cats, such as those who are 15 and up, may be considered “geriatric.” However, it should be noted that these two terms can be used interchangeably for any cat who is over the 8 to 10 year old threshold.
Aggression in an Aging Cat
As a cat gets older, he or she may become more aggressive-even to the owner, other members of the household and friends who visit often. Aggression can be the result of many different issues for the cat: hearing loss or vision loss as well as arthritis or other sources of pain. If a cat cannot hear or identify/see the person approaching, he may be aggressive as a first defense. Pain can cause aggression simply because the cat is trying to protect himself from being picked up or handled, which could cause additional pain.
However, aggression can also be the result of stress in the cat’s environment. This could include issues such as moving into a new home or the loss or gain of a family member (for example, a child going off to school, an owner passing away or the birth of a new baby.)
Inappropriate Elimination in Older Cats
Aging felines may be more prone to urinating or defecating in areas outside of their litter box. Some cats may also begin spraying. Unfortunately, inappropriate elimination is one of the most common health issues affecting an aging senior cat.
It is important for the owner to realize that the cat may not be doing this behavior intentionally. Furthermore, it is important to be aware that this inappropriate elimination, while common in older cats, is not necessarily “normal.” Cats who are participating in this behavior should be seen by a veterinarian, as this behavior indicates an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease/failure.
Furthermore, other issues such as loss of vision or arthritis can lead to inappropriate elimination. The cat may be in so much pain that he cannot make it to the litter box, while obviously loss of vision may make it nearly impossible for the otherwise able-bodied cat to find his litter box.
Fortunately, all of these issues can be addressed by a veterinarian and resolved if the owner is willing to be patient and work with the cat.