Life stage: geriatric in Cats (Felis) | Vetlexicon
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Life stage: geriatric

ISSN 2398-2950

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  • A geriatric patient is nearing the end of its expected life span.
  • Cats often have signs of old age from around 10 years and these are very likely once past 15 years.

Clinical and behavior problems

  • Certain diseases are more common, especially those with neoplastic paraneoplastic    Feline cutaneous paraneoplastic syndromes   and degenerative pathologies.
  • A further feature of advancing age is that multiple conditions are more likely to be seen concurrently.
  • Organ degeneration and accumulated tissue damage can manifest as: chronic kidney failure    Kidney: chronic kidney disease  , heart failure   Heart: congestive heart failure  , periodontal disease   Periodontal disease   and diabetes mellitus   Diabetes mellitus  , skeletal system degeneration, eg degenerative joint disease    Arthritis: osteoarthritis   or intervertebral disk disease   Intervertebral disk disease  .
  • There are some conditions do not manifest until the latter years of life, eg hyperthyroidism   Hyperthyroidism  .
  • Weakening of musculature can occur, eg megacolon    Megacolon   and overgrowth of claws.
  • There may be a reduction in efficacy of the immune system. Certain infectious diseases grow in incidence in older age compared to middle age, eg FIP   Feline infectious peritonitis  .
  • There are also classes of disease that are less likely during old age, eg trauma.
  • Reduced interest in activity may be considered normal but care must be taken in distinguishing this from diseases that would benefit from medical intervention, eg degenerative joint disease   Arthritis: osteoarthritis  .
  • Reduced activity combined with reduced metabolic rate may lead to a body weight increase    Obesity   if the diet is not adjusted accordingly   Dietary requirements: geriatrics  . Although the increased incidence of disease seen in old age may often be associated with weight loss.
  • House training    Indoor toileting   may be forgotten due to senility   Feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome  , although other causes should be considered, eg  musculoskeletal disease or constipation. Increasing accessibility to the outside and to litter trays may be helpful.
  • Pain from insidious conditions may show as behavior changes, eg depression or aggression   Aggression: overview  .


  • General anaesthesia requires extra care   Anesthesia: gin eriatric  .
  • Hematology and biochemistry should be carried out to assess the general condition of the patient before any major procedure is performed.
  • Extra routine investigations are often recommended for geriatric patients, eg routine examinations at a higher frequency and screening tests such as: hematology, biochemistry, urinalysis, endocrine tests and blood pressure measurement.
  • There is an increased risk of side effects from medications in old age due to the interaction of factors listed above. Procedure such as routine laboratory work can help to lower this risk as can more frequent monitoring.


  • Reduced activity, decreased metabolic rate, lowered protein requirements, decreased efficiency of utilization of food and various age-related illnesses mean there is often a benefit in special diets   Dietary requirements: geriatrics  .
  • Increasing accessibility is important, both for food and water.
  • Increasing the amount of wet food compared to dry may be helpful to maintain good hydration.

Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Dhaliwal R, Boynton E, Carrera-Justiz S, Cruise N, Gardner M, Huntingford J, Lobprise H, Rozanski E (2023) 2023 AAHA Senioe Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. JAAHA 59(1), 1-21 PubMed
  • Hoyumpa Vogt A, Rodan I, Brown M et al (2010) AAFP-AAHA: feline life stage guidelines. J Feline Med Surg 12 (1), 43-54 PubMed.
  • Vogt A H, Rodan I, Brown M et al (2010) AAFP-AAHA: feline life stage guidelines. JAAHA 46 (1), 70-85 PubMed.
  • Senior Care Guidelines Task Force, AAHA, Epstein M et al (2005) AAHA senior care guidelines for dogs and cats. JAAHA 41 (2), 81-91 PubMed.

Further Reading