Geriatric Cat: How to Know When It’s “Time”

First Find Out What’s Causing the Symptoms. Many Older Cats have Manageable Problems; Others have Reached the End


I have a cat that is turning 20 years old. We think she is almost blind, her hearing is probably going and the worst part is that she has “forgotten” where her litter box is. She is losing weight, drinking large amounts for water, and eating very little. She is still her lovable self but it is hard to cope. Is it her time?


Dr. Nichol:

You have a caring heart. This could be the end of the road for your kitty-but maybe not. The first priority is to find out what’s going on. Her problems may be manageable.


Clearly your cat is aging, but getting old by itself isn’t a disease. She needs a good exam and a thorough geriatric health screen. Your veterinarian can do blood and urine tests, an ECG, blood pressure, and chest x-rays. The purpose is to look for diseases like kidney, liver, or heart failure, diabetes, thyroid tumors, and cancer. Some of these ailments have straightforward treatments; others could be terminal. This girl may also have arthritic joints.

Pain and lameness can be controlled in many older cats with a chewable antioxidant called Glycoflex. Another chewable, called Nu-Cat, can even improve brain function. This could help with those senior moments. Everyone I know has those on occasion, except me of course.

There are no guarantees for 20-year-old cats but we can’t make a difference if we don’t find out what’s wrong. That way, if it is time to help her die peacefully, you’ll know you’ve made the right choice.