Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a 17-year-old neutered male cat. He’s been losing weight as he gets older. Recently, he’s been looking unkempt and is wet when I touch him. Despite regular brushing, his hair is matting. He smells awful. He seems to be eating normally and using his litter. He’s always trying to get warm and keeps trying to sit on everyone. I’m afraid my cat is suffering and that a trip to the vet will only result in costly tests and a slim chance at treatment for another large cost. What can I do?
Thomas: It’s always hard to watch a cat get older, Lori-Ann. An elder kitty does tend to look unkempt and scruffy, and it may be due to age-related diseases.
Bella: The good news is that it may not be as expensive as you think to find out what’s going on, and that it may be easier and less expensive than you think to get your kitty to enjoy a good quality of life for his remaining years.
Tara: You see, old kitties can suffer from illnesses such as hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease, and both of those can be treated without a huge cost.
Thomas: But the first thing you’ll need to do is get your cat to the vet and find out what’s going on. The vet will want to run a blood test, which may run you a couple hundred dollars, and a urinalysis, which may run about $60 or so.
Bella: That is expensive for a lot of people — including Mama, because she’s on a pretty tight budget — but those two tests will tell you a lot about what’s going on with your kitty.
Tara: Your vet will be able to tell you if your cat has hyperthyroidism, which is what we suspect given the symptoms you mention, or some other illness.
Thomas: Keep in mind here that we are not veterinarians, and even if we were, we couldn’t diagnose your cat without seeing him and running that blood test. We’re telling you what we suspect based on our experience with our beloved Siouxsie Mew (may she frolic forever in the catnip-filled fields on the other side of the Bridge).
Bella: The good news is that there are several treatment options for hyperthyroidism, and although two of them — radioactive iodine therapy and surgery to remove the thyroid gland — could be quite expensive, there are two that are much more affordable.
Tara: One is a drug called methimazole. It helps reduce the overactivity of the thyroid gland and can help your cat feel better and maybe gain back some of the weight he’s lost. The other is a special diet designed to reduce the thyroid gland’s activity.
Thomas: When Mama was dealing with Siouxsie’s hyperthyroidism, she considered all of her options. Although she did do radioactive iodine therapy, it unfortunately didn’t work for Siouxsie, so she put her on methimazole.
Bella: It’s also possible that your cat has chronic kidney disease. This is pretty common in older cats. In fact, Thomas has chronic kidney disease.
Tara: Kidney disease is treated by providing lots of water and possibly administering subcutaneous (sub-Q for short) fluids.
Thomas: I’m not at the point in my kidney disease where I need sub-Q fluids yet, but when I do get there, Mama’s going to give them to me at home, which is a lot less expensive than going to the vet and having them do it. And I promise to behave!
Bella: Ultimately, Lori-Ann, the only way you’re going to know what’s going on with your cat will be to take him to the vet and have them run a few hundred dollars’ worth of tests.
Tara: Once you have the information you need, you’ll be able to decide on treatment options.
Thomas: And to keep your cat smelling better, we recommend regular brushing and using kitty cleaning wipes.
Bella: You see, as cats get older, they get arthritic and it makes it hard for them to clean themselves as effectively, and that’s probably why your cat smells bad.
Tara: It’s very rare for a cat to like baths, so the cleaning wipes are a good way to get your little old man smelling better.
Thomas: We think it’s worth the money to find out what’s going on with your cat so he has the best possible quality of life for his remaining years.
Bella: What about you other readers? Have you had a cat that got scruffy as he aged? What did the problem turn out to be, and what did you do to help keep your cat clean? Please share your tips in the comments.
With running a cat sanctuary, I see this all too often. Most of our felines are senior cats. It is usually hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease or cancer. Yes kitty needs to see a vet, but not vets cost the same. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations, or call you local animal rescue group. One of the animal rescue groups I volunteered for recommended the vet I have taken the kitties to for the past 10 years and this practice routinely charges 1/3 less than all the other vets in the area. Also, a few vets (usually a larger practice) may have a fund set up for patients where costs are a problem. There are also options like creating a GoFund me page. Until then, baby wipes are a good idea (unscented!) and offering a few small additional meals with a tasty wet food and help to slow down the weight loss.
Since you have a kitty Sanctuary, I hope these kitties don’t have issues with too many vaccinations. Maybe they’ve already had all that they’re going to have because of the age but for future references please, if you haven’t already, and share the information about this.
http://consciouscat.net/2014/01/13/vaccinate-adult-cat-distemper/ thank you for caring for the kitties!
Our Suzy, 18+ years old and on her 10th or 11th life, has hyperthyroidism and is taking methimazole, which has helped her immensely! She still gets huge mats though, and even brushing and unsnarling her frequently can’t keep up with it. We have some waterless shampoo–we should give that a try.
She also has other age related issues, and our vet is doing a wonderful job of helping us care for her. We have Trupanion insurance, which has allowed us to keep her healthy, and I would never again be without it.
She says hello to Thomas, Bella, and Tara. 😻
Cats are so good at hiding their pain. This is great advice.
I have already racked up over a $2,000 + vet bill to be told my 14 yr. loving male cat has CKD & Hyperthroidism.
I do have him on Royal Canin kibble for CKD ( he abhors wet food ) since a kitten. He has lots of daily fresh water & loves it.
However, there is no way he would ever tolerate more hydration under his skin.
And in no way would he take a pill for his hyperthroidism.
Iam 70 yrs. & no longer earning a $50,000 a yr. income.
He loves sleeping between my legs in our recliner ( due to my back injury, I cannot sleep in a bed )
My question, is it time to let him go over Rainbow Bridge, so that he suffers no more.
He is eating less, them vomiting it up daily.
Help? I always had German Shepherds, and when it was their time….it was able to be known.
I’m sorry, it’s very sad. Maybe it is time. Or the future please see the information about the kitties getting vaccinated too much and causing kidney problems. I posted a quote and Link in this thread.
I am wondering if she has infected gums or teeth and that eating may be painful.. The infection could also be making her saliva smell bad and that is being spread too her fur… talk to your vet about all the options – I know for my 20 year old cat we did antibiotics and I make sure he always has wet food he can eat without chewing..
For those of you who may have to put their kitties down and eventually think of getting another one. Please look at this information on getting too many vaccinations! :-( please share the information.
“Vaccines are implicated in triggering various immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis). Vaccines are also implicated in the high incidence of vaccine-induced sarcomas in cats. The incidence of these tumors ranges from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000 cats. They can develop as quickly as 4 weeks or as late as 10 years post vaccination.” There is a study that you can click on if you’re interested in more information. There are other websites reputable folks talking about this. Please consider it!
I’m sorry your kitties are going through this. http://consciouscat.net/2014/01/13/vaccinate-adult-cat-distemper/
To Lor-Ann- Try to enjoy your ‘stinky, unkempt always wet’ cat while you can. Hold him and pet him when he tries to get warm. He doesn’t realize he is offending your senses, but I guarantee he feels you drawing away, and that is sad. Try and remember all the times he wasn’t a stinky old fart, when he made you laugh and smile, and ran and played with you. Time for payback. You will regret not showing him appreciation now, when he needs it, when he is no longer there. Take it from me, I’ve been there.