Adult Cat Care

There are many ways to keep your cat healthy and happy throughout their life. As a member of the family, your cat deserves the very best possible care. One of the best ways to ensure your cat stays happy and healthy is by making sure they have their preventive care checkups.

What your cat requires will change as they age. Cat’s lives are broken into four stages: kittens, young adults, mature adults, and seniors. Each stage requires special attention to certain health and behavioral areas. The Feline Life Stages chart includes a breakdown of life stages that your cat advances through, and concentrates on how to best support them in each stage. Use the information on this page to observe your cat at home, as well as discuss these items with your veterinarian during your cat’s checkups.

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Young Adult (1 year – 6 years) – Inter-cat aggression may develop at this stage of life along with sexual maturity. Be sure to use appropriate play with your cat.

Mature Adult (7 – 10 years) – Play activity begins to decrease and your cat becomes more likely to gain weight. Many people assume their cat is young and healthy, but a lot can change in just one cat year which equals four human years. Your cat will benefit from regular checkups to keep her/him healthy and prevent disease or illnesses.

 

Veterinary Checkups

It's very important to develop a close relationship with your cat’s veterinarian while he is still healthy. Your veterinarian can get to know your cat and detect subtle changes that may indicate a health condition or disease. Your young adult cat should visit the veterinarian at least once a year. As they approach senior age or once they've gotten diagnosed with a disease or condition, your cat should visit their veterinarian more often, usually about every 6 months, even if your cat appears healthy. Please remember 6 months in cat years is roughly equivalent to 2 years for a person and a lot can change in that time.

You can increase your cat’s chances of living into his teens or early twenties by providing good care at home and regular veterinary care. As your cat ages, be prepared to see physical changes. It’s important to discuss these changes with your veterinarian to determine what is “normal” aging and what may be a sign of illness. With regular check-ups, illnesses can be diagnosed early and age-related health conditions can be delayed or managed.

Medical History

As your cat ages, be prepared to see physical changes. It’s important to discuss these changes with your veterinarian to determine what is “normal” aging and what may be a sign of illness. With regular check-ups, illnesses can be diagnosed early and age-related health conditions can be delayed or managed. Be prepared for your veterinarian to ask you specifically about changes in appetite, hydration, vomiting, diarrhea, vocalization, nighttime activity, mobility, vision, litter box habits, and grooming habits.

Some common aging changes include:

  • Changes in vision

  • Appearance of brown spots in the iris

  • Decreased sense of smell

  • Brittle or fragile nails

  • Decreased lung reserve

  • Heart or circulatory problems

  • Decreased digestion and ability to absorb nutrients

  • Loose, less-elastic skin

  • Reduced ability to handle stress

  • Changes in behavior

We all want to grow old with grace and dignity, and we want the same for our pets. Fortunately, expert understanding of cat health and advances in veterinary medicine means cats can live longer, better lives than ever before. As your cat’s caregiver, there’s much you can do to keep your cat healthy and happy.

 

Extra Focus During Checkups

During the check-up, your veterinarian will review your cat’s nutrition, lifestyle, environmental enrichment (key resources such as food, water, litter box, scratching areas, play areas, resting areas, etc.), disease and parasite prevention, and behavior. This is also the perfect time for you to ask questions and share any changes in your cat’s behavior. Even very minor changes could be a sign of a medical issue.

With a thorough physical exam plus the information you share, you and your veterinarian can create a plan to meet the individualized needs of your cat. Regular check-ups are key to a healthy and happy cat. During the examination, your veterinarian will be have increased focus on the abdomen, heart, lungs, thyroid, kidneys, eyes, and teeth. They will also assess the muscle and bones to monitor for early signs of arthritis in an older adult cat.

 
 

Vaccines and Laboratory Testing

The vaccines an adult cat receives will be the veterinarian's discretion. Generally, the cat's age, chronic conditions, past vaccination history, and lifestyle are all taken into consideration. In an effort to prevent over-vaccination, there are 3-year options with some vaccines as well as titer-testing upon request. We do use the more cat-friendly PureVax vaccines that do not use adjuvants. An adjuvant is a substance that is added to a vaccine to enhance the body's immune response to the vaccine. Adjuvants have been associated with injection site reaction, injection site granuloma, and chronic inflammation in cats.

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What bloodwork and at what frequency a veterinarian recommends lab work for your cat will vary on a number of different factors. How old are they? Have they had irregular bloodwork in the past? Are they currently experiencing any issues? Are they on medication for any chronic conditions? Even if your pet's examination shows no obvious signs of disease or illness, it's important to to have baseline numbers of how their organs are functioning so that they can be compared to future bloodwork results. Bloodwork and urinalyses are tests that help your veterinarian diagnose or monitor common conditions like kidney disease/failure, thryoid disease, liver disease/failure, and diabetes.

Nutrition and Weight Management

Is your cat overweight? Do you know what a healthy body weight is for your cat?

The images of fat cats made popular in comic strips and internet memes have changed people’s ideas of a cat’s ideal or normal body weight. It’s quite possible your feline friend is carrying around a little (or a lot) of extra weight. Your veterinarian can help you figure out a healthy weight for your cat.

 

Did you know when cats are at ideal body weight, on average, they live longer lives? Not only that, but they tend to feel better too! Obesity in cats has been linked to many health concerns such as diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease, to name just a few.


Fat cells can release pro-inflammatory mediators into the bloodstream which predisposes cats to inflammation. This can increase many conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and asthma – two very common cat diseases.
As cats age, arthritis or degenerative joint disease (DJD), often becomes an issue. Cats tend to develop arthritis in the joints of their limbs and spine, which is made worse by extra weight on these joints.

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Obesity-Related Health Concerns
Diagnosis and Treatment of Obesity

If you are concerned about your cat’s weight, now is the time to take action. Start your cat on its way to a healthier and happier life.
Involve your veterinarian to make sure your cat loses weight in a safe and healthy manner. Together you can design a program with weight loss goals, make sure the weight is coming off at an appropriate rate, and ensure all of your kitty’s nutritional requirements are being met.

Diet

During your veterinary visit, discuss the type and amount of food your cat is eating.
Remember to share all the treats your cat receives, and yes, that includes any scraps of human food, too! There are many different types of foods that can create a healthier diet for your cat, including special prescription diets. You and your veterinarian figure out which works best for you both.


In multiple cat households, often one cat steals food from the other cats. This makes it difficult for you to regulate what your cat eats. Different strategies can be used such as controlled meal feeding in separate areas or putting food where only one cat can access it. There are even devices you can buy that only allow a specified cat to access the food based on an I.D. collar or microchip! Discuss the specifics of your situation during your veterinary visit to come up with creative solutions for your home.

Body and Muscle Condition Score
Treats & Rewards

It can be hard not to treat your feline friend with lots of food and treats. However, food is only one of the ways that you can spoil them. You can reward your cat with catnip, play, or just plain-old loving attention. Puzzle feeders can also be a great way to slow down eating and provide activity and stimulation.

Exercise

Just as with people, daily activity is an important part of your cats’ weight loss plan.
Indoor cats are particularly prone to inactivity. With a small amount of effort on your part, your cat can start to get more exercise which comes with the added bonus of being more mentally stimulated as well!
Read the AAFP’s “Your Cat’s Environmental Needs” brochure for cat caregivers, to learn how to set up an engaging environment for your cat to meet their physical and emotional needs.

How to Feed Your Cat
 

Diseases and Conditions

Just because your cat isn't technically considered a senior or geriatric doesn't mean they can't be diagnosed with a serious disease or illness. Here are a few signs and symptoms that indicate a number of different possible diseases or medical conditions and indicate that you need to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible:

  • Blood in your cat’s urine

  • Coughing

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Hiding or being more antisocial

  • Not using the litter box

  • Increase or decrease in appetite

  • Increase or decrease in urination

  • Increased thirst or drinking

  • Increase or decrease in weight

  • Increased vocalization

  • Lethargy

  • Over-grooming

  • Poor coat condition

  • Vomiting

The following illnesses/conditions are not strictly age-related and are not certainly all-inclusive of the diseases that affect our feline friends. They are, however, fairly common among cats and early detection is key in managing them. Click the associated PDF to learn more about each disease and what you should look out for.

Degenerative Joint Disease (Arthritis)
Diabetes
Hyperthyroidism
Hypertension
Chronic Kidney Disease

Behavior and Environment

Introducing a New Cat to Other Cats in the Household
 

When you already have cats as part of your family, introducing your newly adopted cat can seem like an overwhelming task. Patience is key–the transition can take several weeks, but by planning ahead you can reduce some stress, allow for an easier transition, and build a positive relationship between your feline companions.

Grooming Your Cat

Cats devote a large part of their day to cleaning and conditioning their coat and claws. Estimates range from about 2 to 6 hours a day. This means you should frequently see your cat lapping her fur, washing her face, using a scratching post, and biting her nails. Most cats are “self-cleaning,”  but some may have characteristics that make grooming more of a challenge. Long-hair, polydactyls (extra toes), flat-faced, and hairless cats may require help with personal hygiene even when they are healthy.

 

As your cat’s caregiver, keep these facts in mind:

  • All cats can benefit from regular grooming sessions and nail trimming at home.

  • Grooming enhances your relationship and will allow you to notice even subtle changes in the condition of your cat’s coat, skin, and nails.

  • Acute illness, increasing age, increasing weight, dental disease, less than ideal nutrition, parasites, infections, and chronic illnesses can all contribute to a loss of the well-groomed appearance we expect of our cats.

  • If you see changes in your cat’s grooming practices or your cat appears unkempt or messy, call your veterinarian so they can assess your cat and make sure that she is not ill.

  • Having the proper tools makes grooming easier for you and your cat.

  • Make sure you report any changes in grooming behavior to your veterinarian.

Cat Grooming and Nail Trims
Grooming Toolkit
Living With a Clawed Cat
Brushing a Cat's Coat
Appropriate Cat Play
  • For energetic cats, mental activity is just as important as physical well-being.

  • Cats are stimulated by a variety of scents, sounds, and tactile experiences.

  • In felines, healthy development includes acting upon their natural predatory behaviors. Cats will naturally stalk, pounce, and roll around with toys unprovoked – a part of her inner big cat!

  • It comes as no surprise that a natural favorite for cats is a furry toy mouse. Avoid stringy or yarn-type toys as curious cats may try to eat their toys instead of play. 

  • To discourage biting or scratching, make sure that you avoid using hands and fingers as ways to engage in play. Feather pole toys are excellent for playing with your little one while keeping your hands at a safe distance.

Playing With Your Cat
Environmental Needs
DIY Cat Toys

Litter Box

 

Choosing a litter box for your cat can be overwhelming! There is an infinite number of styles and sizes to choose from! Then, there is the type of litter you fill it with… The following PDF will help you decide what to buy and where in the home you should place a litter box.

Litter Box
Look When You Scoop

Are your cat’s stools softer, harder, or changing color? Is he defecating daily? Constipation is a common, yet under-recognized, sign of dehydration in older cats. If attended to early, your veterinarian can help your kitty to feel comfortable again.
Has the amount of urine in the litter box changed? Increased urine output can signal some of the most common illnesses in elderly cats – from diabetes or an overactive thyroid gland to kidney disease and high blood pressure.

Take a “Cat’s Eye View” of the Litter Box.

If your cat starts to miss the litter box and or have “accidents” around your house, there may be a medical issue causing him to house-soil. Urinary infections, constipation, arthritis, and muscle weakness are just a few of the reasons an older cat can develop litter box issues.


Your veterinarian can look into medical issues and help you with home or environmental concerns that may be causing the changes in your cat’s behavior.

  • Is the litter box easy for your elderly cat to get in and out (i.e., there isn’t a high step into the box)?

  • Does the location make it easy for your cat to access so he doesn’t have to go up or down the stairs?

  • Is the litter box in a quiet area that is protected from other pets that may startle or frighten your older cat?

  • Are you scooping and cleaning the litter box often enough to keep up with that increased urine output?

  • Is the litter gentle on your senior cat’s paws?

 

Oral Health

Oral Health

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Kittens have 26 teeth, while adult cats have 30. That equals a lot of dental care! Periodontal disease is considered the most common disease in cats three years of age and older. Often there aren’t any obvious signs of dental disease. Most cats with dental disease still eat without a noticeable change in appetite. Discuss your cat’s teeth at their annual check-up.

Why Is Dental Care Important For My Cat?

Maybe you’ve never really thought about it before, but proper dental care is just as important for your cat’s health as your dental care is to your overall health.

 

Must-Know Information:

  • Plaque is a biofilm or mass of bacteria that is constantly piling up on your cat’s teeth. Over time, the plaque hardens and becomes tartar or calculus, which is a hard, brown material on the tooth’s surface.

  • Tartar and plaque contain bacteria. The bacteria invade the space under the gum line and cause destruction of the tissues that support the tooth. This can lead to periodontal disease, inflammation, or swelling of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.

  • It is estimated that periodontal disease affects at least 70% of cats over 3 years of age. As periodontal disease progresses, it can result in bone loss and teeth that are mobile, both of which are painful.

  • Periodontal disease causes pain and is permanent once established, but it is preventable!

What Should I Do For My Cat’s Oral Health?
  • We recommend a home-care routine combined with regular dental examinations, cleanings, and procedures with your veterinarian. You can make a significant difference in your cat’s overall health and comfort with a home-care routine. The more you do at home, the less your veterinarian will need to do.

  • Brush your cat’s teeth

  • Tooth brushing is the single most effective way to decrease plaque and tartar.

  • We brush our own teeth on a regular basis to keep them healthy. Regular brushing also improves the health of your cat’s teeth.

  • Introduce a tooth brushing routine slowly. Use lots of patience, positive reinforcement, praise, and treats as needed.

  • Use a toothbrush that is comfortable for the small areas of your cat’s mouth and be sure to use toothpaste specifically for cats.

  • When you brush your cat’s teeth, you may catch the early signs of oral problems. You may also notice fractured teeth or teeth with tooth resorption, a painful dental disease that results in the loss of the tooth structure.

 

Cause for Concern

If your cat seems to have painful teeth, tartar, gingivitis (red gums), or if you notice a foul odor coming from your cat’s mouth, call your veterinarian. This indicates that your cat’s teeth should be professionally cleaned before you begin at home-care routine. Discuss your cat’s teeth and oral health care with your veterinarian at every visit. For more information on oral health, visit our dentistry page!

Steps to Brushing Cat Teeth
What Happens If My Cat Needs a Dentistry Procedure?

For a complete oral and radiographic evaluation (x-ray), general anesthesia is required. During the procedure, your veterinarian will:

  • Clean and polish his teeth.

  • Examine each of his 30 teeth as well as examine his gums, the roof of his mouth, the inside of his cheeks, and the back of his throat. (All findings are recorded in a dental chart.)

  • Look for gum recession, bone loss, areas of periodontal disease, tooth resorption, and oral masses.

  • Take x-rays (radiographs) of each of his teeth.

    • Dental x-rays allow your veterinarian to see the roots and surrounding bone of your cat’s teeth.

    • Over half of your cat’s tooth structure is beneath the gum line and can only be evaluated with x-rays.

  • Determine appropriate treatment for each tooth by combining the findings of the visual examination with the dental x-rays.

  • If oral surgery is required, your veterinarian may remove any painful, diseased teeth so your cat can be comfortable and not in pain.