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Published: Nov 26, 2012

Your cat may start to show some signs of aging between the ages of 7 and 11, but he is not technically considered a "senior" until he is about 11 to 14 years old. Some cats live much longer, and after age 15 are considered "geriatric," according to VetStreet.com. Older cats need different care than younger cats, especially since their immune systems are not as strong as they used to be. Felines can suffer from a number of illnesses throughout their lives, but here are some of the most common ailments that affect older cats and what you should be watching for.

Arthritis
Unlike dogs, cats may not seem to become outwardly lame or show signs of pain in their joints as they age. However, arthritis is one of the most common issues cats face, even though they are good at hiding it. Some signs may be soiling places outside their litter boxes and meowing if their food and water dishes are up on a table or surface they have to jump to. Although veterinarians can recommend supplements or medications to ease the pain of joint disease in cats, it can also help to make lifestyle adjustments like bringing the cat's food down to the floor and switching out his litter box for one with low sides.

Dental disease
Dental disease and gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, are also common in older cats. These conditions may cause weight loss because your cat finds it painful to eat, and it can lead to tooth loss and infection. The best way to prevent dental disease in cats is to brush your feline's teeth throughout his life, but if he is already showing signs you should bring him to the vet for an examination. Switching out dry food for wet or adding water to dry food may make it less painful for your cat to eat.

Kidney disease
Kidneys change in a number of ways as a cat ages, and this can sometimes lead to impaired function. Although a common senior cat illness, kidney disease has varying symptoms among felines. Some of the most common symptoms include increased drinking and urination, urination outside the litter box, vomiting, blood in the urine, weight loss or sitting hunched, according to WebMD Pets. Other cats might experience a complete lack of urination. Veterinarians can diagnose and treat kidney disease and failure with blood tests and other exams.

Hyperthyroidism
This disease occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive, which can be caused by a tumor. According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the clinical signs of hyperthyroidism are subtle at first but then become more severe. Weight loss, increased appetite, thirst and urination are the most common signs, but diarrhea in cats, vomiting, hyperactivity and a greasy coat may also occur. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat this condition. Medication, surgery and radioactive-iodine therapy can all be used to control the ailment so your feline can live a long, happy life. 

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