Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 7, 2023 by Crystal Uys

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Cats are living longer and healthier lives, thanks to improved veterinary care, better nutrition, and the fact that most pet cats are indoor cats. A cat is usually considered a senior between the age of 11 and 14, cats older than that are considered geriatric. Senior cats usually require more care then younger cats, and when problems occur, they can often be more serious or more difficult to deal with.

However, age should not be a reason to not treat an illness. Dr. Kristopher Chandroo, a veterinarian practicing at Orleans Veterinary Hospital in Ottawa, Canada, frequently hears the words “he’s too old” from clients when discussing treatment plans. Dr. Kris believes that this may sometimes be an excuse to not treat a cat when he becomes ill, or to marginalize what potential for health they have left. Not too long ago, Dr. Kris was faced with this issue when his own 19-year-old cat Zach lost control of his hindlegs (also known as ataxia.)

I believe that there is no single right answer when it comes to making treatment decisions for a cat. So many factors come into play: the cat’s temperament, the guardian’s comfort level with providing any follow up care that may be required at home, and even finances. All any cat guardian can do is gather all the information related to the cat’s condition, and then take all of these things into consideration. Sometimes, the final decision comes down to listening to what your gut, or your heart, tells you. Because in the end, you’re the one who knows your cat better than all the veterinarians in the world.

Dr. Kris made a heart touching video about the decision process he and his family went through when he was faced with Zach’s illness.

Zach passed away in April of 2016. Dr. Kris created a beautiful video to celebrate his beloved cat’s life.

Have you had to make difficult treatment decisions for an older cat? What helped you make your decision?

You can find more information about Dr. Kris on his website,

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21 Comments on Age is Not a Disease

  1. U mention using Buprenex for pain of choice. However, Vera my older 16yr old was given this n she seem not be able to rest for 4 hrs n drinked tons of water n fell asleep by the water bowl. I know all cats r not the same so I was wander if she should ever have this pain med again?

    • Some cats can react with hyperactivity to opioids like Buprenex, Debbie. I would discuss alternative medications with your vet.

  2. I have an appointment for Topaz, who will be 16 in February, on Thursday 1-19 to have her teeth cleaned.

    In 2014 she had I-131 treatment and I was told afterwards that she had kidney disease.

    I have changed vets and my current vet does not believe she has kidney disease based on looking at her last four or five test results . We did a urinalysis (1.019 specific gravity) and blood work (her potassium, lymphocytes and red blood count were slightly low and her BUN was slightly high. her creatinine was 1.9 everything else was normal including her T4) on December 23.

    I am giving her clindamycin capsules once a day, today, tomorrow and Wednesday and for seven days after the dental surgery on Thursday. She will get penicillin the day of. I am worried sick about it but at the same time I don’t want her suffering because her teeth are bad. She has not had them cleaned since she was eight years old.

    We put her on Clavamox after the blood work in preparation to have her dental done but her appetite severely decreased and I stopped after seven doses.

    I hope I am making the right decision. She only eats canned food and her appetite is great.

    • It’s impossible not to worry when a cat has to undergo anesthesia, but anesthesia can be safely tailored to the needs of senior cats. This article by a feline vet explains the things you should ask your vet before any dental procedure, I hope it helps: All my best to you and Topaz, Susan.

      • The same with my kitty that is over 16yrs old. She is not in pain with her teeth n she will let me brush them sometimes while she just wants to eat the cat paste. However, she does have couple bad ones but too scare for her to go under with he age. Overly protective mom.

        • I agree, but if indergoing anaesthetic make sure the vet jeeps them on fluids as well. This makes it easier for the cat to recover and if anything goes wrong the vet can react quicker.

  3. When one of my kitties developed congestive heart failure the veterinary cardiologist said he could save his life. It was going to cost about two thousand dollars! I said, “but he’s 14 years old”. The vet told me he had a 24 year old cat! So I spent the money, gave him 3 pills twice a day, and enjoyed his new, more gentle and loving personality for 2 more years. It was worth every penny and inconvenience to have him in my life a little longer! And I cried through that entire video and the memories it brought back. :'(

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Debi. I’m glad you had two more good years with your kitty after diagnosis.

    • I had to stop the video to stop balling like a baby. I went back n watched the rest n finished crying like a baby. We all love r fur-babies n only what is best n safe for them.

  4. I couldn’t bring myself to view the video (I’m that sort of coward) but pleased that the cat in question is seemingly doing well despite a lot of issues.
    I agree with most of the comments…. we have three cats who are 14/15 now, one just beginning to show signs of kidney disease (now on Renal diet which she appears to enjoy – as does the other cat who does NOT have any kidney disease so far as I’m aware!); one of the others has had a heart murmur for about three years and is still running round like the ginger lunatic he is.
    My own feelings about illness in senior and older cats is I will happily “consent” to tests but not for any major operation. I feel the system couldn’t stand it and it does, obviously (?) become more risky as the cat gets older.
    One of the vets at our local practice is very wary of anaesthetising older cats and will avoid it if possible.
    We did have a cat some years ago who at the age of 13 went in for a dental operation, had 11 teeth removed ALL at the same time, came home and immediately went to his food bowl – “never mind dinner, what happened to breakfast” and made an excellent recovery, no problem at all. Darling Timothy survived until he was 17….

    Like humans they are all different…. whoever said “a cat is a cat is a cat” really had no idea what they were talking about.

    • I’m always amazed at cats like your Timmy. They show us that we humans often worry too much! You’re absolutely right, Margaret: they’re all different, and that’s what matters when it comes to making treatment decisions.

  5. I think this article is irresponsible and perhaps may deter folks from adopting an older pet. I rescued two senior cats who were dumped by their previous owner, however they do NOT “require more care than younger cats”. In fact, after all the initial vetting (to catch them up on their shots, dental, annual exams, etc.), they have not had ANY issues because they are well cared for , they get premium nutrition, daily exercise and lots of love and attention. They are the happy, healthy, goofy and a joy to have around. Although they are turning 13 this May, I suspect they will be around a very long time, as the majority of my pets live well into their late teens and early twenties. One of the major issues with pets requiring ongoing health care is diet. People feed their pets garbage food from the grocery store or the big box pet store and expect their pets to be healthy. If more people would do their homework and feed a better quality food, they wouldn’t end up at the vet as often, nor would their pet’s life expectancy be cut so short. Spend a little extra now on proper nutrition for your pet, and you won’t be spending so much at the vet down the road.

    • I would never want to deter anyone from adopting a senior cat, Raven, and I agree that diet has a big impact on health. I’ve written extensively about this topic. However, senior cats may require more frequent check ups than younger cats – that’s all I was trying to suggest.

  6. I am printing this out for my hubby. He is afraid to get our 13 yr. old cat’s teeth done because he thinks she won’t survive being under which is ridiculous. Thanks for this post and all your others-you always have great info.

    • I don’t think it is ridiculous for the way your hubby feels about the cat. He is just really worry about the fur-baby. I would suggest talking to the vet with your hubby n see what the vet suggest. Maybe the vet can help ease his fears.

    • Enid, they work for me on all browsers and mobile devices. Are you getting an error message? How are you viewing my site?

  7. That brought tears to my eyes….this is love, you love them no matter what. Pets are part of the family and this is what you would do for someone you love so dearly.

    • Yep, I love my Belinda of 12 y. o. she was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism last April. Today, after many vet´s appointments, blood tests and adjusting her medication I felt very, very happy. The white cells are up to normal so is the T4 all because the very caring vet and my disciplined and methodical approach to her treatment. It is not easy but she is all I got left but above all she deserves every thing available there.

  8. Stitch: I turned eleven last year and my humans treat me the same as ever. They have, to my displeasure, stopped the nibbles from the table since I yarp if I get any. I have managed to demand cooked chicken be put back on my menu with limited success.

    Leelu: Stitch still chases me across the apartment. She’s old when her claws stop touching my butt! Seriously, she went to the awful V-E-T and they laughed at the humans when they said she was older than two.

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