Mature Adult and Senior Cats

The medical history and examination of mature adult and senior cats will be focused on early detection of disease. Adult and senior cats are often diagnosed with comorbidities. Specific questions regarding changes in appetite, occurrence of polyuria and polydipsia, vomiting, vomiting hairballs, or diarrhea are of key importance to guide diagnostic testing. Discussion should also be held with the client about increased nocturnal activity and vocalization as well as changes in the cat’s normal habits or activity. These may indicate cognitive dysfunction, disease-reduced mobility, pain, or reduced vision. Detecting signs of pain or anxiety and evaluation of quality of life are most commonly of concern in the mature adult or senior cat but may be relevant at any life stage.

During the physical examination, particular focus is on pain assessment and abdominal and thyroid palpation. A detailed musculoskeletal examination to detect signs of osteoarthritis is critical as this condition is one of the most significant and underdiagnosed diseases in cats.23,28 A fundic examination is key to detecting signs of ophthalmic disease or hypertension.29 Practices should employ a validated pain assessment scale or tool to diagnose, monitor, and assist in the evaluation of patients for subtle signs of pain.30

Changes in grooming habits, particularly increased grooming, may signal a dermatologic issue such as atopy, food allergy, an immune-mediated skin condition, infectious or parasitic disease, endocrine condition, or paraneoplastic syndrome.31 Reduced grooming by the cat may also indicate underlying illness, bladder pain, degenerative joint disease (DJD) pain, or reduced mobility.