As she grew older, like many cats, Persia stopped being so thorough about grooming herself. She no longer spent as much time licking and nibbling her coat: she preferred just to sleep. As a result, her coat became matted and unkempt, and she wouldn’t let Patricia go near her with a comb or brush. Professional grooming, with electric clippers to remove the clumps of fur, was the only answer.
Persia is a feisty cat, and she wouldn’t let anyone go near her with noisy clippers: she needed to be sedated. Sedation can be risky if a cat is suffering from low grade heart disease or other hidden illnesses, so as part of her pre-grooming preparation, she was given a thorough veterinary check-over.
This “senior pet” health check came up with some interesting findings: Persia had three “hidden” problems. First, she had dental disease, with sore gums and teeth which were discouraging her from using her mouth to groom herself. Second, she had signs of arthritis, so she was no longer as able to twist and turn as she needed to do to reach her underside and extremities if she did groom herself. And third, she had an enlarged thyroid gland, indicating that she was suffering from hyperthyroidism, a common disease of older cats which can cause a range of signs, including an unkempt coat.
We went ahead and gave Persia a thorough grooming under sedation, but we used the opportunity to tackle her other problems at the same time. First, we deepened the sedation to a full general anaesthetic, and we gave her a dental overhaul, removing some painful teeth and carrying out a descale and polish so that her mouth was much more comfortable. Second, we started her onto daily pain relieving medication for her arthritis (she now has some tasty drops added to her breakfast every day). And third, we took a blood sample to measure her thyroid hormones: this confirmed that she had an overactive thyroid gland, so she was started onto daily tablets to bring her thyroid hormones back to normal.
The effect of this triple treatment on Persia was remarkable and rapid: in Patricia’s words, she became “brighter and happier” almost straight away. She stopped sleeping so much, and her attitude became more like a younger cat again. She spent more time ranging around the house and she ventured outside more than she had done for several years. She had obviously been affected with hidden chronic low grade pain, and once this had been removed, she was a much happier cat.
A month after her new treatment had started, Persia had a setback. She started to look sad and quiet: Patricia found her hiding, huddled up, in the greenhouse. When she saw Patricia, she held up her left forepaw, as if it was painful. It was time to go back to the vet.
When I examined Persia this time, she had a different problem: her left elbow was purple, swollen and painful. When I clipped away her fur, I found some bite marks.
Persia had obviously been feeling so good that she had decided to try to chase a neighbour’s cat out of her garden, and a tussle had ensued: she had been bitten on her elbow. This is a common injury in young cats, but most elderly cats are too slow and tired to get into scraps of this type. On this occasion, Persia’s sense of well-being had worked against her.
She needed a course of antibiotics, and I increased her pain relieving anti-arthritis treatment. She soon recovered.
Patricia’s hoping that in the future, however well she’s feeling, Persia will keep away from any other cat bullies in the neighbourhood.
- Older cats often slow down because of treatable conditions
- With the right treatment, elderly animals can become like young cats again
- If you think your cat is “getting old”, it’s worth asking your vet for a check up