Sick or just and old fart?
July 5, 2010 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Is my cat sick or just old?

I have a cat that's about 10 years old and I'm not sure if I should be concerned. His symptoms:
  • He has what seems to me to be unusually foul breath for a cat.
  • He seems to have much less fur than I remember
  • He is somewhat but not terribly skinny
  • His incisors are unusually prominent to the point that my cleaning people call him a vampire cat
To be honest, when I was a kid most of our kids seemed to disappear before they reached old age so I'm not sure if these things are just normal older cat things or something I should be concerned about. Does any of this seem unusual or concerning? He doesn't have any obvious signs of disease and none of this has developed suddenly but over a period of months to years.

Should I be worried?
posted by MasterShake to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
When was the last time you took him to the vet for a checkup?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2010

Some other factors: What do you feed him? Does he go outdoors?

Alto, it doesn't hurt to take him into a reputable vet for a checkup.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:05 AM on July 5, 2010

Like all these sensible people say, take him to the vet.

Hyperthyroidism often happens in old cats, and it can greatly shorten their lives.
Kidney disease can manifest as foul breath.
Flea allergies can cause fur to thin and drop out.

A little extra care can increase the time you get to spend with your cat,
and improve their lives in their later years.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2010

I wouldn't say that you should be worried, but it definitely sounds like it's time for a trip to the vet. His breath and (possible) weight loss could be due to tooth issues. He probably needs a cleaning, at least. Some cats seem to get a little skinnier and scraggly-looking when they get older, but 10 is young for that to be happening, in my experience.
posted by Mavri at 11:08 AM on July 5, 2010

You're not going to get a decent diagnosis on the internet.

As a basic rule, if something has changed (loss of weight, change in breath, teeth becoming more prominent, change in behavior etc) then it's worth a check up. Your cat should get a check up once a year any way.

10 isn't strictly that old for a cat. Many live past that age.

From what you describe, if your cat had a tooth infection that was causing an abcess and smelly breath, it might also put it off its food. But that's speculation. If you think the problem is tooth related and your cat will let you, it is possible to do a visual check. If nothing else, look for yellowing teeth. If your cat is mainly on a wet food diet and doesn't eat dry food then it's highly likely its teeth won't be in great shape.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:09 AM on July 5, 2010

Ten years isn't very old. I'd say a trip to the vet is in order.
posted by something something at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2010

Foul breath = bad teeth (at best), which in and of themselves can lead to a host of serious health problems. Thinning fur, weight loss, etc certainly aren't signs of stellar health. Frankly, 10 isn't really that old for a cat, considering many live to 16 or 18 (given certain conditions, such as being an indoor cat, being fed a cat-centric diet i.e. no table scraps, etc.).

Get thee to a vet.
posted by East Siberian patchbelly wrangler at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2010

Another vote for a trip to the vet. Ten is not that old for an indoor cat, but he could have any number of maladies. My cat's diabetes first manifested as weight loss & his coat losing lustre.
posted by kellyblah at 11:16 AM on July 5, 2010

I wondered similarly when my 10 year-old cat lost a lot of weight last fall. The vet said that 10 wasn't considered old anymore, partly because pet food manufacturers started adding taurine to cat food in the early 1980's. I would definitely see a vet (my cat had hepatitis).
posted by unknowncommand at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2010

Nthing that ten isn't that old, and you need to talk to a vet, but mainly came in to ask you to tell me that that was supposed to say, "...most of our cats seemed to disappear before...."

Please. That would still be sad, but not as sad.
posted by Some1 at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2010

Take him to the vet and get a "senior panel", which will check his kidneys, thyroid, and other things that can be affected by aging in cats. 8-10 is a good age to get their first senior panel. My cat has many of those manifestations and he has both thyroid and kidney conditions.
posted by matildaben at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: @Some1 ROFL. Yes. That was most of our cats. No missing kids thus far.
posted by MasterShake at 12:07 PM on July 5, 2010

Nthing the vet.
Also, my BIL had a cat with a lot of hair loss. He changed his diet to a high quality cat food, and the hair loss disappeared (sorry about the pun). It probably resulted from an allergy. If the vet finds nothing wrong, try to very gradually change to a higher quality food. That is, if you don't already feed him a higher quality food.
posted by annsunny at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2010

My cat died at 14, and I know now that even 14 isn't considered old old for a cat anymore, especially an indoor cat. My neighbor's cat is 18, and has lived kind of indoor/outdoor. He had a yucky infected cyst last year, and perked up considerably after it was treated (and we kept him indoors a few days).

Definitely you should take notice. If it is a dental issue, the issue can often be pretty simply resolved (minor surgery, sore mouth, then normal cat).
posted by amtho at 1:16 PM on July 5, 2010

Echoing everyone else who is saying 10 is still fairly young for a cat these days.

I linked to this chart in a recent AskMe about cat health; I think it gives good, concrete advice about when it's time to take the cat to the vet and how quickly you need to get there:

Cat Clinic of Norman--Is it an Emergency?

According to the chart, bad breath is not an emergency, but if your cat has had bad breath for a couple of weeks and it isn't going away, it's time for a vet visit.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:40 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

sounds like your cat has teeth problems, which may be leading to a cascade of other health issues. if he's not able to eat because his teeth hurt, he's not getting enough nutrients/calories to sustain either his body weight or a healthy coat.

ten isn't that old for a cat. one of my own is about to turn ten and it's at this age that indoor kitties start to have teeth problems if they haven't been in for at least an occasional cleaning. it's expensive as hell, but the vet will probably want to clean his teeth and, if they're decayed enough, extract some.
posted by hollisimo at 1:52 PM on July 5, 2010

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