Elderly Cat Behavior

by Darci
(Edmonton, Canada)

My 17 year old cat has been missing for two days now. To give you some background, she has primarily been an indoor cat her entire life. She would go outside for short periods of time, as long as the weather was perfect and it wasn't too noisy or other people weren't around. And she would never leave the comforts of our yard.

Health wise, my cat recently got to the point that she was unable to jump up on anything higher than a couch. I also recently changed her cat food to a senior variety, as she was having a hard time keeping the regular food down. My cat also was quite thin, which I contributed to her age.

Two mornings ago, my husband let my cat outside, and we haven't seen her since. As I said before, she would never leave the yard and is afraid of strangers, so she wouldn't have wondered off or let someone pick her up.

What is your opinion on what may have happened to my cat?


Dear Darci,


17 years old is very elderly for a cat. It is important to know that a cat doesn’t become thin just because of age. Age isn’t a disease, but can, of course, lead to many cat diseases. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and many other conditions are common feline illnesses for elderly cats. Regurgitation is also a symptom of many cat illnesses, including the ones indicated for older felines.

In my experience, people who say their cats don’t ever leave the yard, unfortunately, often turn out to be wrong. Or, even if you are correct that your cat has never left your yard before, a cat can change its mind on any given day.

I certainly could not say for certain what happened to your cat. She could have wandered off because, especially as cats become older, can become somewhat senile and experience confusion. Also, with your cat’s age considered, she may also have decreased hearing or vision.

Sadly, it is also possible that your cat has one of the feline illnesses I mentioned before, and felt very ill and wandered off to find a place to die.

Hopefully none of the circumstances are true and, by the time you are reading this, your kitty will have safely returned home. If or when she does, I would strongly recommend you keep your kitty indoors at her age.

Best wishes,
Dr. Neely

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