Cat Illnesses & Health Problems

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Take relative's elderly cat to the vet?

July 2003

My relatives have a part-Siamese cat that is 16-18 years old, indoors/outdoors but she sticks around the house a lot. The cat has never been to the vet, never had vaccinations, never had fleas as far as we know. All these years she has done very well. Over the past couple years, my husband and I have noticed she is becoming extremely thin. She is responsive to people, is able to jump up to the car to get to her blanket on the car, and she eats ok. She does vomit pretty often though. It may be her stomach doesn't like the canned food because when the relatives are on vacation, they ask us not to feed her canned food because if she vomits, there is no one to clean it up.

We have asked them to take her to a vet because she is sooo thin and throws up. They say they are unable to get her into a cat crate, and therefore unable to bring her to the vet. We asked them to have a vet come to their house. They said it would be too expensive. I would be willing to pay for the vet visit, however I think they really don't want the cat to see a vet because the vet may find something wrong with her and want to put her on medication (expensive), or maybe is in pain and should be put out of her misery.

Just by observing her, she doesn't seem to be in pain though, so I can see how there might not be a problem, but she is very thin. Advice please. Should we just leave the issue alone? Do you think the cat is ok? Does she need a vet visit? Do you know what would make her thin?

Its your call whether or not to take the cat to the vet. If you are going to do it, it seems fair to tell them that's what you are doing. It sounds like the cat may be hyperthyroid. Vomiting and weightloss are classic symptoms, and old cats are very susceptible. Your vet can test thyroid function by doing a blood test, and treatment is by pill, once a day for the rest of the cat's life. The cat will be MUCH happier if appropriately medicated. Heather

This cat may have something totally different from the cat we used to have but the symptoms sound the same. Our cat was diagnosed with a tumor and we did everything we could do but he died anyway. I feel that if one has a pet it should be considered a member of the family. anon

Yes, absolutely take the cat to the vet!!! The cat's symptoms sound like potential kidney or liver problems -- or could be something as simple as food issues, although at that age, I doubt it. Just because the cat doesn't cry doesn't mean s/he isn't in pain. Medicines for pets are often quite inexpensive, but I think the most important thig here is to try to figure out what's wrong with the pet, so that you, or they, can figure out what they will do for it.

It's hard for me to tell, from your note, whether they aren't particularly attached to the cat, and therefore don't want to spend money to help it, or whether they don't want to contemplate the inevitable demise of their beloved pet, and are therefore reluctant to take it to the vet for fear of learning that there is, in fact, something wrong.

In any case, it's sad to think that the cat might be suffering, so follow your good instincts and get that cat to a vet! And there are vets who make house calls, and it's not THAT expensive!!! -- a concerned animal-lover

Cats that are that old are ''skinny by design'' most of the time. I have two that are 19, sisters. One is Siamese-looking and is skinny as a rail. The other is more fleshed out (tabby). Your relatives have shown that they don't want the cat to go to the vet. It sounds like the cat is doing quite well (lots of cats don't live to such an advanced age) despite not going to the vet. It is, of course, a judgment call. There are consequences either way. If I were in your shoes I would imagine the consequences of each choice, then take the action with the consequence I believe I could handle! Good luck. It's great you are so caring for this small creature.

BTW, we have taken to pampering our old kitties and they have shown improvement. The Siamese likes raw beef (hamburger) and the tabby likes a ''sensitive stomach'' food (look at Petco). Prior to giving her this food she was throwing up a lot. Now it's about once a week, instead. Old people (and cats) have sensitive stomachs and often don't digest as well as younger folks. Perhaps your best bet is to bring this old cat special healthy treats! Ilene

My old beloved cat died at 17 recently of an unidentified cancer that swelled his stomach up more and more until he was finally virtually immobilized- although still the loving and responsive guy he'd always been. He was an indoor/outdoor cat until about 5 years ago when I found out that he was FIV positive. This is the cat equivalent of HIV but is not nearly as virulent as the human form. It's contagious from fighting bites, not just from fluids and casual contact like FeLV (cat leukemia).

Most cats with FIV don't live as long as mine did- a secondary infection usually gets them sooner. Since he was so old, it was impossible to tell if the FIV was responsible- old age takes its toll on all creatures one way or another. But outdoor cats can be infected with many things. He got very thin (old cats usually do) before he started to swell up, and he vomited. Cancer is very, very common among older animals, as it is with humans.

My practice is to put my animals to sleep when they reach the point where life is not worth living. I always have it done at home and it is not outrageously expensive- under $100. House calls for other reasons are not as expensive as you might think either.

Sounds like your neighbors love their cat very much but are in denial about his age and what that eventually means (death), whether he is actually sick now or just old. Is there any way that you can help them accept this in a graceful way and also continue yourself to keep an eye on the cat's condition? Expensive treatments in an animal that old are usually useless and can to my mind even be inhumane if they are invasive. Can you offer to have the cat stay in your home when they are away, so he can get the right food? And you could get a vet in to check him out then also. I've taken neighbors' sick cats to the vet without their knowledge a few times. Glad You Care

I took my old cat to the vet for worms after neglecting vet visits for 10 years (16 is pretty old, my cat was 14 and arthritic). Anyway, I totally regretted it. My cat died two weeks later from complications from the vaccines she was given. I'm sure she would not have lived years and years longer, but the vet visit was a mistake for us. She would have been much happier being left alone. If the cat is eating and still able to jump up to her favorite spot, leave her alone. Interventions at her age are only painful and expensive and they won't make the cat any happier. It doesn't sound like she is suffering, only thin. Leave her alone. Anyway, it's not your cat. anonymous cat lover

The cat is 16-18 years old and can still respond to people, jump up on the car, and doesn't appear to be in pain. Lots of cats (esp. Siamese) are barf-prone, and those that are usually become pretty thin in their dotage. You're probably right that she's slowly dying; do you really think it would benefit the cat to be put on a medical regimine at this point in her life? The cat appears to have enjoyed a high-quality life, and the decision to allow it to end naturally is not a bad decision. Sorry to sound harsh, but I think you should keep your nose out of it. respects non-intervention

16-18 years old is VERY old for a cat. My cat of 19 years just died from old age, which is rare these days. Seems that cats are getting a lot of diseases and dying of them like humans, earlier than normal life expectancy.

I think if the cat is bascially happy, then leave it alone. It might be coming to the end of its life and there is nothing a vet can do for that. Cats get skinny as they age and vomiting is also part of the aging process. Sometimes you can occassionally substitute baby food (w/meat), or tuna from the can, or maybe a special food for older cats (from pet food express). It can be a wonderful thing to let an animal die on its own rather than having medical intervention which can't help it anyways. I think it helps us humans in accepting the animals inevitable death. If the cat has never been to the vet then why start now? It will only traumatize her. Just try and make her comfortable and give her a lot of love. If your relatives don't want to take her to the vet you should respect their wishes. They have been this cats caretakers all these years and she sounds like she had a great long life (no fleas!!??). cat lover

Cat with lymphoma

March 2003

My 3 1/2 year old cat, Luna, has just been diagnosed with lymphoma. She's being treated with chemotherapy and is doing a little better, but I understand this disease is almost always fatal within a few months to a year or two. Does anyone have any experience with this and recommendations for treatment? In addition to conventional approaches I'm interested in alternative treatments such as accupuncture, herbs, homeotherapy, diet, and supplements. Thanks, Kathy Kathy, I'm sorry to hear about your cat. Our dog recently died of lymphoma eight months after being diagnosed. I would recommend talking to Dr Anne Reed at Dimond Pet Clinic in Oakland (530- 1373). She was very caring and offered several supplement suggestions(flax seed oil, vitamin c) which seemed to help our dog. We didn't do chemotherapy, but we did put our dog on prednisone which helped him quite a bit at the beginning. She also does accupuncture. If you need any more information, send me an e-mail. Susan

My dog was diagnosed w/ lymphoma last year. I spoke to a neighbor whose dog had lymphoma and a friend who is a vet pathologist. The vet pathologist expressed his sorrow for me, but said it would be 1-3 months, so I may just want to make her comfortable, and be ready to put her down when her quality of life became bad. The friend said basically the same thing. Both said chemo was not worthwhile, because all it does is extend the life (maybe) by a few months, meanwhile the animal is miserable from the chemo and you've just spent thousands of dollars. (The friend did the chemo for her dog, and said she wouldn't do it again.) Often the vet can prescribe steroids, which make the animal feel better but don't do much else. You can't fix this. It's really hard, and I'm sorry. We ended up giving our dog everything she wanted in the end (treats etc). It took her only about a month. The timing depends on how far advanced it is, as I understand it. Janet

My cat has nasal SCC - I did a web search and found a site just for feline cancer - you can also join a chat group and post a message - very helpful - lots of information!! Similar situations.

I am a vet, and unfortunately do see a lot of lymphoma in cats. In fact there recently was an article that showed that the incidence of lymphoma is higher in cats that live in households with cigarette smokers, but even without that risk factor it is a relatively common disease for kitties. The long term survival depends on a lot of factors including type of lymphoma (small cell, lymphoblastic, etc), organs affected (intestines, kidney, etc), and stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis. I would strongly consider consulting with a veterinary oncologist such as Cecile Siedlicki at Bay Area Veterinary Specialists in San Leandro, and for homeopathic treatments with the doctors at Creature Comfort (formerly the Dimond Pet Hospital) on MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland. For some lymphomas oral prednisolone alone will help control the disease for a few months and keep the kitties comfortable without many side effects, although it doesn't really put the disease in remission like full chemotherapy. Collect all the information you can on the situation for your particular kitty, and then make a decision that seems appropriate to you. I wish you and your kitty well. Dr. D


Cat with Cancer

October 2002

Has anyone had experience with their cat having nasal squamous cell carcinoma? I took my cat to the vet last week and it was suggested that at this point - the nose should be removed (i.e the area that's cancerous). I think this is my only choice (vs chemo or radiation). Has anyone had this done to their cat? If so, where and what was the cost, and how did the cat fare? thanks

This is a common treatment for SCC and cats seem to tolerate this well. But the success of this procedure depends upon keeping the cat out of the sun for the rest of his days. Once the affected portion of the nose is removed the remaining tissue should be sheltered from the suns radiation. Many people choose to use sunscreen daily, but the best remedy would be to keep him indoors. Best wishes.... Vet RN

One alternative for Squamous cell on the nose is to contact Dr. Jane Turrel in Pacifica. She does cobalt radiation treatment for the nose that is fairly successful. Surgery for squamous cell on the ears is easy, but on the nose it is more difficult unless the tumor is very small and on an easily removable site. Also, you need to protect the kitty from sunlight in the future to prevent recurrance. A local vet

I'm sorry to hear about your kitty. Our cat had the same problem and we first tried radiation which did not work - cancer came right back. We then had the nose removed and it was very successful, adding at least 4 years of quality life to an already older cat. Charlie Berger at Campus Vet in Berkeley(549- 1252) did the surgery. Cat recoverd quickly and was fine until he died of the inevitable feline end - kidney failure. I would do it again, and skip the radiation. And I wholeheartedly recommend Berger. He's a terrific vet, experienced, an excellent surgeon and diagnostician and an especially wonderful person. I don't remember the costs but it was typical for vet surgery. All the best to you and your cat. Debby

Try calling UC Davis -- they used to do a non-surgical technique that was quite successful.