Ask the Veterinarian/Elderly Cat



I'm going to give you a lot of background info so I apologise in advance for the essay.

My cat is 17 years old. We have had him since he was a kitten. I was 8 at the time so he was ultimately the responsibility of my parents for most of his life. He is a moggy- just a standard mix of domestic short hair- nothing fancy.
He has not had the best diet, my dad used to buy whatever was cheapest in the supermarket at the time. But he has been healthy his entire life.
About three years ago- perhaps a bit more- he started to lose a lot of weight. Vet diagnoses was over active thyroid. We were given the option of thyroid specific food or pills. If he had the food he would have had to have been kept as an indoor cat and being an outdoor cat his whole life we thought keeping him in would be unfair so opted for pills.
It took a long time to get the right dosage of pills. One dose was too high, the next was too low but we finally got there. He gets blood tests every 4-6 months to make sure his levels are okay.
He is also tested regularly for kidney disease but so far levels have been within the normal range for his age.
About a year and a half ago, he started having an issue with his bum. He would still go outside to go to the toilet but sometimes when he was asleep on the sofa, a bit of poo would escape. Not a large amount, less than a fingernail amount but we would notice the smears in the morning.
The vet didn't really know what it was. They checked his anal glands but there were no issues. he was put on antibiotics for 10 days which made it less frequent but it still happened.
In January of this year, my parents moved abroad. I started renting their house from them and took on full care of him. I stopped buying different food and stick to one brand and the same meat. Since doing that, from January the poo issues stopped. I also noticed he was arthritic and so give him yumove supplements every day.
Unfortunately in the last 3 months, he has begun to leave spots of poo down everywhere he sleeps. Again he is still letting himself out to do a poo when he needs to.
I put down a litter tray for him but he has never used a litter tray so doesn't really know what to make of it, and as he only has accidents when he is asleep, it seems a bit pointless.
His weight since his thyroid issues have been a worry. He got very skinny. But he is now averaging at 3.6/3.7 and is stable there so I see that as a good sign.
I went back to the vet regarding his poo problems. They suggest that due to muscle wastage due to his age, his anal muscles are not good enough to get everything out and so whenever he is relaxing, whatever he didn't manage to get out, naturally just comes out.

So now to my questions;
1) Since taking over his care, I've been toying with the idea of changing his food to something more nutritious. My fear is that due to his age, any change would affect him negatively and also due to his poo issues, a change in diet might make things worse. But at the same time... It may make things better if it is the diet that is causing the issue. Would you be able to suggest the best course of action?
2) following from my first question, at the moment I feed him ab lib. He has dry cat food available all day although the he only eats a bit of this- usually when I am at work and he has no other food available. Then I give him wet food, pretty much whenever he wants it. Due to his weight issues, I'm scared to reduce the amount I give him as I don't want him to lose any more. However I am wondering whether feeding like this is contributing to his poo problems. What do you think?

I'm just trying to get other people's opinions on this. I know we don't have too long left but I want to have tried everything I can to keep him healthy. I don't want to see him go down hill, I just want what's best for him

Bit of extra additional info; behaviour wise he hasn't really changed. He whines and meows a lot, but that can be attributed to his thyroid issues. He is stiffer and can be wobbly when he gets up after being asleep for long periods but I think that is the arthritis. Appetite wise he eats like a horse although I have noticed that when his bum issues are at their worst, he goes off his food. Usually for around 24-48 hours tops before he is back to eating normally.

Sorry for the essay, if you need any additional info please ask away :)


Hi Sam,

Going through the brief history,I think the  observations made by your vet is  right in this regard.Adding  bulking agents may produce firmer stools which the cat can control better.You may try adult feline prescription diet with high fiber.

In addition, for a situation such as this, it is important to not change the food often (in terms of different Brands/types). Constant adjustment to new foods certainly won’t help with such conditions. Pick a food and stick with it for a period of time so your cat can adjust.


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Dr S Bindu Anand


Large and Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, Farm Management,Preventive medicine


A Senior Veterinary Surgeon with more than 25 years’ experience in the field of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry. Mixed animal Practice that will utilize my skills in medicine and surgery, public health, client relations, and developing relationships within the community, such as humane society

Veterinary Consultant with Department of Animal Resources,Ministry of Environment,State of Qatar (Present). Animal Husbandry Department, Government of Kerala, India. Oakland's Park, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. Severnside Veterinary Center, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom. Saud Bahwan Group, Sultanate of Oman. Trivandrum Regional Co-operative Milk Producers Union,Kerala,India.

BVSc & AH (Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry) 1990. College of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, Thrissur, Kerala, India under Kerala Agricultural University. Certificates Of Accomplishments- Equine Nutrition- University of Edinburgh Principles of Public Health-University of California, Irvine. AIDS- Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. General Environmental Health – EPHOC-Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Food Protection-EPHOC-Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Zoonoses:University of Minnesota-School of Public Health online. Food Safety:University of Minnesota-School of Public Health online. Occupational Safety and Health-EPHOC-Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Rabies Educator Certified -Global Alliance for Rabies Control. Animal Handler & Vaccinator Educator Certified -Global Alliance for Rabies Control. Wildlife Conservation-United for Wildlife. Health Promotion & Disease Prevention-Boston University School of Public Health. Bioterrorism, Bioterrorism Preparedness-EPHOC-Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health. Good Clinical Practice-London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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