People and pets can get frail as they age. Frailty can slow us down, both physically and mentally, and lead to bad outcomes like injury, confusion and earlier death. Identifying frailty in people has led to ways to help prevent and treat them to improve their quality of life. Pet cats can also become frail, but we still know little about it. Since there are 75-80 million pet cats in the US, and 13% are aged 12 years or older, some of these cats may be suffering from frailty. Like people, some cats seem to age “better” than others, so just being old does not tell us if cats are more likely to have age-related problems. Learning how to best measure frailty in cats will help us to provide better care for them as they age.
We plan to measure frailty in cats by asking cat owners about changes in their cat’s actions and activity, and their veterinarian (DVM) about the cat’s weight, condition, and illnesses. We think that frailty leads to changes in mental and physical activity in cats as it does in people. We will test our survey with 200 cats between the ages of 11-20 during veterinary visits to learn we can identify frail cats sooner, and again 6 and 12 later months to learn how frailty changes over time. This research will help us identify what puts aging cats at risk for frailty so better prevention and treatment and care can be started as early as possible.