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Cat Dementia

Updated on June 12, 2014

Define Cat Dementia

An unhappy cat in a dress.She has a point there.
An unhappy cat in a dress.She has a point there. | Source

Cat Alzheimer’s Disease is Real

Yes. It does exist. Veterinary researchers in Scotland, England and California have been working on this question for close to a decade. While cognitive decline has been seen in senior cats for years, Dr. Danièlle Gunn-Moore of the University of Edinburgh pioneered research regarding feline cognitive deterioration. These veterinarians found that older cats can have neuron tangling and sticky amyloid placques in their brains - the identical mechanisms which cause human Alzheimer’s Disease.

Increasing Numbers of Cases of Cats with Dementia

As indicated by the latest research by Dr Danièlle Gunn-Moore, feline dementia is on the rise. There seem to be at least two likely reasons for this. These days, cats are living longer due to better health care and diet. Some can reach the age of 20 or more. Additionally, pets which are exclusively indoor cats (as opposed to “working” barn cats) may have less mental and physical stimulation than do outdoor cats.

Treatment for Cat Dementia

The current thinking focuses on healthy practices and lifestyle and then a few specific drugs. Cats need a stimulating environment with toys and playtimes with their human family members. Similar to findings in humans, research suggests that antioxidants in the diet may promote cognitive health and slow the process of decline. Vitamin E is an example of such an antioxidant.

A nutritional support product made exclusively for cats is Senilife. In a 2011 article in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, Dr. Gunn-Moore discusses the use of the nutritional supplement S-adenosyl-l-methionine (also called SAMe.) She states,“Although S-adenosyl-l-methionine has not been studied for the treatment of CDS in cats, it is known to be safe in this species and may be worth considering for the management of feline dementia.” SAMe has also been considered for human Alzheimer’s patients.

Prescription Medications for Feline Dementia

Veterinary medicines that help reduce the symptoms of feline dementia include:

  • Selegiline (trade name Anipryl®),
  • non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also called NSAIDs) – the two approved for cats are Meloxicam and Robenacoxib

Symptoms of Cat Alzheimer’s Disease

Please be aware that many of these changes also occur in other veterinary diseases, so see your veterinarian first to rule out other medical problems.

1. More Loud and Odd vocalizations

The change seen with senior dementia is one of increased or excessive vocalizations, and not just a simple meow, especially at night. Again, an alternate reason for this could be pain or hyperthyroidism.

2. Missing the litter box

Inappropriate urination or defecation can be symptoms of many diseases in addition to dementia and should a be checked to rule out an infection or impaction, and constipation.

3. Lack of attention to grooming

Senile cats no longer care about grooming.

4. Increased agitation, especially at night

This is a sign of distress if your cat becomes anxious at night, or gets the days and nights mixed up.

5. Sleeping more than usual

If you can discern an actual change, let your vet know.

6. More irritable or cranky

Again, this is a change in behavior. Rivalries or jealousies can increase. Tolerance of changes in the environment or in the cast of characters in the home are very low. Not seeming to recognize family members or other pets can indicate feline senior dementia. This type of behavior also can signal pain, so care should be taken to rule out arthritis, injury, etc.

7. Decreased appetite

Cats suffering from senile dementia may "forget" to eat.

8. Confusion about time

A cat may forget it has just been fed.

9. Spatial disorientation or confusion

A cat may get trapped in corners, or forget where its bed, food bowl, or litter box are.

10. Changes in activity

Do you observe aimless wandering or pacing by your cat, or reduced activity?

Do you have a senior cat?

I have at least one cat which is age

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What to do

Keep a record of what behaviors you have noticed and make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the changes. As noted above, the first step for any behavior problem is to rule out any medical causes first. Good luck.

Photo and text copyright 2012 Maren E. Morgan.


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    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      OldRoses, I am watching my Goddess who is becoming a senior. It is good to know.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      KoraleeP, you know now and that is the important thing.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 5 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

      Great Hub! I've had 2 cats with these behaviors. Your Hub really explains a lot. I wish I knew back then about Cat Dementia. I have to Tweet this.

    • OldRoses profile image

      Caren White 5 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Great hub! I didn't know that cats suffered from dementia. My three cats are entering their senior years. I'll keep an eye on them for signs of dementia.

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      @Patty - interestingly, the Scottish vet who started the research did so because of the behaviors she noticed in her own senior cat.

      @DirtFarmer - our older cat (age unknown, she adopted us) is going to the vet tomorrow to be checked. She is showing a few too many of the symptoms, poor dear.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      An interesting article, Maren! I've noticed increased vocalization in our old cat, who used to do nothing more than occasionally chirp. Knowing the other signs of cat demetia is very helpful for those of us with old, old cats.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Very Interesting Hub!!! I have always had cats while growing up and even now...I have had cats over the age of 20, and I never realized that this existed. Very Interesting!!! Well done!!! I also loved the intro photo!!! Thanks for sharing!!!