Do cats get dementia?

Studies on feline behavior have revealed that about 28% of cats aging between 11 and 14 years show signs of dementia and 50% of older cats suffer from this progressive neurological disorder. Just as with humans, the natural process of aging would create significant changes on the cats’ body systems and behaviors. The body would age and the heart would age. The brain would age as well and when it does, it is highly possible for the cat to show signs of dementia. Just like their aging owners that can suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the pet cat can get dementia too.

Anybody that has lived with senior members of the family would have an idea what Alzheimer’s disease or dementia means. This condition is characterized by the loss of brain functions. Not many cat owners are aware that the condition can occur in the pet too. Studies have disclosed that one in every ten cats can suffer from a feline version of the condition seen in aging humans. Significant changes that occur in the brain can interfere with its normal functioning. In a healthy brain, there are millions of nerve cells that communicate with each other by constantly sending out signals through the interconnecting tentacle-like structures called axons and dendrites. Physical changes would occur in the brain of a cat showing signs of dementia. The brain would have amyloid proteins. These senile plaques would create neurofibrillary tangles that would interfere with the brain’s normal activity.

Confused, disoriented and distressed…these are the effects dementia would have on a cat. Cats are noted for being good groomers. Cats would spend long hours licking and cleaning the fur. These are very clean animals. Pet parents would state that cats are quite difficult to train unlike dogs. However, once these animals have learned where the litter box is, they would not eliminate in any other area. Dementia would have an effect on the cats grooming pattern. A cat with this neurological disorder would appear to have forgotten how to groom. The cat would also forget where the litter tray is. To the consternation of the pet parent, the aging cat would poop or pee right beside the litter box. The cat would even “forget” to eat. On the other hand, some cats would also forget that they have already eaten. The cat would keep on meowing and asking the owners to fill its food bowl. The energy cats have would wane as they grow older. The once playful kitten that would tirelessly play for hours would lay low and spend more and more time sleeping. However, a cat with dementia would be sleeping unusually long hours. The pet would be cranky and would have the propensity to vocalize. Just like humans with dementia, the cat can vocalize non-stop. This increased agitation usually occurs at night when the owners are sleeping. The cat is obviously distressed and would want to gain the attention of the owners.

These changes in the pet’s behavior can be very irritating to a pet owner that is unaware that the pet has dementia. The change in behavior can be viewed as signs of aging. With better health care and premium quality diet, cats these days have longer life spans thus dementia has become a common ailment of aging cats. Cats with dementia would be highly stressed with any change in its environment. A vet’s diagnosis would be very necessary so that the necessary care would be given to the pet.

The risk of dementia can be reduced. Aside from providing the pet with a good diet and health care, the cat, especially aging ones must be provided with mental stimulation. Aging cats are expected to be less active but toys that will stimulate the pet’s mind would be very important.