Conscious Cat

July 16, 2012 36 Comments

Feline Dementia

Posted by Ingrid

senior_cat

Can cats get Alzheimer’s and dementia? As cats are living longer, they get diseases that are commonly associated with aging.  If your senior cat seems to be a bit forgetful at times, meows loudly or seems anxious for seemingly no reason, or appears to get lost in the house, he may be showing signs of the feline version of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Can cats get Alzheimer’s?

In 2006, scientists at the University of Edinburgh identified a protein that can build up in cats’ brain nerve cells and cause mental deterioration. “We’ve known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat’s neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer’s sufferers,” says Danielle Gunn-Moore, one of the researchers participating in the study.  ”Recent studies suggest that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11-14 years develop at least one old-age related behavior problem, and this increases to more than 50 percent for cats over the age of 15,” adds Gunn-Moore. For more on the study, please read Cats Can Get Alzheimer’s on the Washington Post website.

Symptoms of dementia

The following symptoms can be indicators for feline dementia:

  • loud vocalization
  • eliminating outside the litter box
  • increased anxiety or agitation, especially at night
  • lack of interest in grooming
  • appearing to be lost in familiar surroundings
  • decreased appetite
  • increased sleeping time
  • disorientation

Since any of these symptoms can also be indicators of a serious illness, an exam by your cat’s veterinarian will the first step in helping you determine whether your cat has dementia.

How is dementia diagnosed?

Diagnosis will involve a thorough veterinary exam, including a full blood panel and urinalysis. If the exam reveals any underlying medical issues, they will need to be addressed.

Treatment options

Once medical issues have been ruled out or addressed, the following treatment options can help your cat with dementia:

- A species-appropriate, grain-free diet

- Anti-oxidant supplements may improve cognitive function and slow down mental decline.

- Omega-3 DHA supplements may protect the brain through neuro-protection and anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative stress properties.

- A stimulating environment that challenges your cat to think and play. Even though your senior cat may not want to pounce and chase after toys, daily play sessions  will engage her brain. Even just batting at a toy will keep her brain active and at the same time, increase the bond between the two of you.

Are you worried that your senior cat is showing signs of dementia? If you have a senior cat, what have you done to make her life easier?

Photo Flickr Creative Commons

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36 Responses to “Feline Dementia”

  1. Great post! I was actually just looking this up today. My oldest is 13 but (knock on wood) I don’t think he has any of the signs.

  2. Catburglar says:

    Liquid Vitamin B-12 shots really help with this. My cat began to show signs of dementia at the very end of his life. He was already on all of the other recommended supplements and diet, but when we introduced the B-12 we saw a marked and almost miraculous improvement. It also aids greatly in intestinal health in older cats. They are given subcutaneously, so it’s easy to do at home without hurting your cat, and after an initial build-up, you only need one shot per month. Plus, it’s very inexpensive.

    • Ingrid says:

      That’s interesting about the B12 injectins. I had heard of a connection between B12 and dementia in humans, but had not heard of anyone using this for cats for this indication. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  3. Lianimal says:

    Peaches (knock on wood) isn’t showing any of these signs either…..well, there WAS that time she peed on my favorite work shoes….but she was mad at me for letting Monkey move in. lol Peaches is my smartest cat, undisputably among the most intelligent cats I’ve ever lived with. But she IS getting up there, so I saw this link and felt I should check. Great subject, thanks a lot for posting on it.

  4. Bernadette says:

    As always, I traded notes and symptoms between my cats and my mother as I watched them all grow older. Most of my geriatric cats stayed as sharp as nails even up to the last days, only a few showed any signs of dementia in the last few months, and I think part of what I saw had to do with failing hearing and eyesight and related disorientation. But the environmental stimulation is so very important–my mother benefited from activities and constant conversation in personal care, and my older cats have always had me and other cats around to keep them moving with a lot of touching and routine.

  5. Awesome post Ingrid about a topic which isn’t often brought up but should be.

  6. Peg says:

    Our Kira at almost 16 does have some signs of dementia, notably yowling for no apparent reason. She’ll stand in the hall and just meow loudly a few times. When I go to her she’ll follow me back to my office, but often will go back and yowl again! We’re also pretty sure her sight is dimming and that she has some arthritis. We make sure she can get to her favorite sleeping places and also up on the bed to sleep with us at night, plus we’ve placed phone books under her food and water dishes so she doesn’t have to lean down as far. She plays less and for less time, but seems to enjoy it when she does. So she’s old but still perking along, and we’re happy to have her still come to greet us when we’ve been out even if it was only for a trip to the grocery store!

  7. Tami says:

    My 17 and a half year old cat has started exhibiting symptoms of dementia. Yowling, loss of appetite, lethargy, chronic constipation, increased anxiety at night, and increased sleeping time. All of the symptoms except for yowling and constipation have come on suddenly. She has had a vet checkup with a complete blood count. Everything came back normal. I have done some research online and found a natural supplement called Cholodin-Fel. It is supposed to help if not reverse the symptoms of this sad condition. It has received good reviews. I am anxious to get this and start trying it on her. I will post follow up results.

    • Ingrid says:

      There are some studies on the human side that show that choline may help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, so it could potentially help cats as well. I’ll look forward to hearing how it’s working for your cat, Tami.

  8. Barbara Whitson says:

    My cat tessa has dementia the vet prescribed Amitriyline and for a miinth it seemed to help but now the refuses to eat, and I’m afraid I’ll have to euthanize her it breaks my heart. I am so worried I can’t eat or sleep well. I promised her I wouldn’t force fees her. I but I can’t let go even as I write this I’m abouts to break down. But she has made the decision I think Shea tired of the drama. She lives to be wrapped up in her orange blanket and sleep on MT shoulder or chest.I wish I could do more.

  9. Loretha says:

    My 14 year old cat, Simon, was diagnosed with feline dementia 2 weeks ago. But he has been showing symptoms for about 2 months. The night yeowling is the most distressing. It is disrupting sleep for my entire family. The vet prescribed Valium, but it is not very effective. I find myself contemplating euthanasia every night. I just don’t know how much longer I can put my family through this. I am heart-broken and guilt-wracked.

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about Simon, Loretha. I know it’s distressing. There may be other drug options if the Valium isn’t working – talk to your vet.

      • Roxanna says:

        I too have a cat who’s clearly on the decline neurologically. I know how frustrating it is to be awoken at night with the yowling…unfortunately in my case my cat is so attached to me that he does not leave my side all night and decides to paw and meow in my face while I am sleeping about every 2-3 hours all throughout the night. My kitty is 15 years old and is also diabetic, which has also taken a toll on him in the last few years. If your kitty is otherwise healthy I would talk to your vet about possibly starting on amino acid or other supplements in kitties diet to help slow the progression, additionally there are pheromone plug ins that you can also buy according to my vet that can help lessen kitties anxiety. I know it’s rough trust me, hope this helps.

        • Becky says:

          I have cats but my elderly dog shows signs of dementia. She was waking up several times in the middle of the night barking in fear. We tried the sedatives but she habituated to them and I didn’t want to increase dosage. We began using herbal Tranquility Drops. They work wonderfully. It has calmed her and allows her to sleep all night. She is less anxious during the day,

          • Ingrid says:

            I’m glad the blend is working for your dog, Becky. I’m not familiar with the product, and would like to caution cat guardians to be careful with herbal remedies, as not all herbs are safe for cats.

  10. Ann says:

    My cat is 12 and receives sub-Q fluids for kidney disease. She has been fine on this for over four years now, but in the last six weeks she has begun showing signs of dementia: avoiding all the places that used to be her very favorites to lie in, not responding to morning greetings or meal-time announcements, strangely trotting to and from the litter box as if frightened, seeming to forget to eat and then wolfing down food when it’s placed in front of her, getting uncharacteristically aggressive before sub-Q treatments, no longer approaching us for pets, hiding under beds, occasionally yowling, and just generally displaying a flat affect. I feel like she slipped away from me before I realized what was happening, and that the cat I love is already gone. I feel such grief…

    • Ingrid says:

      I’m so sorry about your kitty, Ann. It’s hard to watch this happen, my heart goes out to you.

    • Nancy Wizner says:

      Ann, Are you giving anything else for the kidney disease besides fluids? I treated my girl for 10 years with this disease. She passed on 5/11/12 from congestive heart failure. With treatment, we gave her 10 extra years to her life and in those 10 years she blessed our souls with her presence! I’ve learned so very much about CRF, Anemia, Phosphorus and so on. If you have any questions, maybe I can help. Take care and hugs to your little one.

    • Nancy Wizner says:

      I am so sorry about the dementia. I just finished reading your first post (which I should have done in the beginning). Dementia frightens me more than the kidney disease. I think we have to learn about it and do the best we can. I’m so sorry for what you are going through. I think my boy has dementia starting too. However, there are meds for it and I currently have Fluffy on Rescue Remedy (4 drops in his water) and he seems to be relaxing better at night now. So you may want to give that a try. It won’t cause any side effects and is good with the CRF.

  11. Nancy Wizner says:

    I have a 17 year old male. We are treating for a UTI right now with Baytril. However, he meows very loud at night and does seem confused at times. He looks around like he’s not sure where he is. This is mostly at night. He has been through alot. We lost our two girls last summer (one month apart). Just two weeks after the second one passed, I took in a stray. Fluffy wasn’t to fond of that. My dearest friend passed away in December. She had 2 male cats and she asked me to take care of them for her. So now I have 4. 3 males, one female. My children also married and moved out and we remodeled the upstairs. So much has happened that I attributed his actions to all this. Now I am wondering if it is dementia. If I go to pick him up, he sometimes growls at me (so I thought maybe arthritis?). He has had all blood work done with a clean bill of health except the UTI. Does this sound like dementia?

    • Ingrid says:

      You sure have had a lot of loss recently, Nancy – I’m so sorry. Based on your description of your 17-year-old cat’s behavior, it does sound like he could have dementia. The fact that he growls when you pick him up definitely makes me think there’s pain present. I would talk to your vet about pain control options, if you haven’t already done so.

      • Nancy Wizner says:

        Ingrid, Thank you. I started Rescue Remedy in Fluffy’s water and for two nights now, he has slept during the night well. He only cried out at 5 a.m. and that was to eat. Maybe the RR calms him down somewhat. I put about 4 drops in his water. I made an appt. with a vet who specializes in geriatric cats. The appt. is set for 9/11 at 4:40. If this is dementia, I am hoping we can slow down the process. Thank you for your reply and I’ll let you know how the appt. goes on Wednesday.

  12. Lori says:

    My 19year old cat Twitchy vocalizes loudly at night. She lost her hearing about a year ago, and is now exhibiting symptoms of dementia. Her appetite is anomalous, though. She seems ravenous, and we feed her a spoonful of high quality wet food every 2 hours throughout the day. When she howls at night, we feed her then too. And she has a bowl full of dry food to nibble as she pleases. We set up a bed for her right near her food and water dish. She still pees in the littler box, but occasionally poops elsewhere. I can see that she is fading, but is not quite ready to give up. We try to make her comfortable as possible. Sometimes she sits in front of a large floor mirror we have and waits for it to open like a door. it’s very sad to see her decline. It’s the extremely loud vocalizing that worries me, as we live in an apartment building and our neighbors can hear her. Her aging resembles what is happening to my mother and mother in law, both in advanced old age and exhibiting many of the same symptoms! A trip to the vet would be too stressful for her but I want to make sure nothing hurts her. Have not been successful at finding a house call vet. Any ideas?

    • Ingrid says:

      I urge you to find a house call vet, Lori. You may want to ask your regular vet whether they would consider making a house call, some vets will do that for existing clients. They combination of ravenous appetite and howling could be symptomatic of hyperthyroidism.

  13. Jan says:

    My “baby” is now l8 (last December) and originally the vet thought she had behavioral problems because she quit using her litter box. She recommended Feliway. I tried that for a month and it did no good. Because of the litter box issue, I had to keep Kodak in the crate I use for our Great Dane. The odd thing is that Kodak seems to like it there. She would come out only to sit in front of it all day. She uses the litter box I kept in the crate, but she also sleep in it from time to time.

    It’s been two months and she will finally come out into other rooms of the house now and even be friendly to some of the family. She seems to be mimicking my Mother-In-Law who lives here bed fast with Alzheimers.

    She hasn’t vocalized during the night, and I’m thankful for that. But she does at about 6:30 every morning like clockwork.

    She’s also lost weight and we’ve started feeding her wet cat food in addition to her dry she’s she’s been eating all along.

  14. Gigi says:

    The only remaining cat I have from my mother, who died in 2007, is Frito. He is an orange tabby cat who is at least 15 years old. He was wolfing down his food so quickly he would immediately throw it all up, so we started giving him two bowls; first only a spoonful then the rest in the second bowl. This seems to help. He has always been a loud kitty, but recently his cries could peel the paint off the walls. When he is meowing in the kitchen I pick him up and put his nose into his food or his saucer of milk. (Lactaid or other lactose-free milk – regular milk gives cats very bad diarrhea.) I need to do this about every 10 minutes. I was saying jokingly I was certain he had feline Alzheimers, then lo and behold, I found your post. He still uses the litter box, drinks a lot of water and cuddles up with me at night, but he is getting very skinny. We want to keep him as long as we can, and hopefully this plateau he is on won’t lead to a decline too soon.

  15. Smokey says:

    Liberty was never especially close to me – never a lap cat. She had a “silent purr.” She had spent 18 months of her first 2 years in a shelter when I adopted her 11.5 years ago — she’s 13.5 years old now and her behavior changes of late are strange. She goes to the hall to yowl every now and then, and I talk back to her. She is occasionally jumping in my lap or on the back of my chair; when I lean my head back against her she purrs.She has started to sleep longer and fit herself against me when we sleep –but if I have to get up for any reason, she doesn’t budge, where she used to leap from the bed and go elsewhere. She has become more social with me and actually seems to be smarter than she used to be. She saw the vet not long ago and lost 4 back teeth, but was otherwise declared healthy as can be. Perhaps she was dealing with dental pain and is acting better for that reason, but I also changed her food to one that is more natural and high in animal protein. Hard to tell what is going on in that Tuxedo head…This is great information for dealing with Liberty — I want to keep her as long as possible, and the way she is going with GOOD weird behavior changes, that may be a long long time. Thank you for this.

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