Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: June 28, 2023 by Crystal Uys

Owner hugging her 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.

elderly cat sleeping on wooden steps
Image credit: Guilherme Oliveira, Unsplash

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?

Featured Image Credit: Wanwajee Weeraphukdee, Shutterstock

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