Dementia in Cats

If your velvet paw is over 15 years old, veterinarians will classify you as a geriatric patient. At this age, you have to expect that the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (CDS) increases. So that you can recognize the neurological disease in your cat as early as possible, the following article summarizes the most important facts about dementia in cats for you.

Which Cats Can Get Dementia?

Cats of all ages and breeds can develop dementia. However, one thing is certain: in old age the risk for cats of Alzheimer’s disease increases! One study indicates that half of the cats over the age of 15 show signs of senile dementia.

Symptoms: What are the Signs of Dementia in Cats?

Typically, dementia in cats causes them to lose their cognitive abilities as they age. Demented cats, therefore, show the following signs:

  1. Changes in behavior
    If your cat loses its cognitive abilities, its behavior will change too. It is possible that your otherwise friendly and tame cat suddenly reacts aggressively or very fearfully. It can also be that she suddenly makes more sounds.
  2. Disorientation
    Usually, cats are very familiar with their territory. However, cats with CDS forget where their litter box is or where their food bowl is. You may see your cat staring at a wall in confusion and trying in vain to find the way out of the room.
  3. Uncleanliness
    Usually, cats brush themselves regularly with the help of their rough tongue. However, cats with dementia tend to be brushless. In addition, demented cats can sometimes become unclean. That is, they often dump feces and urine in random places, including around the home.
  4. Disorders of the circadian rhythm
    Your cat no longer knows what time of day it is. This may be reflected in the fact that she forgets about feeding times.
  5. Changes in the day-night rhythm
    Cats are nocturnal. This means that they doze off during the day and make the environment unsafe at night. This sleep-wake rhythm changes in demented cats so that they suddenly sleep through the night and are wide awake during the day.
  6. Worsened ability to learn and remember
    Almost every cat listens to its name and knows what the word “food” means. Since dementia also affects the area of ​​learning and memory, demented cats often forget commands they have learned.

Diagnosis: How is Dementia Detected in Cats?

Veterinarians detect dementia in cats by ruling out other possible diseases (differential diagnoses). In particular, these include diseases that cause your cat to go blind or lose its hearing. The vet will also examine the cat for kidney or bladder problems to rule out possible causes of incontinence.

Therapy: Can Dementia be Treated in Cats?

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for dementia. It is all the more important that you support your cat in everyday life. To do this, in consultation with your veterinarian, you can do the following:

  • Brain Training: Get your cats thinking by playing with them regularly.
  • Spend a lot of time with your cat and be patient with them.
  • If possible, make your home barrier-free and offer your old cat easy-to-reach places of retreat.
  • Place the food and water bowl in easily accessible places.
  • Offer your cat ramps so that it has easier access to the litter box or to higher-lying areas.

It is especially important to avoid stress in your older cat. You can do this if you avoid animal new arrivals or large visitors. If this is not possible, you can use pheromones against stress in consultation with your veterinarian.

Prognosis: What are the Chances of Recovery?

Unfortunately, according to the current state of knowledge, it is not possible for veterinarians to cure demented cats. Dead brain cells do not regenerate by themselves so that dead tissue remains dead in the long run. However, you can significantly improve your house cat’s quality of life with patience and understanding.

Causes: How is Dementia Triggered in Cats?

In general, dementia is a neurodegenerative disease. More precisely: While “dementia” is a generic term and describes symptoms such as the loss of memories, orientation, and the ability to think, “Alzheimer’s” is a defined disease and thus a kind of sub-form of dementia.

The German neurologist Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described the neurodegenerative disease in humans in 1906. A few decades later, however, researchers discovered similar changes in the brains of animals such as dogs and cats. In dogs, veterinarians speak of what is known as cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). But cats can get sick in a similar way.

The cause: The body stores pathologically pathological proteins in the brain tissue over the long term. If these are located within the nerve cell, veterinarians refer to them as tau proteins. Outside the cell, they speak of so-called amyloid plaques. The stored proteins cause the affected tissue to die. As a result, the brain can no longer perform important functions. It can no longer perceive and evaluate sensory impressions as usual, so that your cat loses its cognitive abilities.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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