Senile Dementia in Cats

Just there, suddenly gone: Cats can also suffer from dementia. The disease also poses challenges for the owner. Find out here how you can help your cat with dementia.

Something is wrong with your cat: It often meows loudly around without direction, jumps less precisely, and seems a bit off track. You should definitely see a vet now. All of these can be signs of dementia.

While cats used to only live to be around seven years old, cats today are often not even of that age yet. Anyone who makes friends with a cat today can look forward to spending 15 or 20 years together.

Unfortunately, this is not only positive for the animal: Veterinarians and researchers found that cats with their advanced age also get all those health problems that make life more difficult for human seniors: starting with declining eyesight and hearing, diabetes, high blood pressure, overactive thyroid up to dementia.

Research on Dementia in Cats

There are different studies on dementia in cats:

  • Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found beta-amyloid in cats with neurological disorders: the same proteins that disrupt horn signaling in people with Alzheimer’s.
  • There are studies that suggest that every second house cat older than 15 years shows some form of age-related behavioral problems.
  • There is currently no test that can definitively diagnose dementia in a cat. Therefore, a veterinarian must first rule out all other possible (organic) causes and diseases.

Preventing Dementia in Cats?

There is no cure for dementia, neither in humans nor in cats. There is also no reliable prevention. However, trying to keep your cat mentally fit through play can help. This works, for example, with the right intelligence toy. However, be aware of your cat’s limits and don’t overwhelm her.

Symptoms of Dementia in Cats

What is dementia in a cat? There are many signs of this disease, but unfortunately not clear ones. The diagnosis is therefore not easy. Observe your cat closely, note any unusual behavior and discuss your observations with the veterinarian.

The most common symptoms of dementia in cats include:

  • Loud meowing at night (sometimes also during the day)
  • Uncleanliness (often also due to pain)
  • confusion and disorientation
  • decreasing activity
  • aimless wandering
  • Memory and learning ability decreases sharply
  • Disturbance of the wake-sleep rhythm
  • Losing reference to the time-space system
  • no or reduced reaction when spoken to
  • in multi-cat households, social problems can suddenly arise
  • some cats also show symptoms of depression

A cat with the symptoms of dementia definitely needs to be treated by a veterinarian, as other physical disorders are often associated with it. It must also be ruled out that the cat has pain, for example in the joints.

The listed symptoms can also indicate other diseases. Be sure to take your cat to a veterinarian if they exhibit any of the symptoms listed. Only the veterinarian can rule out other diseases.

Helping Cats With Dementia

Dementia cannot be stopped entirely, but it can almost always be slowed down. The sooner a cat gets treatment, the better off it is for them. In addition to a veterinarian, cats with dementia also need an understanding and considerate person who will support them intensively with a lot of patience. The following measures will make everyday life easier for your cat with dementia:

  • Regular play units that do not physically overexert the cat, but require “brain” (e.g. clicker training)
  • Daily routine with a fixed structure gives the cat security
  • replace high, lidded litter boxes with flat bowls before there are “accidents”.
  • varied feed
  • warm, easily accessible haunts
  • Do not disturb cat while sleeping
  • accept when the cat no longer wants to go outside

Dementia is incurable. There are also no medications to effectively control this disease. Symptoms can be alleviated with symptomatic treatment. The symptomatic treatment includes the consistent therapy of all other accompanying diseases and the loving, calming, and at the same time activating handling of the demented cat.

How Old Do Cats With Dementia Get?

How long a cat with dementia can live depends on how quickly dementia gets worse and whether they have other medical conditions. Unfortunately, this is often the case with older cats. The life expectancy of an affected animal, therefore, varies from case to case.

Some also consider putting the demented cat to sleep. Don’t do this carelessly! It is important that you first try everything to maintain your cat’s quality of life. Discuss the situation with your veterinarian: they will help you assess how much your cat is really suffering.

Protection For Emergencies

If your cat has dementia and is outdoors, we recommend chipping and registering the cat. If the cat can no longer find its way home, you can report the animal as missing. If the cat is found and the chip checked by the vet, you can be identified as the owner.

Dementia in cats is often associated with other diseases of old age. This means that many costly vet visits can be necessary. Health insurance for your cat can help ensure you are financially protected for the necessary treatments.

Being diagnosed with dementia comes as a shock to many cat owners. Although the disease cannot be cured, there are many ways to offer the cat as carefree a life as possible. In any case, consult your veterinarian, who can give you comprehensive advice.

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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