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Cat Dementia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
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Cat dementia is a condition that becomes more common in cats as they age, causing them to sleep more and become disoriented and less interested in playing and eating. You might notice your cat wandering aimlessly, becoming less interested in food and water, and sleeping more often. These are some of the classic signs of dementia in cats, and unfortunately, they can lead to a sharp decline in quality of life as your cat ages.
Dementia becomes more common as cats get older, and there’s no simple treatment option. If your cat has dementia, the key is to try to slow the effects of aging and make sure your cat is living a happy, comfortable life.
As a cat owner, it’s important to know what to look for when it comes to dementia in cats. The earlier you can spot the signs, the sooner you can make the necessary changes to give them a better life. That being said, you should always talk to your vet before making any serious dietary or lifestyle changes for your cat. If you want to know more about cat dementia, including symptoms, causes, and treatment options, keep reading.
- What Is Dementia?
- Signs of Dementia in Cats
- What Causes Dementia in Cats?
- Treating Dementia in Cats
- Cat Dementia: Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Notes
What Is Dementia?
Dementia, also known as cognitive dysfunction, is a medical condition that causes the body and brain to slow down and work less efficiently with age, and the condition can be observed in several different animals. The symptoms of cat dementia (i.e. disorientation, lethargy, confusion) very closely mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia in humans, which can severely impact quality of life. The signs associated with cognitive dysfunction and dementia usually become more noticeable in cats 10 years and older.
Because cat dementia doesn’t present with some of the obvious symptoms that come with many illnesses, it might be harder to spot. Your cat might also be able to live with these symptoms for a long time. However, the disorientation that comes with dementia can be a big problem for your cat, especially if there are any potentially dangerous areas in your home. If you do notice signs of dementia in your cat, make sure to consult your veterinarian and ensure your cat is scheduled for regular checkups throughout the year.
Signs Of Dementia In Cats
Dealing with dementia is difficult, but one of the best things you can do is get your cat diagnosed as soon as possible. This is why it’s so important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for as a pet owner. Your cat may show several signs of dementia depending on the severity of their condition.1
Spatial disorientation is one of the most common signs of cat dementia. You might notice your cat bumping into walls or other objects because they don’t have the spatial awareness they typically would. If your cat is bumping into things, you should make sure there’s nothing your cat could bump into that might hurt them.
Cats who have dementia may also get lost, start pacing, and even wander away from home. When your cat is at home, you might notice that they aren’t very interested in playing or stare blankly at the wall. In some cases, your cat may lose interest in food and water.
Dementia can also cause your cat to sleep more, and you might notice a sudden change in your cat’s sleep schedule. These are both common signs of cat dementia, so you should talk to a vet if your cat is displaying this behavior.
Other signs of dementia in cats include urinating and defecating outside of the litter box and heightened vocalization that often occurs in the middle of the night. It’s important to keep in mind that many of these symptoms are common with other medical conditions, so only your vet can determine if your cat has dementia.
What Causes Dementia In Cats?
The biggest risk factor when it comes to dementia in cats seems to be age. Dementia isn’t very common in younger cats, but it becomes significantly more common when you look at cats between the ages of 11 and 14. When you look at cats over the age of 15, the rate of dementia is even higher. Age seems to be the biggest commonality in cats who have dementia, and unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about that.
While age seemingly has a lot to do with cat dementia, that’s not the only factor involved. Genetic factors may also predispose a cat to developing dementia, although it’s unknown exactly what causes dementia and how it works. The one thing that experts know for sure is that feline dementia is a degenerative process that occurs in a cat’s brain and can eventually lead to the impairment or loss of your cat’s cognitive function.
When you take your cat in for a diagnosis, your vet may also look at other potential causes of feline cognitive dysfunction, including hyperthyroidism and kidney disease. Once these medical conditions have been ruled out, your vet may prescribe medication to help relieve some of the symptoms of feline dementia.
Treating Dementia In Cats
Treatment for dementia in cats is complicated because experts still have their own questions about dementia. Your vet may prescribe cat anti-anxiety medication to help relieve some of the symptoms of dementia, but that won’t stop the progression of the condition.
Another potential way to combat the effects of dementia is to feed your cat a diet that’s rich in anti-aging compounds, such as vitamin E and antioxidants. You should also try to make your home more accessible and protect your cat from sharp objects or anything else that they may get hurt on. Providing a comfortable environment is an essential part of improving quality of life for cats with dementia.
Cat Dementia: Frequently Asked Questions
What are signs of dementia in cats?
There are lots of signs of dementia in cats, but the biggest signs involve confusion and disorientation. Your cat may lose its spatial awareness and start running into things, or you might notice them staring blankly at a wall. In some cases, cats with dementia wander away from home and get lost for a while. Your cat may also be indifferent to food, water, and toys if they’re experiencing dementia. If you spot these signs, you should call a vet for a diagnosis.
How long can cats live with dementia?
Depending on how early you recognize dementia in your cat and what you do to treat it, they can live happily for years after a diagnosis. It’s important to listen to your vet about dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cat’s quality of life. As dementia progresses and your cat gets older, their condition may begin to decline more quickly. Still, there’s a lot you can do to keep your cat comfortable for their final years if they have dementia.
Should a cat with dementia be put down?
If your cat has dementia, it’s up to you to talk to your vet about their condition and what the most humane option is. If your cat has advanced dementia, they may not have long to live and their quality of life may be compromised. On the other hand, some cats who are diagnosed early on live with dementia for years, and they can live a happy and healthy life with the right diet and lifestyle changes.
Do cats get dementia? Absolutely. Can a cat live happily with dementia? Certainly. Dementia becomes very debilitating as it progresses, but you can keep your cat comfortable as they age and their dementia progresses. You should talk to your vet before you decide on a treatment option for cat dementia. Your vet may recommend using anti-anxiety medication or something similar to keep your cat calm and comfortable.
If you need help taking care of a cat with dementia, try Dutch. We’ll help you find a vet in your area who can diagnose your cat and help you decide on a treatment plan. You can even get medication for your cat delivered to your door. To learn more, contact Dutch today.
“Cognitive Dysfunction.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 25 July 2018, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/cognitive-dysfunction.
Editorial, PetMD. “Cat Dementia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment.” PetMD, PetMD, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.petmd.com/cat/conditions/neurological/c_ct_cognitive_dysfunction_syndrome.