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5 Signs of Aging Cat Dementia

How to Tell if Your Old Cat is Feeling Out of Sorts

By Meredith Alling. November 12, 2013 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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As most cats reach their senior years, mental health tends to decline a bit. Senior cat dementia is non-curable, however there may be things you can do to prevent or slow it down. Find out more here.

Just like humans, cats can experience a mental decline as they age. Recent studies have found that 28 percent of cats ages 11 to 14 years exhibit at least one symptom of dementia, and the number jumps to 50 percent for cats 15 years and older. So how do you know if your cat is suffering from cognitive impairment caused by aging? Read on to learn the symptoms of cat dementia.

Aging Cat Dementia Symptoms

Many veterinary professionals use the acronym “DISHA” to describe the symptoms of feline dementia. They include:

  • Disorientation: Your cat may appear confused and unable to navigate around familiar settings. You might see wandering behavior, a general loss of spatial awareness, difficulty locating their food/water bowls and litter box, and meowing/crying.
  • Interaction Changes: Your cat may lose interest in being petted, greeting you at the door, sitting on your lap, or any other social interactions that were once common.
  • Sleep Changes: Your cat’s sleep cycle may be affected. This could mean restlessness at night and more sleeping during the day.  
  • House Soiling: Your cat may urinate or defecate outside of their litter box or exhibit incontinence.
  • Activity Changes: Your cat may become uninterested in normal activities such as eating, grooming, and exploring around the house. They might also develop restlessness, irritability, and anxiety.

Diagnosing and Treating Aging Cat Dementia

Many of the symptoms of cat dementia can also be symptoms of medical conditions or behavioral problems. Your veterinarian will have to rule out these causes before diagnosing dementia.

There is no cure for cat dementia and the disease is progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time. However, there are a number of treatments that have been shown to delay this progression and improve day-to-day functioning, including:

  • Enrichment Activities: New toys, exercise, and training can help to improve your cat’s memory and cognizance. However, avoid extreme changes to your cat’s environment or routine that may result in further confusion and disorientation.
  • Medications: Psychoactive drugs can improve brain function. Anipryl is one of these drugs, and it is most often used to treat dogs with dementia. However, The American Association of Feline Practitioners supports its use on cats who have been diagnosed with dementia by a veterinarian.
  • Diet Change: Your veterinarian will be able to provide recommendations for foods and dietary supplements that promote brain health. They will most likely include the following ingredients, which are all great for cognitive function: antioxidants, vitamins C and E, beta carotene, carnitine, carotenoids, Omega-3, flavonoids, and selenium.
More on Cat Health

Brain Health and Neurological Disorders in Cats
Cat Seizures: Everything You Need to Know
Managing Treatment for Diabetic Cats

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Cat Dementia at a glance

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  • 128% of cats ages 11 to 14 show signs of dementia, and the number goes up to 50% in cats 15 years and older
  • 2The symptoms of cat dementia include disorientation, behavior changes, sleep changes, and house soiling
  • 3The symptoms of dementia can also be caused by medical conditions or behavioral issues
  • 4There is no cure for cat dementia, but there are treatments that can improve your cat’s life