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Senior Dementia in Cats

Common Signs of Feline Senility


Do cats get Alzheimer's? Is it normal behavior for a senior cat, or is there a problem? Here is a list of the most common signs seen with senior dementia in cats.

Related: Senior Dementia in Dogs

As with all behavior changes, please see your veterinarian first to rule out a medical problem first, as many diseases can have the same signs.

1. Loud or odd vocalizations

Are looking at me? © dogbomb on Flickr
© dogbomb on Flickr
Every cat has a certain level of "talkativeness" some are always quiet and purring, some meow about everything. The change seen with senior dementia is one of increased or excessive vocalizations, and not just a simple meow.

They may appear confused and not totally sure of their surroundings while vocalizing, and this behavior is more common at night, often waking up the household.

It is important to remember other possible causes of new or odd vocalizations, such as pain (arthritis or injury) or in some cases, changes related to hyperthyroidism.

2. Loss of litter box training

Some cats will "forget" their years of proper litter box behavior with senior dementia confusion. Inappropriate urination or defecation can be symptoms of many diseases, and should always be checked out first to rule out an infection or impaction (constipation).

3. Lack of attention to grooming

Like most of the behaviors on this list, lack of grooming may be a sign of many diseases, in addition to just not feeling well. Senile cats no longer care about keeping their coat in good condition. If the cat is overweight, that may contribute to the problem -- it may be too difficult to reach all areas.

4. Increased agitation, especially at night

The cat may appear to be anxious at night, or get the days and nights mixed up; sleeping peacefully all day then stressed/vocalizing at night. Some cats appear to develop a separation anxiety at night.

5. Sleeping more than usual

Admittedly, this may be hard to discern for many cats! It is the change in behavior that people notice.

6. Irritable or cranky

Again, this is a change in behavior, noticed when the cat doesn't respond as would be normally expected. Not seeming to recognize family members (or other pets) or becoming stressed under "normal" conditions may indicate senior dementia. This type of behavior is also a product of pain, so care should be taken to rule out arthritis, injury, etc.

7. Decreased appetite

Cats suffering from senile dementia may "forget" to eat. Of course, there are many reasons why a cat would have a decrease in appetite or discontinue eating all together. This is something that needs to be investigated as soon as possible for any age cat, especially seniors. Cats that go without food for too long are susceptible to hepatic lipidosis.

8. If you notice some of these signs with your cat

Keep a log of what behaviors you have noticed, the timeframe or how often you notice these behaviors, and make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss. As noted above, the first step for any behavior problem is to rule out any medical causes first.

For example, if your cat is urinating out of the box and never did this before, your vet wil want to rule out urinary problems before addressing senior dementia changes.

New evidence, similar to findings in humans, suggests that antioxidants in the diet may promote cognitive health and slow the process of decline. Nutritional support products for cat include Senilife by Ceva. Your veterinarian may have additional suggestions.

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