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Many cat owners come to see me with concerns about changes in behavior and personality in their old cat. Unfortunately, changes and symptoms associated with brain aging and senile dementia can definitely affect cats. If you have a senior or geriatric cat, be aware of any of the followings signs:
Disorientation: The cat has trouble finding the food bowls or the litter box and recognizing people and places. As a result, the cat may urinate/defecate outside the box or stop eating.
Loud vocalization: Cat seems restless and lost and starts crying or howling, especially during the night.
Reduced interaction with the environment: Cat stops greeting the owner, stops interacting with members of the family and other household pets, seems depressed. Cat seems irritable or “cranky.”
Lack of grooming: cat stops grooming and cleaning his/herself
Neurological signs: These will occur as senile dementia becomes more advanced. Weakness, abnormal walking/wobbly, loss of vision/hearing and decreased reflexes.
Obviously, these signs can also be associated with many other geriatric cat diseases. It is important to see your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms. Remember that cats age faster than humans. Consequently, their brain will also age faster and signs of dementia can progress in a matter of weeks or months.
Unfortunately, I see how senile dementia degrades the human-animal bond and how cats get euthanized after suffering from this disease and receiving no care or relief of their symptoms.
The best way to prevent the development and rapid progression of dementia starts at a younger age. Keep up with visits to the veterinarian once or twice a year and inform your doctor even of small or subtle changes on your cat’s behavior. Feed your cat a high quality diet, provide ways to keep your cat active not just physically but also mentally and, if possible, give your cat vitamins and supplements, especially those high in antioxidants.
Nydia Melissa Perez, DVM