It has been decided that there is such a thing as cat dementia. This doesn’t surprise me. Why shouldn’t there be? Cats have brains. They have bodies with organs that are similar if not, on occasion, almost identical to ours. This is why scientists do tests on cats and have done for many decades.
If we suffer from dementia it would highly likely (no it really has to be certain) that cats suffer from cat dementia as well. Perhaps cat dementia has become more apparent because cats are living longer and veterinary science has become more developed. The problem has been in deciding whether a cat has dementia. What are the symptoms?
It might be hard for a non medically qualified person to tell. You have to be in tune with your cat. Be aware of your cat’s abilities, character and moods etc. A lot of people are connected with their cat but many are not. And people who don’t particularly like cats will never pick up the signs. I would have thought that it would be difficult for a veterinary surgeon to be sure that a cat suffers from cat dementia. There are no tests as far as I know. You can ask a person questions. The answers will give the doctor indications. I guess you can do a brain scan if you have to. But I am sure these rarely happen to confirm dementia in cats unless it is for research purposes (research to help humans not cats – I’m guessing).
Even with people there are a lot of mistakes and misconceptions. It is not an exact science, far from it. However, if your cat is showing the signs listed below, she may be suffering from cat dementia. Apparently half of cats over 15 years of age suffer from the condition. Between the ages of 11-14, 25% suffer from behavioral problems related to old age.
Update: 12th August 2010 – my lady cat who is 18+ years of age is showing clear signs of dementia. The most obvious of which is confusion. She doesn’t know what to do and her habits have changed. She also eats less.
Overall in the UK it is believed that about one million cats are affected. It has been proposed that research to be conducted on cats, with possible cat dementia, by Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore at the University of Edinburgh might shed some light on the development of treatments for dementia in humans. I sincerely hope that that does not mean animal testing on cats. I have a sneaking suspicion it might. If that is the case I’ll be disgusted.
When a cat has dementia their habits can become erratic. Although I’d be very cautious as a diagnosis needs an awareness of a cats behavior that is perhaps beyond a lot of people.
If the following symptoms are present in an old cat (over 15 years of age) it might be cat dementia – but as stated in brackets these are for me not necessarily conclusive:
—erratic habits (what are regular habits, do people know a cat’s regular habits? The answer should be, yes, but it might not be)
—howling for attention (this may be howling for an number of reasons, maybe she wants to be let out at dawn and you are asleep, for example)
—wandering aimlessly (vague symptom as cats wander around a lot in what we might consider an aimless manner)
—altered sleeping habits (not sure about this one as cats sleep a lot at the best of times and this may be hard to spot)
—missing the litter (this might happen in a healthy cat so be careful)
—asking for food after feeding (again cats regularly do this anyway as they want more)
—getting disorientated and confused (this should be fairly apparent)
—decreased grooming (not sure about this as old cats are less flexible or, being less active, they might be overweight. This can mean poor grooming of areas hard to reach but not necessarily due to cat dementia) Treatments are the same as for humans, activity, mental stimulation and a good diet. Update: I’ve recently (Aug.2008) read that there is a drug for humans that can help arrest human dementia. Maybe one day there’ll be the same for cats? But dementia is a part of life and death if we are honest.
A good diet can help but how do we give a cat a good diet when commercial cat food is so lousy (well that’s my view anyway or to be kinder it is often not that good and anyway does some commercial cat food contain cat meat? – see no kill cat shelters and feral cats). The scientists will also study the brains of captive lions and tigers to see if captivity creates dementia. They’d have to use captive tigers as there are virtually none left in the wild (see Bengal tiger facts).
Cat dementia to Cat Health Problems This link goes to a page that deals quite comprehensively (it has grown over the year) with a fairly wide range of cat health problems.
- Telegraph Newspaper whose source was Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore, Professor of Feline Medicine, University of Edinburgh