Cat Dementia

old cat in bookstore

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

21 year old bookstore cat. Cat dementia? Perhaps. Photo by terriem under a creative commons – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.


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

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10 thoughts on “Cat Dementia”

    • Thank you, Karen the showing me your cat. She looks beautiful and actually looks quite well. She’s a beautiful tabby and white with a fantastic symmetrical pattern on her face.

  1. My 19 year old female stopped grooming along time ago. I comb and wash her and she hates it. She’s on different meds but seems okay for now. As long as she’s eating drinking and using the litter, I don’t worry.Though she seems to stare at things for a long while I’ve noticed.

    • Hi Karen. My old lady cat did the same really. Elderly cats with dementia need help. Towards the end my cat simply lay down outside on the lawn and slept. It’s still upsets me to think about it.

  2. My cat 16 +? years old is on steroids for IBS and gingivitis. He recently lost his hearing too. Without the steroids he would stop eating. Dementia has kicked in and his restlessness, day and night, is very upsetting to watch. He is living on borrowed time, but is it kind to keep him going when he is so unsettled (otherwise sleeping) or is it kinder to pts due to the unsettled state?

    • What makes him unsettled? Steroids are not prescribed gum disease (gingivitis) as far as I know. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. The key is to do what you believe is right for your cat and not what is right for you. If you can think objectively about it you’ll find the answer. This is the biggest cat decision one makes and the toughest. I wrote a page on it:

      It may or may not help. It is a very personal decision. People who are connected to their cat usually know when the time has come but may delay because they are not sure. If he is distressed and the quality of his life is poor because of age and health it may be best to say goodbye. Good luck. Thanks for asking.

  3. I have a 13 year old kitty named Peenut Bunnee. She’s a little bitty thing; never has been very big. I feed all my cats California Naturals (my vet says it’s a very good food), they get plenty of stimulation and love. Peenut, I’m pretty sure, has dementia. At feeding times, she will walk away as though I haven’t called her. She will eat if I pick her up and put her in front of her food dish. She will cry and howl if she’s in a room where we are not. She will stop if I call her; it’s as though she’s lost and doesn’t know where we are. Her little box habits are OK for now. We will give her all the love and scritches she can handle for the rest of her life.

    • These are the signs of feline dementia. My cat Binnie had it. She yowled at night indicating confusion. She was calling me, essentially, and I would go to her. You can tell when a cat has dementia, I think. They act confused and the usual patterns of behavior are lost. The cat becomes a bit aimless and sleeps more etc. Obviously, there are varying degrees of it and cats can still function OK with dementia. It just requires a bit more input from the caretaker.


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