Elderly cat diet to delay onset or progress of cognitive dysfunction

In veterinary circles cognitive dysfunction is referred to as CD. To laypeople it means senility. I have found a nice tip which may help to slow the onset of CD in an elderly cat.

Free radical scavengers

Dr Bruce Fogle explains what free radical scavengers are and how they can help slow the onset of CD. Cells use oxygen to produce energy. Some oxygen is converted to molecules called “free radicals”. Older cells are less efficient at producing energy and consequently more free radicals are produced. They are removed by the body’s antioxidant defences.

These defences are called “free radical scavengers” and they include special enzymes, vitamins A, C and E and the mineral selenium and zinc. The brain can be damaged by free radicals and is particularly susceptible because it is high in fat, has a high demand for oxygen and it is not good at repairing itself. A chronic buildup of free radical damage can lead to CD.

31-year-old-cat Nutmeg
31-year-old-cat Nutmeg. Photo in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats


A five year study on the feeding of healthy but elderly cats found that a diet supplemented with antioxidants, essential fatty acids and chicory root resulted in the cats living longer and more healthily than cats who were not fed with this supplement according to Dr Bruce Fogle (Complete Cat Care).

Most of the major cat food manufacturers use these supplements in their foods for older cats and they may be useful for delaying the onset or progress of CD.


An associated issue with respect elderly cats is that they are particular sensitive to environmental changes. Elderly cats can become very stressed with a change to their environment. They are not equipped to deal with change as well as younger cats.

If you do have to change your environment and you see signs of stress such as hiding, not eating or changes to their toilet habits, it is advised, if you can, to return to the former status quo i.e. the way things were before.

Pops a senior cat
Pops a senior cat aged 19. Photo: in public domain.

Signs of CD

I think people are probably aware of these but I’ll just touch on this point. The signs of the beginnings of senility are quite subtle and include a blank expression, continuous stereotype pacing, poor grooming even if they are pain-free and free of disease. The cat may be disorientated which is shown by e.g. getting lost in familiar surroundings, failing to recognise people or places of objects and going to the wrong side of a closed-door when asked to go through.

There may be increased daytime sleeping, decrease night-time sleeping and more disturbed sleep. The cat may respond more slowly to requests, play less, be more irritable, demonstrate less enthusiasm when greeted and social interactions may be incomplete or shortened. Health issues need to be removed from the equation when assessing these signs.

Old cat
Mr Minns. Sarah Hartwell’s old cat who has now passed on.


A supplement called Aktivait may help older pets. When it was given for two momths to older dogs they showed improvements in terms of reduced disorientation, better social interaction and less house soiling. This supplement is also available for cats. Do not give the dog version to cats. It contains omega-3 fish oils, vitamins E and C, l-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid, coenzyme Q, selenium and phosphotidylserine.

I am thankful to Dr Bruce Fogle DVM.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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