This is an interesting example of what can happen to elderly cats. In this instance an 18-year-old male cat who was always affectionate become almost totally deaf and as a consequence he became even more affectionate; excessively so, according to his caretaker.
He would constantly rub his mouth against his human companion’s hands and face and those of strangers. If it wasn’t hands and face it was something that the person was holding, such as a computer or mug.
When pushed away, he came back and persisted. At night he’d do the same thing. His ‘owner’ considered him neurotic. He was certainly in need of something and that something was and is, in my opinion, reassurance because he is feeling slightly anxious due to his hearing loss which has distanced him from his usual interactions with his human guardian. Perhaps, he is suffering from a form of separation anxiety even though his is not physically separated.
There may also be a bit of dementia which can cause uncertainty and confusion. Dementia in cats can lead to howling at night.
It is strange but I am reminded of a friend I have – a human – who is 85-years-of-age. He has lost his hearing and also his speech through dementia. He feels isolated. He feels cut off because he can no longer interact as he did before and he is a particularly sociable person.
When experiencing this a person will be distressed and seek reassurance that he is still loved and needed. I am not saying a cat feels exactly the same but the basics are the same. The emotions are similar.
Rubbing the side of the mouth against a person’s hand or an object is scent exchange. It deposits scent from the facial glands of the cat to the object and the cat receives the person’s scent. It merges the two and in doing so brings the cat closer to the person as a family member.
Five different facial pheromones, which are discharged from the glands of the face, have been isolated.
The best way forward is to accept it as part of the role of cat caretaker while providing as much reassurance as possible. Feliway is an artificial pheromone. It is meant to calm cats.
There’s more….! Green tea can also calm cats. Phew. There are things one can do to calm a cat. This may make this elderly gent of a cat less anxious and feeling reassured. The best way to calm a cat who needs reassurance is to give it to him in bucket loads.
- Source: Cat-World – Cat Forums
- The picture is of Michael’s cat Gabriel. He is neither geriatric nor in need of reassurance (only sometimes!)