Do cats get dementia?

Yes, as you may well know, domestic cats can suffer from dementia but we are unsure how commonplace it is because not enough studies have been carried out on domestic cats (although see below). It can be quite difficult to tell whether a cat is suffering from dementia because they compensate so well for disabilities. Vets call this condition Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS).

My beloved cat who suffered from mild dementia when at the end of her life. Photo: Michael

One reason why we might be seeing it more often nowadays than before is because domestic cats live longer lives thanks to better nutrition and health care. Spotting behavioural changes is the way to detect feline dementia symptoms. You may see CDC in cats older than 10 years of age.

Domestic cats with CDC can become disorientated, interact with people in different ways than normal, have alterations to their sleep-wake cycle, urinate and defecate inappropriately, have lower activity levels, and they may howl at night due to confusion.

Domestic cats with early-stage dementia may show confusion, anxiety and restlessness, irritability, a decreased desire to play, forget their usual routines with which you will no doubt be familiar, groom less often, have a loss of appetite leading to anorexia, vocalise more often including as mentioned above howling at night and changes in their sleep cycle.

A study found that almost 1/3 of cats between the ages of 11 and 14 showed one behavioural symptom caused by CDS. For domestic cats in the age bracket 15 over, it is believed that 50% will suffer to some degree from cognitive dysfunction.

The observant and conscientious cat owner will be able to deal with their cat if they do have dementia. It simply requires greater sensitivity and awareness of their cat's needs and to meet those needs. A diet supplemented with omega-three and antioxidants such as vitamin E and C, selenium, flavonoids, carotenoids like beta-carotene and carnitine may be recommended by your veterinarian.

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