Everything You Need to Know About Dementia in Cats

As cat owners, you are often so grateful for the joy and company our cats give us, that we have a fairly high ceiling when it comes to cats’ slightly odd phenomena. However, some behaviors may be directly related to old age or illness.

There are signs that are more common in various problems. The article can help you pay attention to whether your cat needs help in various ways.

In case of unwanted behavior, many cat owners focus mostly on stopping the behavior. We need to dig a little deeper to understand why the cat does this or that. Can we change the cat’s environment so that it better meets the needs of the older cat?

In the article, I give some tips on how cat owners can reduce stress and get a harmonious and aging cat.

Are older cats more sensitive?

Yes, in general, the older cat is worse at dealing with changes in its environment.

All cats like to have routines and feel that they are in control of the situation. According to the cat is; changes are evil !! We must therefore make sure that the cat’s environment is not too messy, but that the cat can have peace and quiet.

If there are children, other livelier animals in the household, you need to create a safe place where the older cat can retreat to when life becomes too messy. It is natural for the older cat to take it easy and recover.

The older cat therefore spends more time indoors than the more alert younger edition. Just like older people, older cats also have a greater need for extra love and care to feel good and feel safe.

I can see for myself how life with the easily lively family with small children does not always suit my own cat, Rutan.

The box likes its routines and it must not be too loud. If she only gets the opportunity to go out or be alone in her own room when life around her becomes too intense, she handles the interruption in her usual routines better.

The forgetful / senile cat

Dementia or cognitive dystrophy syndrome, CDS as it is called, affects about 50% of cats over the age of 15 in some form.

CDS is a disease in which several factors are involved and which over time can give clearer symptoms. It is not entirely certain what causes the disease, but it is clear that changes in the brain’s blood flow and the influence of free radicals have a negative effect on the brain. The altered blood flow leads to lack of oxygen and damage to the brain cells. Free radicals are normally formed in cells.

The body has a natural defense of enzymes and antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E that neutralize the harmful free radicals. The balance between free radicals and antioxidants can be disturbed by various diseases, stress and old age. In the older body, more free radicals are created and this leads to an imbalance between the different groups, with damage to the brain as a result.

The older cat can therefore have accumulations of proteins which in turn form senile plaques which are harmful to the brain and lead to poorer transmission of nerve signals and also loss of nerve cells. The poorer the cat’s thinking ability, the more senile plaque the cat has accumulated.

Symptoms of CDS

  • Memory – Like people with dementia, cats show changes in memory. The cat gets a deterioration of short-term memory. The cat may repeat the same behavior over and over again. A cat that has just received food can beg for more food after a short time.
  • The emotions – The cats get emotional changes. This can, for example, be seen as depression (inactivity, the cat no longer wants to participate in social games that it previously liked). However, depression can also be a sign of many other age-related illnesses such as osteoarthritis, pain, kidney failure. Other emotional changes are increased anxiety, increased irritation, aggression.
  • Disorientation – The cat may have difficulty recognizing people, places and objects. This can lead to the cat peeing / pooping outside the box.
  • Some cats have a hard time finding the cat door while other cats have a hard time finding the food or water bowl.
  • Sleep – Cats can have changes in their sleep cycle. The cat tends to sleep more during the day and can walk around at night instead. These cats often wander around anxiously and can scream loudly. However, other diseases such as pain from osteoarthritis, for example, aggravate these symptoms. Deafness can also make the screams louder than before.
  • Social life – Cats that are senile have less interaction with the people around them. The cats do not make the same contact as before. They may not greet when you get home. This sometimes leads to the pet owner not activating the cat as much, which in turn contributes to the symptoms worsening further.

Exclude other causes of dementia-like behavior

When you suspect “dementia” in cats, it is important to rule out other causes of the problems. The cat may have CDS at the same time as other diseases. Osteoarthritis causes many of the above symptoms and osteoarthritis in cats is a more common problem than previously known.

Cats with high blood pressure, loss of vision and hearing can also be mistaken for dementia. Diseases and ailments in the older cat can also aggravate dementia.

Treatment of dementia

In dementia, various measures are combined to make the cat feel safe in a stable home environment.

1. Treat other age-related ailments – Many cats have other problems that can worsen dementia.

2. Environment – Cats generally like to have control over their surroundings.

  • No changes- Older cats are generally more sensitive to change than the younger ones. Cats with CDS need to have continuity in their environment. Therefore, avoid changes in the environment that can confuse and stress the cat.
  • Fixed routines- Have routines at home; feed at the same times, make a schedule for cuddles and play.
  • Create a safe corner – a cat with CDS can feel good about having a less limited territory where all the cat’s needs are met. Instead of confusingly wandering around the household, you can try to limit the cat’s space to a few rooms where you set up a litter box, heated sleeping areas such as flectabed, food and water bowls. You can use soothing scent pheromones to soothe a stressed cat. I usually recommend putting a scent emitter that spreads pheromones in the room where the cat usually sleeps. Many cats with dementia may have disturbed the “sleeping clock” and may then be more awake and anxious at night.
  • Environmental enrichment – The environment should also stimulate the cat to improve its thinking ability. When the cat is challenged cognitively, new nerves are formed and the remaining nerves are “gymnasticized”. Play daily with your cat, use toys that suit the older cat. It is easy for the senile cat to withdraw, it becomes the “sleeping cat”. Encourage the cat to participate in social activities. Use touch as part of the treatment, brush your cat daily, it creates a feeling of security, increases blood circulation and well-being. You and the cat also get a moment together when you can strengthen your ties. Use soft brushes such as Kong zoom groom or buster brush which is a soft gentle brush.
  • Use signals to “show the way” – Use signals to help the cat find its way home. Take advantage of all the cat’s senses, for example, you can use sound, smell and touch. In order for the cat to find its way to various important resources such as a litter box, sleeping and dining area, you can have a radio or CD player on in a room that plays quiet music. In other rooms you can have a certain scent that the cat experiences as positive.
  • Lavender is what many cats like. The structure of the floor can also be used. You can lay rugs that show and guide the cat on the road between different rooms. With carpets, you also make slippery floors safer and reduce the risk of your cat slipping.
  • Resources must be available in the majority- The cat must always have access to several sources of water, food, sleeping places, hiding places, litter boxes (preferably without a high edge). The cat should not have to go so far to find what it needs.

3. Food & supplements – We do not have many studies on cats, but in dogs we have seen that foods that are enriched with antioxidants, essential fatty acids (omega 3) and substances that support the cells’ metabolism in combination with environmental enrichment reduce the symptoms of CDS. We have reason to believe that similar diets also help cats with CDS. Diets with extra supplements of antioxidants and fatty acids are for example joint diets for osteoarthritis such as Hills j / d, Hill´s j / d + mobility is a food for cats with both kidney failure & dementia, Specific FJD, Royal Canin Mobility and certain foods for older cats such as Royal Canin senior consult stage 2, Omega 3 fatty acids can also be given by cat owners as an extra supplement to the cat’s food. Omega 3 fish oil and Salmon oil can be given to the food that the cat receives. Supplement with the substance S-adenosylmethionine; SAM has been shown to strengthen memory in some animals. It is also a support for the liver and pancreas. We have supplements that contain SAM, denamarin,

4. Medicines – There are no approved medicines for the treatment of cats with CDS, but veterinarians have used medicines that increase the cognitive ability of humans. These psychoactive drugs may take a while to take effect, but you often see an improvement within 2 months. Sometimes drugs that increase blood flow to the brain as well as drugs that reduce the harmful effects of plaque can also work.

The changes that the cat gets at CDS do not go back, but the disease usually worsens over time. However, many cats may feel better and respond to the above treatments. Changes in the environment can accelerate the process, for example a move or other form of stress.

Preventive treatment for dementia

Take your cat for annual health checks from the time the cat is around 8 years old. It is important to find age-related ailments in time, to be able to start treatment as soon as possible, which increases the life expectancy and quality of life of your cat. As a cat owner, you learn to keep track of the early signs of dementia, such as changes in emotions, decrease in their interaction with the rest of the family.

Give your cat a balanced diet that is for the older cat. Keep an eye on the hole!

Obesity does not lead to CDS, but it has been seen that dogs that have a normal body take longer to develop chronic diseases and have a longer lifespan.

To prevent senility, it is important to provide adequate physical activity and mental stimulation during all stages of the cat’s life, from kitten to senior.

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