Getting old is not for sissies, either people or pets. Like humans, aging cats can suffer from senility. Cat dementia goes by the term feline cognitive dysfunction. Better veterinary care means cats, like people, are living longer. The flip side is that your cat can live long to become senile.
Your older cat, who once took pride in her immaculate appearance, may stop grooming herself. At night, elder felines may also begin wandering around the house, circling or meowing loudly. Other behavioral changes can be seen in friendly cats who become aloof and vice versa. Although it may seem your cat already sleeps 23 hours out of 24, senile cats sleep even more. She may also miss the litter box, appear disoriented and act hungry when she's just been fed. Check with your vet for a definitive diagnosis. Some other age-related diseases can mimic some of these signs and may be more treatable.
As dementia progresses, your cat may experience neurological difficulties, such as problems walking, jumping up on furniture or other items, or general wobbliness. He may become blind or deaf from neurological causes. At some point, you may have to make hard decisions about his quality of life. Deciding to euthanize a beloved pet is always difficult. Your vet can offer advice as your cat's condition deteriorates.
Helping Your Cat
While there's no cure for feline dementia, you can make life easier for your cat. Don't change his environment, such as moving furniture or his feed and water bowls and litter box. Avoid bringing new pets, or people, into the household if you can.
While you can't really prevent the onset of feline cognitive dysfunction, you may be able to delay it. Make sure kitty goes for regular veterinary examinations. Report any personality or other changes in your cat's behavior to your vet. Feed your cat high-quality cat food with plenty of antioxidants, which may help to stave off age-related diseases. Pay attention to his needs and spend time with him. Cats need stimulation, just like people.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.