Even kitty can get forgetful with old age

Nowadays, having a cat reach a ripe old age is not uncommon, our pets live much longer today than in the past. It’s no wonder then that dementia affects our four-legged friends just like it does people. The vets from Maxi Zoo explain how owners can detect this illness in their animal and how they should treat their pet if it has dementia.

Dementia is an illness in which brain performance decreases and existing skills, such as orientation or memory, can be greatly impaired. Researchers have discovered that dementia appears to have similar causes in cats and humans. Only half of cats above the age of 15 show no signs of dementia. Every third cat aged 11 to 14 years becomes senile.

What signs point to dementia?

There are certain behavioural problems that might indicate that your pet is senile. It screeches at night and sometimes even during the day for no apparent reason, its sleeping behaviour changes, it becomes untidy, it can’t find the litter tray or misses it, it seems to have lost all sense of orientation at times and is confused, it doesn’t recognise you or other things any more, it suddenly becomes anxious or aggressive. At an old age it’s not uncommon for these behavioural problems to be associated with organic disorders. Another possibility is that it’s not dementia, but a problem with the cat’s metabolism, so it’s important for you to see your vet right away! The earlier you treat dementia the greater the chances are that you and your cat will be able to live a comfortable life together.

What can you do to help?

Once the vet has ruled out other causes for the abnormal behaviour he will prescribe your pet medication to slow down the progress of the disease. It can’t be stopped all together, but food supplements or special cat food can also help to keep the symptoms under control. Your vet will recommend that you keep your cat’s surroundings as familiar as possible and stick to a daily routine.

What special needs does a senile cat have?

You should give your cat special attention and be patient with it. Don’t scold it for mishaps or for screeching. Accept the changes your cat is going through and make sure all family members are aware of the situation. Games for the brain, e.g. “clicker training”,can be very supportive. You might have to teach your cat some things over again like the location of the litter tray. For former outdoor cats you can begin to mix some dirt in with the litter. Something else that can be helpful is setting up an “accessible” toilet, e.g. a flat tray instead of a closed box. Some animals have better orientation if you leave a night light on where they sleep. And make sure that your cat is eating enough or doesn’t forget to eat altogether.

Call into your local store today to discuss your cat’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts