Q: Does my cat have dementia?

Mary T.

My cat of many years seems to be “losing it.” How can we keep our cherished relationship strong?

Chosen Answer

A cat with cognitive dysfunction or signs of dementia needs your companionship now more than ever.

Calling this “Kitty Alzheimer’s” is neither accurate not funny to people with friends or family suffering true Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time, you will need to keep a sense of humor about some of your old cat’s new tricks — because this could go on for years.

Veterinary behaviorists recognize at least 10 signs of progressive dementia (cognitive dysfunction) in cats:

1) Spatial disorientation (“This sofa wasn’t here yesterday. And who moved the litter box?”)

2) Altered (possibly aggressive) relationships with humans and other household inhabitants. (“You know I never liked that dog.”)

3) Increased irritability or anxiety (“Play ‘Grumpy Old Men’ one more time and I’ll spit hairballs in the DVD player.”)

4) Changes in sleep patterns (“But cats in England are up by now.”)

5) Increased vocalization, especially at night. (Ditto Number 4.)

6) Memory loss. (“My name was never Fluffy.”)

7) Pacing, aimless wandering. (“Mall-walking, anyone?”)

8) Reduced (or increased) appetite. (“If I wanted a Kids Meal I would have asked for one!”)

9) Decreased grooming (“Didn’t you always wanted to be a hair dresser?”)

10) Temporal confusion (“Don’t we set the clocks back this month?”)

Try to spend more time — not less — with your older cat. Learn new games and review old tricks. Grooming (brushing, detangling matted fur where your cat can’t reach) helps pass the time. Reduce obesity, if that’s a problem, and treat medical problems before they get worse. On your vet’s advice, consider a “feline senior diet” that is fortified with needed vitamins and antioxidants. Even simple conversation, in a familiar and comforting voice, will be appreciated.

Remember to keep your sense of humor, and you’ll get some great stories out of this phase of feline life.

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