Is your cat acting weird lately? Has your friendly feline lost interest in socializing and playing with their favorite friends? Is she or he eating, sleeping, or meowing more or less like they used to do? If so, then this post is perfect for you. Read on to know why your cat is acting weird and learn how you can manage those changes.
Just like you, your beloved cat also enters their senior years and undergoes a completely normal process of aging as they grow older. And when he/she does, you will notice some significant changes not only in appearance but also in health and behavior. Your feline will get easily tired than before, and become more interested in other things that they normally would. Like humans, cats may also suffer from age-related health problems and conditions such as kidney problems, arthritis, joint issues, and high blood pressure. This is quite normal as the body undergoes usual wear and tear.
But how can you tell if your feline is experiencing a normal process of aging or if they are already suffering from a serious problem like feline dementia? When shall you call the attention of your vet and have the unusual changes checked?
What is Feline Senile Dementia?
In this modern world, everything seems to be instant and artificial. Things like instant food, fast foods, and preservative and pesticide packed goods make our lives easier, but they also cut our lifespan almost in half. Thanks to those innovative and health-conscious people, we can now live and enjoy a longer life. But when it comes with a longer life, it also increases the risks for age-related disorders like dementia. The same is true with felines.
What exactly is feline senile dementia? Cognitive dysfunction system or CDS, also commonly called feline senile dementia or feline cognitive dysfunction, is a mental disorder that affects aging cats. It is directly related to the aging of the brain and can cause anxiety and deterioration of the cat’s awareness, hearing and sight perception, responsiveness, memory, and ability to learn.
Feline cognitive dysfunction causes changes in activity levels, disorientation, and disturbances in sleeping patterns. All these can make the cat restless, more stressful, and possibly act more aggressively. FCD also makes the cat forget even the normal activities that come naturally like eating and defecating in the right place like the litter tray.
What Causes Feline Senile Dementia?
Feline senile dementia is much like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in humans. Both dementia in humans and in the cat has almost the same behavioral and physical similarities as well as similar believed causes.
Though the primary cause of dementia both in humans and in cats is yet to be discovered in future studies, it has been partially found that physical changes like a decrease in blood flow to the brain and an increase of free radicals the body produces as it ages, will make the cells of the brain tired, damaged, dirty, and more difficult to maintain a healthy brain function, thus, causing the disorder.
The combination of decreased oxygen and blood flow and increased counts of free radicals wreak havoc on the brain’s very fragile and sensitive cells. This will lead to protein plaques deposits around the nerve cells, which makes it more difficult for signals to pass through.
Moreover, genetic factors also play an important role in the development of dementia among cats.
Who is Affected by Feline Senile Dementia?
The cognitive abilities of your cat may start to decline when he/she hits 11 to 12 years old. As your cat grows older and reaches the age of 15, they may likely develop feline dementia. But this figure does not always mean that cats younger than 15 years old are safe from feline senile dementia. It is estimated that over 55% of 11 to 15 years old cats are affected with feline senile dementia. Studies show that over 80% of cats aging from 16 to 20 years old are already suffered from this disease.
How to Tell if your Cat is Possibly Experiencing Feline Senile Dementia?
In order to know whether your cat is having feline senile dementia or not, take note of these signs and symptoms: (Note: there might be other signs than listed below.)
- Confusion or spatial disorientation
- Changes in social or relationship behavior
- The decrease in learning ability and memory
- Excessive, loud or odd vocalizations
- Apathetic decreased in activity level
- Increased irritability, anxiety, or restlessness
- Lethargy or changes in sleep-wake pattern
- Lack of attention to self-grooming
- Decrease in appetite
Confusion or Spatial Disorientation
Disorientation and confusion are often the first notable signs that come out when your cat has experienced a decline in cognitive skills. Instances like when your cat is trapped in a corner, not knowing how to navigate or to get themselves out from being trapped, getting stuck over or around obstacles, wandering around the house aimlessly, and getting lost in familiar places may indicate they are experiencing disorientation. You may also notice your cat staring into space mindlessly or fixating on objects for extended periods.
Cats with feline saline dementia may also experience trouble walking or getting on and off beds, tables, and furniture, and difficulty doing simple things they usually do like reaching the water dish. They may bump into the walls or fall down the stairs, too.
When you call your cat by name, they will no longer respond quickly or will not respond at all. It might be that they forgot their name or can’t recognize you. Also, your cat may no longer respond to noise or sound when they hear it and simply ignores it like it did not hear the sound. Also, you can read about protecting your cat’s liver cells here.
The Decrease in Learning Ability and Memory
Cats with feline saline dementia experience a gradual decrease in memory and learning ability. They will no longer remember how they normally do things like using the litter box and exhibit behavior of not knowing what they are doing. They will also forget the abilities they have learned and are even unable to recognize familiar pets or people. House soiling or inappropriate elimination may also indicate that something is going on with your cat. You may notice your cat eliminating outside the litter box, by the eating area, or in their sleeping areas.
Changes in Social or Relationship Behavior
Another obvious sign changes in social or relationship behavior. You may notice that your cat no longer loves getting cuddled or petted. They may also lose interest in interacting or greeting people around them or socializing with other familiar pets. Some also tend to be more clingy and overly dependent. They want constant contact with their pet parent or with other familiar people or pets.
Excessive, Loud or Odd Vocalizations
Cats differ in talkativeness levels. Some cats are quite talkative and vocalize all the time while others just stay quiet or meow less frequently and simply watch attentively. Regardless of what level of talkativeness your cat has if they are vocalizing oddly, more louder, and more excessively than previously, then try to investigate what has made the sudden change.
Senior cats with dementia do not only meow, but also vocalizes excessively and oddly especially at night. Often times, this happens because the cat is suffering from perhaps pain due to a particular medical condition like loss of hearing, injury or arthritis. If your cat does not have any medical issues and still oddly and excessively vocalizes, then she might be experiencing something else like confusion, anxiety, and disorientation due to dementia.
Decrease in Appetite
Feline cognitive dysfunction can cause your cat to forget to eat and drink. Though a decrease in appetite may indicate other issues, this sign should be reported to the vet as soon as possible especially if your cat has already stopped eating or drinking.
Loss or decrease in appetite may be caused by various factors like stress, a sudden change in environment, or your cat simply doesn’t feel well. And it is also quite normal to see cats refusing to take food or water for a day. However, if they continue to refuse eating or drinking for over 24 hours, you should have your cat thoroughly checked by a veterinarian, as soon as possible.
Without food and water for an extended period of time, your cat can become dehydrated, malnourished and worse yet, die. Serious health issues can develop like hepatic lipidosis from being deprived of these essential life elements.
Apathetic Decreased in Activity Level
An active cat with feline saline dementia will experience a decrease in activity level. They may explore things less than before or indulge in physical activities less often, and respond less to things around them, and lose interest in their favorite toys or games.
Increased Irritability, Anxiety, or Restlessness
Felines with dementia become stressed even under normal conditions. This makes them behave more irritably. Their anxiety level will also increase, making them agitated or restless oftentimes.
Lack of Attention to Self-Grooming
Cats, in general, don’t like getting messy. They usually take time and effort to groom and clean themselves. If your cat seems to pay less attention or neglects self-grooming all of a sudden, then something medically may be the underlying issue. Your cat might have forgotten this essential task because they are suffering from feline dementia.
Lethargy or Changes in Sleep-Wake Patterns
Another sign that indicates your cat is experiencing FCD is lethargy or changes in the sleep-wake pattern. Although it is normal for cats to get nocturnal at times, seeing your cats treating the day as night and the night as the day may signal that something is wrong with their cognitive functions. You may notice your cat staying awake, disoriented, restless and anxious at night and stay asleep all day long. They may also vocalize more at night.
Aging cats normally sleep longer than they did when they were younger. This is generally due to decreased energy levels. As long as your cat is acting normally and gets the right amount of sleep they need, then chances are you have a healthy feline. However, if your cat sleeps longer than normal, or is acting out many of the above symptoms, then this may indicate a cognitive decline.
What to do When your Cat Shows Signs of Senility?
Symptoms of FCD often go unnoticed. Some pet owners think that these symptoms are just age-related and are normal for an aging feline. If your cat is currently experiencing such changes, feel free to ask your vet. You will need to truly know and understand what your cat is going through in order for you to effectively and compassionately deal with these changes.
Dealing with the changes your cat is going through may also make you stressful and irritable. Extend your patience and understanding and avoid punishing your cat for acting weirdly to avoid aggravating their situation.
It also helps if you avoid making changes in your cat’s environment or perhaps rearranging things inside your home to minimize your cat’s confusion. As much as possible, keep to their daily schedule and avoid sudden changes to their daily routine. Give food and water as scheduled to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. It might also be helpful to add more litter boxes, food bowls, and water dishes to make everything more accessible for your aging feline.
When to Call your Vet?
No other person knows your cat better than you. If he/she is acting weird or if they are experiencing changes in health, behavior, and appearance, your familiarity with your pet will help you notice these changes. Perhaps, they behave aggressively in an unusual way, or your cat does not enjoy playing or being cuddled anymore.
Though it seems normal for aging cats to show signs of decreased cognitive functioning, a decline in energy levels and other age-related changes may point to the possibilities of developing some sort of mental illness. Note that not all of these changes are age-related and symptoms vary from cat to cat. Sometimes, they are indicative signs that your cat is suffering from something serious.
If you feel worried about changes your cat is experiencing, take time to talk with your veterinarian. List all the changes you have noticed to ensure you have not missed anything. It also helps if you include the timeframe of those changes and how often they occur. Your vet will likely run some tests to rule out what makes your cat act weirdly. They will also give you advice and instructions on how you can help manage any changes. Likewise, your vet can suggest the most appropriate therapy for your cat to treat their condition. Also, you can read about preventing hairballs in cats here.
Author Bio: Bobbie is a true entrepreneur. She’s always connecting products and people and building relationships. Her career in media and marketing spans over 20 years, and she has also owned a media agency since 2005. Her ultimate goal was to put together a “dream team” of experts in each of their fields from which support and knowledge could be drawn. This team is dedicated to creating the very best in support nutraceuticals for both humans and pets. More Natural Healing was formed with this goal in mind! It’s not just farm to table, but rather farm to science to a formula, to you.