Even the most predictable cats might change in subtle or noticeable ways as they age, but do cats get dementia? According to the experts, some do. I’ve provided a link to a good article on the topic. Meanwhile, let’s discuss cat dementia.
I’m pretty sure that my Himalayan, Katy, had some level of dementia. I began to notice changes in her when she was fifteen or sixteen years old. The key clue was that she stopped fearing strangers. She was always a hidey cat—she hid when the doorbell rang, until she became elderly, then she became friendly to everyone. It’s like she had forgotten her fear of strangers, and that was a good thing.
What is dementia? According to experts, it’s a cognitive dysfunction illness and it can affect any senior cat. It’s an age-related illness just like kidney disease is for some cats. It usually comes on slowly. Between age ten to fifteen or so, you might notice changes in memory and behavior that may worsen over time.
The cat may be disoriented and you’ll notice changes in their every day habits like sleep, appetite, exercise, and even litter box behavior. The cat might become less playful and some will meow a lot, as if confused or lost.
What do you need as a cat owner of a cat with dementia? Patience. Provide enrichment activities—toys, for example, but don’t make too many changes that will confuse the cat. Provide ramps or stairs where appropriate—for a cat that likes to sleep on your bed, but has developed problems climbing or jumping up there. You may need to provide a different kind of litter box. A younger cat likes to play in the litter—kicking it all over the place, so we use higher sided litter boxes. As a cat ages, however, and arthritis sets in, I like to switch to a low-sided litter box for their ease in entering and exiting. Pee pads might be in order for some elderly cats.
Generally you will change the cat’s diet as she ages. Dietary supplements might also help her maintain her physical and mental health.
Here’s a good article on dementia in cats. If your older cat is demonstrating changes in her behavior, you might want to prepare yourself for what’s ahead. With help and understanding, it can be a beautiful journey for you both.