Dementia in cats

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
June 29, 2022

Have you started to notice some changes in your old feline friend’s behaviour? Maybe they’re starting to walk into furniture or startle easily. You might think these actions simply come with old age, but think again. 

As more cats are living longer lives, dementia in cats is becoming more prominent, but also better understood thanks to modern medicine and vet intervention.

What is cat dementia?

Feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) is a cognitive disorder similar to dementia in humans. Better known as cat dementia, it is a condition related to the ageing of a cat’s brain that leads to changes in behaviour and affects memory, learning, and comprehension.

Feline cognitive dysfunction affects over 50% of cats aged 15 years and over. 

What are the signs to look out for?

The onset of dementia in cats is much faster compared to humans, so it can sometimes feel as if these symptoms have popped up overnight.

Many of these signs and symptoms are synonymous with old age, so it can be hard to determine whether it is cat dementia. Early detection is important, so if you notice these symptoms going from mild to severe in a short amount of time, it’s best to reach out to your vet.

Here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Disorientation and confusion - your cat may appear lost or confused in familiar surroundings
  • Toilet training issues - not remembering to use kitty litter
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Unusual sounds such as howling or meowing at night
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difference in sleep patterns - cats are creatures of habit so this could be a warning sign

Awareness of dementia in cats

Most of us are aware of and understand dementia and Alzheimer’s in humans, but there is a huge lack of awareness about dementia in the feline community, meaning many cats go undiagnosed.

With old age comes many diseases for cats such as hyperthyroidism, osteoarthritis and chronic kidney disease, all of which can cause a change in behaviour like dementia does, however for these conditions it’s due to pain. This is why it’s important to check in with a vet if you notice anything strange about their behaviour.

Caring for your cat with dementia.

Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for FCD. Some vets may prescribe medication, lifestyle changes or supplements as treatment to help manage the symptoms.

Caring for your cat with dementia is essentially making their life as easy and comfortable, as well as keeping them engaged and occupied. Try to keep their mind stimulated by playing games and using cat toys. Don’t make any changes to the space, like moving their food, kitty litter and the room’s furniture. Sticking to the same routines can be an essential part of their treatment, as well as providing lots of love, pats and cuddles.

When is the right time to say goodbye?

Putting your cat down is a heartbreaking and excruciating decision to make, however may be necessary if the stages of dementia are severe. 

If your cat no longer recognises you and is constantly distraught or reactive, these may be signs of how much pain and suffering their mind is in and they're losing their quality of life. It is devastating and difficult to say goodbye, but it may be the best decision for them. 

It’s time to contact your vet if you start to notice these warning signs. It’s also vital to begin end-of-life care discussions before your cat’s condition becomes unmanageable, or they begin losing their quality of life. 

At Goodbye Good Boy, we provide home euthanasia services to support loving owners in providing a peaceful passing for their beloved pets.

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619.