As your cat’s brain ages, they can experience cognitive decline and develop dementia in the same way humans can. Dementia is a progressive illness that may initially present as subtle changes to your cat’s behaviour and lead to your cat becoming less responsive to their environment and stimuli. It’s not clear why some cats develop this condition and others don’t, but being aware of common symptoms can ensure that your cat receives prompt care, and this can slow the progress of the illness.
Cats with dementia commonly appear disorientated and may seem confused even in the familiar surroundings of their home. Getting lost in the local area or not knowing where their food and water bowls are kept are two examples of the type of behaviour you may begin to notice in your cat. Additionally, their temperament can change, and even the most docile cat can display prolonged episodes of irritability that they will communicate by hissing at you or being excessively vocal. Incontinence and a decline in grooming are also signs that your cat could be experiencing dementia.
To diagnose dementia, your vet will take details of your cat’s symptoms and health history. They will also take steps to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as carrying out a diagnostic MRI or CT scan to check for a tumour or brain injury. Once they feel confident that your cat has dementia, your vet will discuss treatment options with you. There’s no cure for dementia, so treatment focusses on slowing the progression of the illness.
Medication can be prescribed to reduce incontinence episodes, and your cat’s brain function can also be supported with drugs that raise the levels of dopamine in the brain. Increased dopamine can slow the damage being done to your cat’s brain. Additionally, your vet may suggest that you make some changes to your cat’s home life to ensure that their brain is being stimulated throughout the day, which can also slow the progression of the illness. Your vet will work with you to establish the types of games and routine that provides enough stimulation for your cat. A dietary review will also be conducted to establish if your cat is eating anything that promotes inflammation in the body. The vet will recommend a diet or supplement high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as these are thought to slow cognitive decline.
If you’re concerned about your cat’s cognitive health, ask your vet to asses them as soon as possible.