Does My Cat Suffer From a Feline Version of Dementia?
My cat, Jammy, has lived a long and happy life of twenty years.Up until very recently (about the past 6 months or so), she has been nothing but extremely healthy and full of life. Unfortunately, she has recently began to develop a disturbing, loud vocalization, like a deep meow, that she tends to voice in the middle of the night. At first it was only every only every once in a while, but as the weeks progressed, it became more frequent and much louder. She has also developed an odd pattern of walking; while meowing, she paces in circles up and down our dark hallways, back and forth all night. If she is not circling and making the noise, she is just sitting in the kitchen or living room, staring at the wall and meowing. This extreme racket is not only bewildering, but it keeps us up at night because of how loud and frequent is it is. We had assumed that she is confused at night, as it is possible that she is losing her eye sight due to old age.
Worried for her, we recently brought her to our local veterinarian to see if there was any advice that could be given about this. After a thorough check up, our vet said that she was extremely healthy for her age, that all of her senses (including her eye sight) seemed to be in great condition. The vet suggested that she may just be confused occasionally, and forgetful of where she is. She suggested that we make sure she has access to all the places that she would normally go to, and when she starts meowing at night, she said that the best thing to do would be to call out to her to remind her that we have not gone anywhere. This seemed to help slightly for a short amount of time.
Now, her deep meowing has ceased somewhat. Instead, she is constantly pacing in left hand circles in the kitchen, obviously confused. (I couldn't get a video of her meowing, but here is on of her circling). She has also started a new pattern of falling over, or falling off the elevated objects. She spends many hours in one location, staring at the wall in obvious disorientation. According to the ASPCA, cognitive dysfunction is common in aging felines. There is a “checklist” used by the ASPCA for identifying this, and the symptom categories include spatial disorientation and confusion, decreased activity, anxiety/increased irritability, disrupted sleep/wake cycles, and changes in social behavior or relationships. Having been working with the elderly for three years, I am aware that these are common occurrences in humans as well, so I am curious as to whether there is any similarities to the human condition of dementia and feline aging to be discovered. According to MayoClinic, symptoms of dementia in humans include difficulty communicating, difficulty with coordination and memory loss, problems with disorientation, personality change, paranoia, and many more. There is some research done that shows about 1 in 10 elderly felines suffer from something very similar to human Alzheimer’s disease, including physical changes in the brain, but the research is still in a basal state.
By: Erika Nevins (Group B)