Wednesday, February 11, 2015

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)


  1. Very interesting topic. I think you did a good job of presenting your observations about your cat and his behavior in a clear and concise way. I know you said near the end of your blog that some felines suffer from something very similar to human Alzheimer's disease, but I'm curious, does this very similar feline disease have a specific name? Also are there any other animals that been shown to suffer from Alzheimer's?

    David Rains,

  2. Great post. In your research on this disease did you come across any treatments or medication associated with dementia? Do you think since there are similarities between dementia in felines and dementia in humans that treatment would also compare for both humans and felines? Just things to think about.

    -Posted by Amanda Okpoebo

  3. Wow. This was very interesting. I was wondering, in your research id you come across other people's testimonies about their cat behaving the way yours did? If so what did they think about it, and how long did it last?
    -Posted by: Barbara Afogho

  4. Hi,
    Great post. Real interesting read. It is very sad that your cat appears to have some form of dementia. My friend's late dog appeared to have something similar - as he aged he began to develop general confusion and barking loudly/consistently throughout the night. I remember googling that this dementia-type behavior was observed before in canines, but it's interesting to see this similar phenomena in cats. Do you think that the brain abnormality causing this dementia is similar in humans, dogs, and cats? It seems likely. Thank you for providing the video with your post, and I know Jammy is lucky to have such thoughtful/caring owners.

    -Michael Salhany

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post. My grandmother is currently in the late stages of Alzheimer's and I imagine it's just as frustrating a disease to see in a pet as it is in a family member. I would love to know if Alzheimer's in animals (or cats in particular), since animals tend to have a shorter lifespan than humans, progresses quicker than it would in humans. Does average lifespan have any effect on how the disease typically progresses or is it usually dependent on the individual? Thanks!

    -Rebecca Quirie

  6. This is a really interesting observation. When you were doing your research did you find anything that indicated that brain deterioration may happen across all species and is not just limited to humans and maybe felines?

    -Cullan Bartel

  7. I was hoping to find some serious research on how closely this disease is related to the one found in humans, but like I had mentioned, the research is still unfortunately in its basal state. I had trouble finding anything from a credible source on the subject. I have definitely heard of this happening in other animals such as dogs and even rodents and horses, I am sure these are all related in some way. I am sure the process of dementia is sped up by the shorter lifespan in animals, as I noticed in my cat it occurred quite rapidly and seems to become exponential worse every day. Thank you for the positive comments!

    Erika Nevins