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Anyone with experience with Senility/Dementia in Cats?

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  • Anyone with experience with Senility/Dementia in Cats?

    I've got a cat who is turning 17 this year - he's the oldest cat I've shared my life with. He's slowed down a bit. He has trouble jumping onto the bed (so I put a chair next to the bed. He can make it into the chair and from the chair into the bed). He's matted as he can't groom himself well, but I am working on the mats (he isn't crazy about being brushed or trimmed and I have to work in very short sessions to avoid being bitten).

    He's been seen by a vet not long ago and we had blood work done to make sure all was as well as it could be for an older kitty-boy.

    But lately he's been acting somewhat senile. He gets 'lost' in the house and sometimes doesn't seem to know where he is. He yowls and wails. This morning he was convinced that he needed to climb up to the ceiling and kept staring at a spot on the ceiling. Then he went into a corner of the room and scratched at the walls. And then he went under my desk and seemed quite perturbed that the wall was in his way.

    I will, of course, be talking to our vet about this, too. But I was wondering if anyone has dealt with something similar in a cat before - and how you helped them with it?
    Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

    Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com

  • #2
    My cat lived to 19 and the last year or two she would just sit and meow like she didn't know where she was, waiting to be rescued. The symptoms you describe sound a lot like canine dementia. I'm sure they're similar but not sure if the drugs used for dogs would help cats.


    • #3
      In our case we just kept Tally comfortable and kitty proofed the house as much as we could. When she started crying we'd pick her up and take her to another room, which suited her. Her thing in the end seemed to be getting confused at night and jumping onto the kitchen counters looking for our bed. So one of us would go get her, put her on the bed and she'd happily go to sleep.

      I don't know if it would work on your boy but Tally was content to be moved somewhere or give her something else to do (she loved to play until the week she died), and she'd forget all about what she had been fretting over in the other place.
      "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


      • #4
        Well, it's not the same thing but I have a 8ish year old and a three year old who will both go into empty rooms and meow at the top of their lungs. I have no idea why. I also have a different three year old that will stand on his back legs and paw the walls, or the tub, or the mirror above the dresser, or just whatever.

        My cats are just crazy. Sounds like yours might actually have some neurological changes. I love the old guys but they can be a challenge.
        "Dogs are man's best friend. Cats are man's adorable little serial killer." -- theoatmeal.com


        • #5
          I am dealing with something similar. What makes it worse is that we have a couple of young cats in the house and she acts like she doesn't know them anymore. She has to be kept separate. Not a good long term solution.

          I hope your vet is able to give you some answers. Congratulations on having a kitty get to such an impressive age. He sounds like a lovely friend.
          “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

          St. Padre Pio


          • #6
            We had one old cat years ago who I swear went senile. There were similarities to my grandparents, who had both just been placed then, and Mom and I had a lot of discussions wondering about it. The cat would get lost in the house, didn't seem to know others at times (fortunately had never been a terribly alpha cat), would forget where the food was unless you showed her and would forget it again if she looked away mid meal at something, and even started sleeping in the litter box. We discussed it with the vet, and he said it happens sometimes. She was distractable for a few years by moving her or giving her something, like the previous poster said. When that wasn't working as well and she just didn't seem happy at all anymore, we had her PTS.


            • #7
              Yes. I have one now (at least 16, could be older) who gets confused sometimes and yowls. We go to her and pick her up and that seems to work well. I also had a cat who lived to be 20 and one who almost made it to 21 and they both were a bit gaga towards the end. I find that distracting them, picking them up and loving them works for a while. My current old lady will NOT poop in the litter box, although she does pee there. Since she usually poops at night I have had success with confining her to the master bath and at least she poops on tile instead of nice oriental rugs.
              What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


              • Original Poster

                Thanks for the ideas/advice/sympathy. Picking him up or calling to him works most of the time right now. He was such an ugly/nasty alpha cat as a youngster and I am SO glad that part of his personality isn't coming out.

                He was a trial as a youngster, but he was my trial. He's been with us through several moves, the loss of three other cats and several dogs, and a lot of life changes. It is hard to imagine NOT having him watch over us for the rest of our lives.
                Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com


                • #9
                  I have discussed this with my (wonderful) vet many times. Unfortunately, from what he tells me, there is no medication similar to what would be appropriate for a dog with senility. Which is really too bad.
                  What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                  • #10
                    I think a screaming lost cat is not a happy creature. I'd certainly go out of my way to go fetch kitty or do other things to make catness able to find order/security in his life. But I wouldn't keep him above ground for too long if the dementia were intractable.

                    What the heck for? It's not like Dementia Cat is working on a new economic theory that could save the world and win him a Nobel Prize.

                    I take mental suffering of an animal just as seriously as any physical suffering, so if I can't make life good enough by the animal's standards, I'll be proud to be able to offer a good euthanasia. After all, it's better than some senile human beings get.

                    JMHO. I hope you can find OldCat a good solution for a while longer yet.
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat


                    • #11
                      Sometimes hyperthyroidism can cause these strange behavioral issues. And other times its just old cat dementia.

                      I had an old one who would get stuck in the window blinds. He was 20+ so I tried not to poke fun of him too much.


                      • #12
                        Squish brought up a good thing to check as well. My old boy was 22 and he was always getting "lost" I had to make frequent late night "rescues" to him but I adored that boy and it was well worth it. He would yowl until you got him or called him but I preferred to get out of bed and get him because I could physically bring him back to my room then and he would settle down. If you can, limit the area he is in at night so he doesn't have to go far for anything. I used to bring the litter pan into my room at night along with his water and food so he could just hop off the bed and come right back. I didn't really like having the litter pan in there but honestly it was better for him that way. There were still times he wanted to walk around and that's when he would get confused but for the most part, keeping everything closer at night seemed to help. Good luck with your boy, it's not a fun road when they get like that.
                        The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.


                        • #13
                          I think moving him and calling him, etc. is the best course of action.

                          He will probably start having trouble finding the litter box so you might want to put more around the house, where he usually is.

                          And, IMO, when a cat starts to sleep in the litter box, they're telling you it's time.


                          • #14
                            Nearly all my housecats lived well into their teens, but only one showed any signs of dementia.
                            The others succumbed to kidney failure.

                            My old granny cat was 18 when she decided the World was her litterbox and turned my house into a House of Squalor.
                            I put down newspaper everywhere and then cleaned up her messes when I got home from work.
                            She pretty much slept all day long, but lasted nearly a year after the incontinence issue popped up.

                            IMO, as long as they show an interest in food there's interest in Life as well and barring physical pain I do what I can to let them live out their lives.
                            I know cats are stoic, and don't show pain until it's pretty bad for them, but to me losing interest in food is a Major sign that it's time to consider euth.

                            Hope your Old Guy adapts and you can help him into his Senior Years.
                            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                            • #15
                              Very good suggestions re: more litterboxes and confining at night. I have boxes (and food, and water) in my master bathroom upstairs, and boxes in my mud/laundry room on the ground floor and in the basement. My old lady gets confined to the master bath at night since that is her favorite place to poop. She likes to sleep in her cat carrier so that is in there too with a nice blanky in it. After breakfast she likes to go upstairs and sleep on my bed all day, so all she has to do to eat or potty is go into the bathroom instead of going downstairs.

                              Agree that losing interest in food = time to euth. She seems to be happy and enjoys the heck out of my lap, pets, grooming, etc. She's the one who drools when she's happy so I can tell.
                              What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                              • #16
                                I have a pair of 18 1/2 year old female ex-barn cats at home that are from the same litter. But they are total opposites in temperament and personality. One has always been friendly and interested in people and the other is very shy, almost feral. They have lieved inside now for almost 10 years.

                                The friendly one has had hearing issues for a while now and has adapted fairly well, but she does "lose" me in the house and cries until she finds me or I find her.

                                Her sister has only recently lost a good deal of her hearing it appears, and is now very startled and fearful when I suddenly appear, to the point that she'll run and hide. I used to be able to pet her a bit at feeding time and we'd have a little purr-fest but she has been unapproachable lately. She hasn't appeared too happy the last week or so, and I'll probably have to make a tough decision about her shortly if she continues to be so stressed.

                                My first cat lived to be almost 23 and she suffered from a bit of dementia. She'd do silly things in the middle of the night like knocking items off the night table and digging a hole for poop in her litter box, then pooping outside the box and then covering up the unused hole. But never a real mess. Older cats also often just st there are sort of "snooze" rather than sleep deeply all curled up. Just part of the aging process I guess.
                                "Facts or opinions which are to pass through the hands of so many, to be misconceived by folly in one, and ignorance in another, can hardly have much truth left." - Jane Austen: "Persuasion"


                                • #17
                                  Sleeping in the litterbox is not dementia. Sleeping on poop maybe.
                                  My one cat will always sleep in the litter box when at the vets overnight- maybe it's easier on old joints like big patches of sand in a paddock are favorite places for horses to lie on.


                                  • #18
                                    Sleeping in the liter box

                                    Originally posted by Chall View Post
                                    Sleeping in the litterbox is not dementia. Sleeping on poop maybe.
                                    My one cat will always sleep in the litter box when at the vets overnight- maybe it's easier on old joints like big patches of sand in a paddock are favorite places for horses to lie on.
                                    My 19 and 1/2 year old has been found sleeping in the litterbox lately. When I pull her out, she looks surprized. She has also developed some sort of scratching mania, where she will nearly fall over scratching. It isn't fleas, I am sure it is dementia. But I agree with two dogs, I don't really want to put her to sleep until she loses interest in her food, which she has definately not done.
                                    Another killer of threads


                                    • #19
                                      Also, sometimes the yowling happens when they become deaf, it's a "where IS everybody, I'm lonely/bored". Though it's a screechy sound it's IMO easy to distinguish from a yowls of pain, though I come running anyway to find cat satisfied to see me, with a "why are you so frazzled?" expression on her face


                                      • #20
                                        My older (15 or 16 years old) gentleman kitty has taken to sitting in the spare room and yodeling for about 10 minutes as soon as we go to bed at night. Then he joins us, fights with one or both of his younger sisters, and settles down for the night. What is odd is that he never did this until his buddy of 13 years was put to sleep last summer. The buddy was a serious yodeler but Skeeter had always been a pretty quiet cat up until Bogey died.