My lovely cat Sammy had been a wonderful companion for many years. I had found him at Battersea Cats and Dogs home when he was approximately 2 years old. But when he reached the grand old age of 17, he began acting strangely and didn’t seem like the old Sam.
He had been very attached to my cat Caspar and his quirky behaviour began just after Casper died so I initially thought that he was simply distressed at losing his best buddie. But things kept getting worse and then Sam became ill with cancer. It was only when I was talking to the vet about putting Sam down that I realised he had been suffering from dementia.
In cats, dementia is known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome CDS and the condition effects half of all cats which are over 15 years of age. A cat with CDS could display a variety of symptoms including:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Extreme irritability
- Decreased in the desire to play
- Excessive grooming
- A disregard for house rules which they had previously learnt
- Slow to learn new tasks
- Inability to follow familiar routes
- Lack of self-grooming
- Loss of appetite
- Changes in sleeping habits
- Generally behaving strangely
What is CDS?
CDS is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans and both diseases are thought to be at least partly caused by decreased blood flow to the brain and an increase in free radicals. These molecules damage cells in the brain. The problem is exacerbated by deposits of proteins known as plaques which make it hard for signals to pass to and from the brain.
How Life Becomes Difficult
A cat may start finding even simple things like locating their food bowl and litter tray difficult. Sam was given to wandering around the house in circles like a goldfish in a bowl. He never seemed to find what he was looking for and would stop occasionally looking totally confused.
If you think that your cat may be suffering from CDS it is important to speak to your vet as there are other conditions including brain tumours, deafness and hypothyroidism which can cause similar symptoms to arise.
How to Help a Cat with CDS
If your feline is diagnosed with CDS then there are things that you can do to help them. There is no cure but the right diet will help and this would be good quality cat food which is high in antioxidants as these kill off free radicals. Vitamin E and beta carotene will also provide a boost.
You can also help your cat by adapting their environment to suit their condition. You can do this by increasing the number of food bowls and litter trays that are available so that they are easier to find. Litter trays should be wide and shallow to make using them easier. Keep changes in the house to a minimum and introduce any necessary changes gradually. Try to stick to the same routine every day. You should also ensure that there are several comfortable resting places around the house. These should be easy for your cat to reach.
Domestic cats are living increasingly long lives as a result of improved health care and better diets. But this means that more and more cats are living long enough to suffer from dementia. Poor old Sam made it to 18 before I had to say goodbye. I wish that I had realised what his problem was sooner. My cat Paolo is now nearing 16 and so there is a fair chance that he will have an issue with CDS. At least I will recognise the problem this time!