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C2007-17

Dear Christopher Cat

Can cats develop Alzheimer’s disease? My cat behaves as though she has it.

Christopher Responds

Yes, some older cats do develop senile dementia – in the animal world, called senile cognitive dysfunction – that resembles Alzheimer’s disease.

Although I am a senior cat, I doubt I will develop such a problem, because I am perfect in every way.

To minimize my risk, I eat a nutritious diet, exercise daily, play games to stimulate my brain, and enjoy the companionship of my cat, dog and human family members.

Sadly, other cats are not as fortunate as I.

Twenty-eight percent of cats aged 11 to 14 years develop at least one age-related behavior problem. At 15 years and older, the prevalence increases to 50 percent.

Signs of senile cognitive dysfunction in cats include yowling, wandering, and other manifestations of confusion, disorientation or fear, especially at night.

Sometimes senile cats forget to use the litter box. They may become less affectionate and more irritable, too.

Studies have shown that the brain cells of many senile cats are covered with the same kind of amyloid plaques seen in human Alzheimer patients.

Moreover, many senile cats’ brain cells contain the same tangled proteins that are associated with mental deterioration in humans with Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk with your veterinarian about testing to rule out physical causes of your cat’s problem. Ask about medication and diet changes to help enhance the quality of her life.

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