• Blank expression
  • Getting lost in familiar surroundings
  • Constant yowling
  • Lack of grooming
  • Continuous pacing
  • Inappropriate toileting

These symptoms on their own do not necessarily mean your cat has dementia but if your cat is over the age of 11 or 12, and there are no other health reasons for exhibiting these symptoms, a visit to your vet will confirm or negate a dementia diagnosis.

Many cats will, for example, struggle to groom themselves if they have arthritis and inappropriate toileting can also occur if they can’t get to their feet quickly enough or have to negotiate several flights of stairs to reach their litter trays.  Some people seem to think that it’s OK to leave the litter tray in the basement.  To an older cat, getting up and down several flights of stairs is the same as us trying to climb Mount Everest with a full bladder.  Could you do that? I don’t think so!  I know I couldn’t!  My bathroom is down one flight of stairs from my office, and if I leave it too long, I only just ‘make it’!!

Timmy wishing Garfield a happy 20th birthday. Garfield in his new birthday bedIf you have an arthritic cat, be kind – move the litter tray nearer to him so that he can at least attempt to get there.  Garfield, my dear old cat who lived past his 20th birthday, often peed or pooed next to the litter tray.  As it was on newspaper I never minded and I never told him off, anyway, because I knew he was struggling with arthritis.  What I hadn’t taken into account was the sides of the tray were too steep for him to lift his legs over.  A shallower tray might have avoided those blips and I’ve learnt a lesson for another time.

Many people don’t think that animals can get dementia and will put off going to see their vet in case he suggests it’s the end of the line for your pet.  Although there is no cure for dementia, many pets do live longer nowadays if their owners are more aware of their needs.  There is absolutely no need to euthanase a cat with dementia unless it has other health problems for which there are no more medical interventions available.   

Reassure your cat when he yowls.  He has become disorientated and maybe can’t remember where he last saw you.  If he’s in a different room to where you are, and he starts yowling, call out to him telling him that you’re coming.  Then go to him, pick him up and cuddle him and reassure him that he’s not alone.

If you see him staring blankly into space, just pick him up and either put him in his litter tray if he uses one, or take him out into the garden to give him that option of going to the toilet.  Hover discreetly nearby to help him after he’s done his business or if he decides that it’s not what he wants to do.  Just sit down on the sofa with him and have some special ‘you and him’ time.  If he’ll let you groom him, use a gentle brush because he may well be a bit thin and bony so he’ll need a gentler touch.  Any special time spent with him will reassure him that he isn’t alone or forgotten.

It’s easy for us to assume that as cats are independent creatures that like being by themselves, they will want to be alone in their senior years.  But the reverse is true so try to take odd moments out of your day to spend just chatting with your cat, gentle grooming to help keep his coat from matting, and if he gets a bit messy around his rear end, use a warm flannel or cotton wool to clean him.  He’ll thank you for it.  Garfield always licked my face after I’d spruced up his nether regions for him after an accident.  And I miss him even now and it’s been 9 years since he left.

Senior cats can live for many years with dementia and they are just as valued as that boisterous kitten they once were.  Treasure every moment you have with them. 

Picture is of Timmy wishing Garfield a happy 20th birthday.  Garfield is in his new birthday bed.The yellow 'blob' is 'Banana Man'; one of Garfield's daytime teddies

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