"Cats and brain aging - Mental decline of your cat

"Cats and brain aging - Mental decline of your cat


Just like people, as cats enter old age, their cognitive functions and general mental acuity will begin to decline. This brain aging is a natural effect of the body’s natural breakdown, but how fast or how slowly it takes place will vary from cat to cat. Obviously, the longer that your cat lives, the more pronounced this progression will be, and the more likely you are to be able to observe it. However, all senior cats- that is, cats over the age of around ten years, will fall somewhere along the spectrum.

For cats that are lucky enough to reach fifteen years old in good health, over 50% of cats will be displaying some obvious signs of brain aging that the owner can identify. Often, the brain’s natural decline will not have any significant effect upon your cat’s quality of life until your cat is very old, and they are in fact more likely to have succumbed to a physical condition by that stage than to show pronounced and problematic side effects or risks associated with brain decline. However, the advanced process of brain decline in old age in cats can be likened to the progression of dementia in humans, and just like dementia, it is a progressive process than can be fast or slow, and have either a small impact or very little impact upon the cat in question at all.

If you are worried about how you might be able to identify the signs of brain aging in your cat or if there is anything that you can do to prevent it or slow the process down, read on to learn more.

Signs of brain aging and associated problems in cats

Once your cat reaches the age of ten, you should familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of brain aging, and be on the lookout for them in your own cat. As your cat gets older still, and particularly if they make it past fifteen years of age, the chances of your cat being visibly affected grow that much higher.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Loss of interest in interacting with owners or other animals that they spend a lot of time with.
  • Confusion or appearing not to recognise people that they know well.
  • Loss of appetite or appearing to “forget” to eat.
  • Toileting problems, such as not using the litter box, or urinating and defecating in inappropriate places.
  • Unsettled or irregular sleep patterns.
  • Loss of previously learned skills.
  • Crying or exhibiting signs of distress at night, or at other times for no apparent reason.

Steps that you can take to delay the onset of brain aging in cats

Even when your cat is young, fit and healthy, you can take steps to protect the healthy function of your cat’s brain and hopefully, delay the onset of brain aging and mental decline in later life. Precisely how effective this proves to be for any particular cat will vary, but it certainly won’t hurt!

  • Try to keep your cat physically fit and active, and encourage them to exercise.
  • Provide and encourage your cat to use puzzle toys, such as those that will decant a treat if your cat solves the puzzle.
  • What you feed your cat can also have a significant effect on both their physical and mental health, and certain foods and essential vitamins are reputed to help with cell renewal and the regeneration of the brain’s cells. Try to feed a diet that is rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants, and that is of a good quality and designed for an active life.

Managing the ownership of a cat in mental decline

It can be very distressing for both the cat and their owners to have to deal with the cat’s mental decline, but there are some steps that you can take to make the transition into old age as smooth for your cat as possible.

  • Try to keep everything as consistent and familiar to your cat as possible, and avoid unnecessary change and alterations that might upset your cat’s routine.
  • Provide ramps and steps if needed for your cat, to make it easier for them to get about.
  • Try to keep your house calm and quiet, and make sure that your cat has a safe, peaceful place that they can go to when they want to.
  • If your cat appears to be losing their memory or having problems finding their way around, you may need to consider restricting their access to the outside world, or at least stop them from going out at night.
  • Just like humans with dementia, cats will have good days and bad days, and the process of mental decline is not always linear. Take your cues from your cat’s behaviour, and take each day as it comes.

Can you prevent the onset of mental decline in your cat’s brain?

Just as with human aging, there is no way to stop your cat from getting old, or to stop their natural mental decline. However, if you follow some of the steps above in terms of delaying the onset of brain aging and keeping your cat’s mind active and alert, you will be able to slow the process down, and hopefully allow your cat to live with you happily and safely for many more years.

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