The Aging Cat Brain

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With improved nutrition, medical care and husbandry, cats are living longer than ever. This is obviously all for the good, but it does present some new challenges for the owners of feline senior citizens. A cat's brain ages along with the rest of her body and needs some special attention if she is to continue to thrive through her later years.

"If your cat has any of the symptoms of senility, take her to the veterinarian"

Why Cat Owners Should Be Concerned

Older cats can develop signs of senility or cognitive decline. Typical symptoms include:

  • Changes in behavior
  • Problems with litter box use
  • Restlessness and wandering
  • Disorientation
  • Vocalization
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in the way a cat relates with people or other pets
  • Altered sleep patterns

Cognitive dysfunction is thought to be caused by the increased breakdown of neurotransmitters and possibly the build-up of damaging free radicals in the brain.

Veterinary and Home Care

If your cat has any of the symptoms of senility, take her to the veterinarian. A physical exam and routine laboratory testing can help rule out other diseases that may cause similar clinical signs. If your vet determines that your cat is suffering from cognitive dysfunction, he or she may prescribe a drug called Anipryl (selegiline). Selegeline is not approved for use in cats, but it appears safe and can significantly improve a cat's condition over the course of several weeks to months. Other supplements are also available that act as anti-oxidants and protect the brain from free radicals or may otherwise improve brain function in cats.

In addition to pet medications and supplements, environmental enrichment and stimulation can go a long way towards improving or maintaining a cat's mental abilities. Activities such as leash walking or time spent outside in a safe enclosure or on a perch in front of a window, learning new commands or tricks or playing with toys can all help keep older pets sharp.

The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition. This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of your pet. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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