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Feline dementia & euthanasia

Updated June 13, 2017

Did you know that humans are not the only species that can develop Alzheimer's Disease? It's true--cats also develop the mentally disabling illness. Also known as feline dementia, it is estimated that one in 10 cats will develop the disease, according to new research. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of feline dementia, treatment and if and when it is best to euthanize a suffering pet.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Alzheimer's in cats and in humans are very similar. Signs of the disease may include confusion, distress and disorientation, making it difficult for your cat to locate his litter box or food dish. It is even possible for the cat to forget he has eaten and he will keep coming back time and time again for more. Cats may experience nightmares that can be quite disruptive with loud crying. A senile cat may become more aggressive and may need constant attention. They will become disinterested in playing and will sleep excessively. They will also groom themselves less.

Why The Increase In Feline Dementia?

As cats live longer and longer (as long as 20 years or more), experts are seeing an increase in feline dementia. Age itself is a risk factor. Many cats are indoor cats, which means there is a lot less physical and mental stimuli and a lot more napping. This inactivity can cause a cat's brain to slow down.

Preventing Feline Dementia

Cat owners can prevent their companions from developing dementia simply by feeding them a healthy diet and giving them plenty of playtime and play opportunities. This will help to keep their minds sharp and active. Once a cat has begun to develop dementia, however, too much stimulation or environmental changes can frighten them and make their symptoms worse.

Caring For A Cat With Dementia

Watching a pet's mental decline is painful, but there are ways an owner can make life as comfortable and as calm as possible for their cat. As mentioned before, too much stimulation or changes to your pet's environment can scare them and "throw them off." Consistency and relative calm are important to your cat's mental well-being. It may be important to avoid new furniture arrangements and if your cat is frightened by visitors, it might be a good idea to put him in a different room away from the "new" people. Also, if your cat is used to spending time outside, this may need to be more closely supervised or eliminated entirely, as cats may forget how to defend themselves and or could wander off and get lost.

Knowing When To Let Go

Confusion itself does not need to be a reason to euthanize your pet. There are a number of things to take into account when considering whether or not it is time to put your cat to sleep.

What is the cat's quality of life? Is he in physical pain? Is he able to eat? Has he lost weight or become dehydrated? Does he do nothing but sleep? Is he still able to use his litter box, or has he begun to defecate on himself? Does he cry or moan when he gets up to move around? Does he avoid all activity other than going to the bathroom? Has he become aggressive towards you or others?

If you were to put yourself in your cat's shoes, would you want to continue living in his condition? Would you still be able to enjoy your life? Or would you be ready to move on?

There is no easy way to decide when it is time to euthanize a pet, but taking these things into consideration and seeking the wisdom and advice of your cat's veterinarian can assist you in making one of the most difficult decisions you have ever had to make.

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About the Author

Julie Anne Fidler is the author of "Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst." She has written dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as nationally syndicated promotional radio spots. She is a legal blogger for a national law firm, and writes a blog about mental illness and the Christian church at PsychCentral.com.