Friday, December 10, 2010

Feline Dementia Onset At 18 Years

When your old cat starts to howl and yowl, randomly, as she wanders around the house, she's probably got the beginning of the onset of feline senility / dementia / kitty Alzheimer's.  I looked up several things online (here, here, and here), and consulted our cat veterinary tome that Dr Desert Flower picked up in the early 1990s.  Confused howling / vocalizations is often listed as the first sign of neurological degradation in cats.  She's not in physical pain, because "eye contact" with her, stops her howling.  Calling her name is somewhat ineffective, since she's going deaf as well.  Picking her up and petting her arrests the howling as well, but her pathetic cries sound like she's in anguish.  Right out of the litter, or walking into a room, or wandering around the dining room (where typically no one ever is) she'll start loud, intense, distressed howling.  Make eye contact with her, and POOF, she's all better.

Having our son here for 6 weeks helped to spoil her, as every time he sat down on "her couch" she was instantly upon him, demanding to be petted.  While he studied for the GRE in the guest bed room, she reliably lounged beside him.  All this extra attention helped to alleviate her symptoms for a little while, but in the last week that he's been gone, the howling has increased in frequency from 2 or 3 times a day, to about once an hour.  When I'm on an international conference call, it's quite a juggling act to MUTE the phone, try to calm her down, UNMUTE, and get back to the call, when the howling's initiation is apparently random.

From the symptoms listed, howling and confusion are usually first, followed by forgetting where the litter box is, lack of grooming, disinterest in food, and angry personality changes.  So far, it's just the howling... I'm considering graphing the frequencies and locations to see if there's a developing pattern, and extrapolate to an eventual end point.  We'll try to make her final months / years chez nous as comfortable as possible, and have pity on the poor animal.   She's been a good cat for almost 2 decades... it's sad to see her slipping.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, our former 18 yr old Max (the alias namesake) started to do the same about year 16. Our vet indicated that is ok, they just like to chatter at times. The real issue is pain, cats don't vocalize severe pain or discomfort. They stop eating, stop moving, grooming... Our other 2 will chatter at times as they walk around, esp at night. I can deal with most of the aging issue, least favorite is litter box invention, typically my laundry basket has been selected.


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