Ask a Vet: Can Cats Have Senior Moments?

 |  Sep 13th 2011  |   1 Contribution


My 23-year-old longhair Tortoiseshell, Clara, is showing signs of senility. She will be walking and stop short to hesitate, staring straight ahead. She will walk ahead and stop short of a wall — staring at it for a few seconds.

Her litter box always had to be perfectly clean in order for her to get into it and use it. All of a sudden, she has been lounging in the box for long periods of time. Why? We scoop it numerous times a day, but occasionally she sits in it even if there is a spot of urine.

I think it started when we had to give her Laxatone gel for about a week, but it may not be related. Her other medication is Methimazole 1.25 mg/0.05 ml T-A-D Transderm Gel 1.5 ml Dial-a-dose.

Connie
Elizabethtown, PA

I would not be at all surprised if your cat were suffering cognitive decline. Cognitive decline and "senior moments" are not uncommon among older animals, who can experience periods of disorientation, confusion, or mental dullness.

Cognitive function is difficult to measure in humans, and nearly impossible to measure in animals (they can't take memory and cognitive function tests). However, very elderly animals often display symptoms that manifest as the sorts of behaviors you have described. These may be exacerbated by sensory decline that occurs concurrently with cognitive impairment.

I doubt that the medications (especially Laxatone) that your cat takes are involved in the situation. Your cat's symptoms are likely to be progressive. The good news is that cats, unlike humans, generally don't experience the humiliation and profound losses of dignity that make cognitive decline so difficult in our species.

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