Understanding & Treating Odd Senior Cat Behavior

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 Odd senior cat behavior might be a sign of feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome — an illness common in cats in their older years. 

Symptoms might include:


  • Disorientation and confusion — wandering aimlessly, not recognizing familiar places or people, acting as if lost inside the house.
  • Trouble sleeping — unusual nocturnal activity or disrupted sleep cycles.
  • Changes in interactions — losing interest or actively avoiding contact and petting.
  • Potty problems — forgetting where the litter box is or how it is supposed to be used.
  • Fear and anxiety — tremors, panic attacks, and other types of erratic behavior.


Understanding & Treating Odd Senior Cat Behavior


The main cause of odd senior cat behavior is the so-called feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (FCD). It most often develops in cats that are over the age of fifteen and has numerous vague and confusing symptoms. Often, the signs of senility in cats mimic those of other illnesses or behavior conditions, such as separation anxiety. If our cat is getting older, we must actively seek the symptoms of this syndrome. There is something we can do about it.


While some people might brush off odd senior cat behavior as something normal, we must keep in mind that cognitive dysfunction is a disease. Cats who suffer from this condition develop a deposit of a protein called beta-amyloid in their brains. As a result, the effects on their cognitive functions are similar to what people with Alzheimer’s go through.


In this article, we will explore the different types of odd senior cat behavior that we need to look out for. Also, we will have a look at different treatment and prevention methods that can help us fight this disease.


Most Common Types of Odd Senior Cat Behavior


Cats affected by cognitive dysfunction syndrome seemingly forget how to perform once simple activities. There are many ways in which this issue can manifest — let’s have a look at the most frequent ones.


Disorientation & Confusion

Cats experiencing senility often wander around aimlessly and generally act as if they don’t know where they are. They also express confusion in ordinary situations — for example, not recognizing familiar people or places. In some cases, a senile cat would start getting stuck in corners, seemingly unable to find a way out.


If our senile cat starts getting lost in the house where it has lived all its life, we can be certain that age is catching up to it. 


Trouble Sleeping

Senility in cats can also severely affect their sleeping patterns. Disrupted or reversed sleep cycles in old cats are a sure sign of cognitive issues. Another possible scenario involves a total lack of sleep and excessive nightly activity.


Changes in Everyday Interactions

Cats generally love being the center of attention and being petted. However, a senior cat might lose interest in those things, or actively avoid them. The cat’s interactions with family members or other pets might suddenly change, and it might even stop greeting us. 


Potty Problems

Is our cat having trouble locating the litter box? Is it confused about what it should do once it gets in it? If our old cat seems to have completely forgotten all its litter box training, we can be certain that there is a medical issue involved. Cats are generally exceptionally clean, so soiling the house is certainly abnormal behavior.


Fear, Anxiety & Compulsive Actions

FCD can also result in exceptionally odd senior cat behavior. The cat might experience fear and tremors, sudden panic attacks, and general anxiety. Often, . On top of that, we might see our cat doing weird stuff — like licking the floor or a certain object.


Treating Cognitive Dysfunction in Old Cats


Unfortunately, we need to start this section with some bad news. FCD in senior animals can never be fully cured. There is, however, a medication that might help reduce the symptoms temporarily. The most popular and effective drug that counters symptoms of senility in cats is selegiline hydrochloride — also known as Anipryl.


Anipryl is a drug that is usually used to treat cognitive issues in dogs. However, scientists have concluded that it can also help cats. Results tend to vary, unfortunately, and around one-third of cats do not show any improvement upon treatment with the drug. Another third show slight to moderate changes — for example, they stop crying and restore their sense of orientation.


The lucky final third experience a dramatic reversal of the symptoms. Normal behavior returns and the cat can once again recognize its family, use the litter box correctly, and perform its usual activities. With a success rate of around 33%, Anipryl is definitely worth considering if our cat is suffering from cognitive problems due to old age.


However, we must keep in mind that positive results will not last forever. Sooner or later, the medication will stop being effective, and the odd senior cat behavior will resurface. The good thing about this treatment is that it earns us time with our pet — sometimes more, sometimes less. Either way, every minute is precious and will help us prepare for the inevitable.


Preventing Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats


As a loving pet owner, I believe we all want our cats to stick around for as much time as possible. We also want them to be themselves and not fall prey to mind-altering diseases. I decided to look into some preventative measures we can take to ensure that senility never sets in our cats, or at least keep it away from them for as long as possible. As I suspected, in order to prevent FCD in our cats, we need to keep their wit sharp at all times.


Studies have shown that problem-solving activities like puzzle toys and trick-training improve the cognitive capabilities of dogs. In addition, it keeps them connected to the world around them and might even make them live longer. Researchers agree that the same methods can help prevent senility in older cats. What we must do is keep our cat physically and mentally active throughout its life. If they are always engaged, its brain will remain young and mental issues will be less likely to arise.


Problem-Solving Activities for Cats


Here are some things we can do with our cats in order to postpone, or even prevent, age-related cognitive dysfunction.


  • Puzzle toys that dispense treats at the completion of a task are a great way to keep our cat’s brain working. Cats will usually keep being interested in something that rewards them with food. The design of some of those puzzle toys works to stimulate the cats’ hunting instincts, which is great for keeping them both sharp and entertained.


  • Instead of serving the cat’s meals in one big bowl, we can try hiding small portions around the house. By doing this, we are encouraging our cat to hunt for its food — something that is in its nature. A cat that constantly eats without having to work for it will stop being physically and mentally sound in time. Making our pets search for their food will ensure they are constantly active.


  • We must do our best to provide our cat with some brain-stimulating entertainment. For example, we can invest in a big cat tree that our pet can climb and explore. For an optimal experience, we must make sure the tree has plenty of hiding spots. Another smart tip I came across is to place bird feeders or bird baths just outside our windows. This change in scenery will provide our feline friend with the ultimate viewing pleasure and keep its mind sharp.


  • While cats are not nearly as susceptible to training as dogs are, we can still make use of positive reinforcement to teach them some tricks. For example, we can teach them to come running when we call them by name and open a can of cat food. Of course, they should receive a proper reward each time they do what we expect of them.

There Is Something We Can Do About Odd Senior Cat Behavior


We do not know how long our special cat friends will be with us. Once they reach their senior years, the time we have left with them grows shorter and shorter. Because of this, the relationship we have with them becomes even more precious. We need to ensure that our cat is in top shape once it reaches its golden years, so we can enjoy its presence for as long as possible.


While odd senior cat behavior is temporarily treatable, we can never resolve the problem for good. The best thing we can do is to keep our cat physically and mentally active throughout its life. That way, we will help our beloved pet stay connected to the world and to us even in its last days.


I hope you enjoyed my article on odd senior cat behavior. For more interesting articles related to cats, make sure you check out the rest of my blog. See you at the next one!

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