Maine Coon dementia refers to an aging cat losing its cognitive functioning.
While many owners use the term dementia, most vets use the terms senility or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.
Feline dementia, also known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, is a condition that causes a decline in a cat’s cognitive abilities. Cats with CDS are more likely to get lost or stuck, and they may forget where their food or litter box is. Feline dementia also causes behavioral changes such as irritability or an increase in meowing.
Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in cats can be difficult to understand, but with today’s technology, vets have found some ways you can prevent and treat this condition.
Read on to find out what you can do if your cat has been diagnosed with dementia.
Maine Coon Dementia
The Maine Coon is an incredibly popular cat breed known for its enormous size and long, thick fur.
Maine Coons are famous for being one of the smartest cat breeds out there, and they are often called the dogs of the cat world due to their abilities to learn tricks or even play fetch!
Sadly, even the smartest of cats can experience a decline in their cognitive abilities as they age.
While domestic cats are living longer than ever thanks to advanced research and medical equipment, cats over the age of 10 are more likely to experience age-related health concerns.
So, what is cat dementia?
Dementia in cats, also known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome or CDS, is a condition that causes the brain’s normal functions like memory and spatial relationships to deteriorate.
The progression of dementia is typically slow and worsens gradually as the cat ages.
Unlike humans, who can develop both dementia and Alzheimer’s, cats can only have feline senile dementia, and not Alzheimer’s.
However, many of the symptoms of feline dementia appear similar to symptoms of Alzheimer’s in humans (source 1).
10 Symptoms Of Cat Dementia
Signs of dementia in older cats can be hard to notice at first since the condition tends to advance quite slowly.
If you want to learn how to spot dementia in cats, then here is a list of cat dementia symptoms to keep an eye out for (source 1):
1. Memory Problems
One common symptom of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in cats is trouble with memory.
Your cat may forget where the litter box is, whether or not they have just been fed, or it may forget basic commands or tricks.
This often coincides with temporal distortion, where the affected cat has trouble keeping track of time.
2. Spatial Reasoning Problems
If your cat has dementia, it might be more likely to get stuck in odd places.
Your cat might not remember where they are in the house, or how to get back to the litter box. Surroundings that were once familiar might seem strange or confusing.
It is unfortunately common for senile cats to forget where the litter box is, or even how to use it.
As a result, many cats with dementia begin to have accidents outside of the litter box.
4. Sleep Changes
As your senior cat’s brain changes with age, it might have disrupted sleep patterns.
Some cats with dementia change their sleeping schedule entirely, waking up when they used to be napping and sleeping when they used to spend time playing.
5. Mood And Behavioral Changes
It is not uncommon for cats with dementia to display changes in mood and behavior.
Your cat may be more affectionate towards you or the pets in your household, or it might begin demanding attention more often than usual.
It is also common for cats with dementia to become more irritable and reserved.
If your cat spends a lot of time staring at the walls or the floors, it may be showing signs of dementia.
This is especially true if your cat is silent and less reactive to its surroundings.
7. Appetite Changes
Cats with dementia are more likely to experience a decrease in appetite.
In some cases, though, a cat with CDS might start to eat more than usual, too.
8. Poor Grooming
It is normal for older cats to have a harder time taking care of their coats as they age.
Many older cats suffer from joint problems, making it more difficult to reach every part of their body while grooming.
However, if you have noticed your cat is grooming significantly less, or if your cat has started to develop tangles or mats, it could be a sign of dementia.
Often as dementia progresses in cats, they become more vocal. They are also more likely to vocalize at odd or inappropriate times.
It is also more likely for cats with dementia to begin meowing loudly during the night.
10. Activity Changes
Cats with dementia often play less and show a decrease in activity. However, they may also start moving in ways they have not before.
For example, many cats with dementia might wander aimlessly around the house at odd times of the day, or they may begin pacing as if restless.
Stages Of Cat Dementia
Although dementia is a disease that gets worse over time, there is no set progression.
Dementia usually develops slowly in cats, but the only official stage of dementia recognized by medical professionals is end-stage dementia.
1. Early Dementia
If you want to know what are the first signs of dementia in cats, it is usually related to memory and spatial problems.
Cats who have just begun to develop dementia are likely to forget where they are in the house or have a difficult time finding the litter box.
2. End-Stage Dementia
End-stage dementia in cats refers to when the disease has become so severe that the cat has difficulty:
- Interacting with its environment
- Communicating its emotions
- Moving its own body
At this point, many owners choose to say goodbye via euthanasia, since their cat’s quality of life has been severely reduced (source 1).
How Is Cat Dementia Diagnosed?
If you suspect your cat has dementia, your vet will likely perform a physical examination, first.
If you have reported certain neurological deficits, your vet might want to take an X-ray or other kinds of imaging to rule out underlying medical problems like:
- Maine Coon Epilepsy
- Brain Cancer
Your vet might ask you to fill out a feline cognitive dysfunction checklist, a short screener that includes a list of common behaviors found in cats with dementia.
Your vet will use this in combination with their own assessment of your cat’s cognitive abilities to determine whether or not a dementia diagnosis is appropriate (source 1).
How To Treat Dementia In Cats
If your cat has been diagnosed with dementia, you will probably want to know can cat dementia be treated?
Sadly there is no cure for dementia in either humans or cats, and cat dementia treatment usually focuses on managing symptoms and making your living space more hospitable for your cat.
Here are some of the ways your vet might recommend treating your cat’s dementia:
Many vets recommend adding fatty acids and antioxidants to your cat’s diet to prevent or manage symptoms of dementia.
Your vet might also recommend cat dementia supplements, but make sure you talk with your vet before adding anything to your cat’s diet.
An important way to treat your cat’s dementia is by providing new and exciting experiences.
Even if your cat does not seem as sharp as it once was, the following work wonders for your cat’s mental health:
- Providing new toys
- Taking your cat out for a walk on a harness
- Giving your cat some kind of puzzle or enrichment feeder like a lick mat
It is common for cats with dementia to show decreased interest in play and exercise. However, exercise is so important for both your cat’s brain and body.
Encourage your cat to play with new or familiar toys, and you can even introduce catnip or silvervine to make your cat more interested in play.
Establish A Routine
If you do not already have an established routine with your cat, you should definitely develop one, even if your cat has not been diagnosed with dementia.
Since dementia causes lots of memory and spatial problems, having a schedule will provide a bit more structure to your cat’s life.
The symptoms of dementia can be incredibly distressing for your cat, so some vets prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
This can help your cat feel calmer and safer when it has forgotten where it is or if it is feeling confused (source 1).
How To Care For A Cat With Dementia
Below are the best ways to care for a cat suffering from dementia:
If your cat has been diagnosed with dementia, there are probably a lot of changes you will need to make to your house so it is more accessible.
However, major changes to the layout of your home or your cat’s food and furniture can actually exacerbate symptoms of dementia.
It is a good idea to make changes early on, so your cat has time to get used to it before their dementia progresses.
Keep Supplies Close
If your cat’s food, water, litter box, and favorite napping places are spread throughout the house, your cat will have more difficulty navigating its living space.
Try to keep the litter box near your cat’s:
- Favorite Bed
Raised Food And Water
Getting raised food and water dishes can make it much easier for your cat to eat.
Since cats with dementia are more likely to be over the age of ten, cats with dementia are also more likely to be dealing with:
Raised food and water dishes mean your cat will not have to bend over so far, and might encourage your cat to eat more if its appetite has recently decreased.
If your cat is used to going outside, you will unfortunately have to keep your cat indoors.
While most outdoor cats can wander for a long while and still find their way back home, cats with dementia are much more likely to wander off for good.
Keep your cat indoors to prevent it from getting lost outside.
Easy Access Litter Box
Since it is common for senile cats to have lots of accidents, you may want to remove the top lid of the litter box or get a shallower tray, so it is easier for your cat to get in and out.
You may want to get more litter boxes and place them throughout the house, as well, so your cat can find a place to go more easily.
Furthermore, you should make sure that your cat does not need to climb stairs to access its:
- Litter Box
- Other Essentials
Cats with dementia often have disturbed sleeping patterns and may be more active at night than they once were.
This, combined with memory and spatial problems, makes cats very likely to become lost and confused at night.
Adding nightlights around the house can make it easier for your cat to navigate.
Ramps And Stools
You may want to consider adding ramps, stools, and steps leading to high places like the bed, couch, or windowsill.
Aging cats have a harder time jumping, so many cats with dementia have difficulty reaching their favorite sleeping spots without help.
If you’re interested in learning how high a Maine Coon can usually jump on its own, read this article.
How Long Do Cats Live With Dementia?
If you want to know more about cat dementia prognosis, you are in luck!
While Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome can cause confusion, distress, and changes in your cat’s lifestyle, it does not cause death.
Many cats with dementia can live long lives, provided their owners take steps to accommodate their changing needs.
Sadly, in more severe cases of dementia, some owners choose to euthanize their cats.
In advanced dementia, cats are no longer able to remember where their food or litter boxes are and have a difficult time even interacting with their surroundings.
How To Prevent Cat Dementia
Unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent dementia 100% of the time.
However, research shows that a diet rich in antioxidants combined with lots of physical and mental enrichment decreases a cat’s chances of developing dementia.
Since dementia causes a cat’s cognitive abilities to deteriorate, providing your cat with puzzles and challenges will strengthen those cognitive abilities before your cat becomes senile.
It is also a good idea to bring your cat to the vet often, so your vet is more likely to notice concerning symptoms early on (source 1).
Should A Cat With Dementia Be Put Down?
If you want to know are cats with dementia in pain, you will be happy to learn that feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome does not cause physical pain.
However, it does cause confusion and in some cases extreme fear and distress.
Deciding when to euthanize a cat with dementia comes down to its quality of life.
If medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are not reducing your cat’s distress, or if your cat is unable to feed or relieve itself, then it might be time to say goodbye.
Many cats are able to live for many years with dementia.
If you are able to keep your cat near its food and litter box, it may have little to no trouble caring for itself.
This, combined with accessibility aids like ramps means your cat might be perfectly happy, if a little confused at times.
Overall, euthanasia is an incredibly personal decision, but it is also your responsibility as a cat owner to assess your cat’s quality of life.
If your cat has more bad days than good and spends much of its time crying for food, cannot find it, or is having accidents in its own bed, then euthanasia may be the most humane option.
Maine Coon dementia may sound scary at first, but with proper treatment cats with this condition can live for many long, happy years.
This condition causes a decline in a cat’s cognitive functioning, causing behavioral changes, memory problems, and an increased likelihood of getting stuck or lost.
If your vet suspects your cat may have dementia, they may give you a feline cognitive dysfunction checklist to fill out, which can help with diagnosis.
Once your cat has been diagnosed with dementia, there are many steps you can take to make your home comfortable and accessible for your cat.