Crazy Cats: Can Cats be Mentally Ill?

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Senility in Cats

Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FDS), sometimes called senility, is a frequently confusing disorder that mostly occurs in elderly cats over the age of 15. Litter box problems may be the first sign, followed by aimless wandering, confusion, getting stuck in corners, and an inability to recognize familiar people or family. These behaviors are sometimes medically caused by a waxy protein known as beta amyloid deposits in the brain. It is precisely what causes Alzheimer’s disease in humans. Anxiety, fear, tremors, vocalizing, licking the floor or objects, reversing or disrupting sleep cycles, and changing interaction with family or pets may become evident. Therapy with a medication called Anipryl has been researched by a number of veterinarians; approved for use in canines, researchers have found that it dramatically helps about a third of cats with feline senility. Another third of cats tested showed moderate improvement. The final third showed no improvement. Although it is not a cure, this effectiveness buys back some time with these kitties, and that is a precious thing.

Mental stimulation, puzzle toys, and entertainment such as bird feeders that cats can watch are helpful tools to keep your cat mentally alert. Giving cats places to lounge and climb, hiding treats around the house so they have to “hunt,” and even teaching your cat to walk on a leash for outdoor stimulation can keep their minds limber and healthy. I did that with my first Siamese cat and he loved it.

Trauma in Cats Causing Mental Illness

Remember my cat with the foul mouth? He was thrown out of a car when he was tiny. He suffered grievous injuries and required many sutures but recovered well physically. He is a loving and comical pet, but he spooks easily and his first reaction is hissing. In fact, when he was waking up from anesthetic, he was spitting and hissing, earning him his name: Spitfire. In our clinic, we see mistreated animals frequently, including those that have been attacked by other animals, shot, hit by cars, and caught in car engines. They adapt quite remarkably with proper treatment, but the fear and inability to understand what has happened can take some time and patience to overcome. Medication may be necessary to treat more than just the physical scars.

 

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