Mar 11, 2015

Our Pets Get Dementia Too

By Elaine C Pereira
Alzheimer's Reading Room

No disrespect to anyone affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, but our pets can exhibit dementia changes too.

Our Pets Get Dementia Too | Alzheimer's Reding Room

My wonderful, old lap cat Snoopy started howling about three years ago when he was sixteen. It was a new and obnoxious behavior for him. Irritating. Annoying. Loud. Awful.


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Snoopy had always been a quiet, mellow, lap-loving feline who hogged the warmth in the winter months by sprawling over the heat vent. His obnoxious, seemingly unexplained piercing meows steadily increased until one day I didn’t recognize my own cat.

And then it hit me! This was an all too familiar sense of emotional frustration. I’d had the exact same feeling about my mother years earlier.

As Mom’s once kind and thoughtful personality was hijacked by Alzheimer’s Disease, she morphed into someone I did not recognize. Could my cat have dementia too?

A Google search of “cat howling” led me to several sites all of which said essentially the same thing, cat senility. Translation: Snoopy had dementia too!
“Cats, just like people, can suffer from a form of mental confusion, or cognitive dysfunction, as they age. They become disoriented and often cry plaintively for no apparent reason, especially at night.”

I Will Never Forget | Alzheimer's Reading Room

Alzheimer’s Disease first stole my mother’s short-term memory and judgment. Then it began gnawing away at her reasoning and problem solving skills while simultaneously attacking her vivacious spirit and leaving an agitated woman in its wake. Not satisfied, Alzheimer’s continued its destructive assault finally rendering Mom unable to complete even simple tasks, like getting dressed, until it finally snuffed out her very life in July, 2011.

My grief recovery for Mom’s passing was derailed by the reality that I was going through this journey again. Even though Snoopy was my kitty and not my mom, it was hard to see his personality change adversely as he aged.

Sadly, like my mother, Snoopy steadily deteriorated. He started having litter box confusion. He would go in it but not turn around so the pee dribbled onto the floor (subsequently pet pads were placed under the box). Snoopy’s once fastidious grooming skills faded and I started combing his fur for him. His interest in food waned. Gradually he had difficulty walking, stumbling into walls and sliding on the tile floor. And then he stopped mewing altogether, just as my mother had stopped talking.

He passed away last Thursday. Ugh!

So yes our pets indeed can get Alzheimer’s or at least dementia that is described exactly as Alzheimer’s is defined: degeneration of the brain.

Alzheimer’s is “a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle to old age due to generalized degeneration of the brain.”

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is “a disease that involves the degeneration and loss of nerve cells within the brain of older pets resulting in behavioral changes.”

Donna Solomon, DVM -   Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome: Dementia in Pets

It’s uncanny that the sequence my cat took as he declined was almost identical to that of my mom. She said she always was a “cat person”.

Read more of my mother’s journey in I Will Never Forget. I donate to Alzheimer’s research from each book sold.

*Elaine C. Pereira is the author of I Will Never Forget, an Award-Winning, Best Selling memoir. She donates from each book sold to help support Alzheimer’s research.
The Alzheimer's Reading Room