As our knowledge of cat care improves, we are seeing a general increase in the life expectancy of our feline friends. In the USA, there has been a 15% increase in the number of cats over ten years old in the last 20 years. In the United Kingdom, it is currently estimated that there are over 2.5 million “senior” cats, which make up approximately 30% of the pet cat population! This is wonderful, but does mean that we are seeing more cases of diseases typically associated with older age.
As people age they are likely to become a little more forgetful, and perhaps not as ‘sharp’ as in their youth. This can be perfectly normal, but we know that in some people this is severe and associated with disease – in people, we call this dementia.
Sadly, our cats can get a very similar problem, which is called ‘cognitive dysfunction syndrome’ (CDS). CDS can affect all breeds of cat, and typically is seen in cats over 8-10 years old. Very much like our human Alzheimer’s CDS is diagnosed by behavioural changes, as degeneration in the brain leads to loss of learned behaviours and changes in sociability.
CDS is much more common than you might think – a study suggested that 28% of pet cats aged 11 to 14 years develop at least one geriatric-onset behaviour problem that appears to relate to CDS, and this increases to over 50% for cats of 15 years of age or older!
As CDS is degenerative, sadly affected cats are likely to worsen with time, which is known as cognitive decline.