As many of you know, I lost my cat Pyewacket this past December. She was 21 years and 7 months old, and had lived a very good life, and was my dear companion. However, the last months of her life became increasingly difficult. As she became an elderly cat, Pyewacket continued to eat well and was quite mobile, could jump onto all her old spots, except the bathroom sink. She gave that up after missing her target one day, and seemed to know it was time to stop that. She began to sleep - very soundly, not even a vacuum cleaner could rouse her - and she slept a lot. She would still go outside and sleep happily in the sun when the weather allowed. I knew her hearing and eyesight were not what they once were, but overall, she was still the Pyewacket I knew and loved. At some point however, her behavior began to change significantly. She would try to get up onto the table to eat our food - something she had never done in her life. She would go in and out of the door to our deck and to our pool over and over again - within minutes. She seemed obsessed with drinking water from our pool, and I was terrified that she would fall in. She no longer enjoyed sunshine naps. Out -of-the-blue I would hear this terrible cry that would go on and on, as if she was in pain. When I would go to her, she would just be sitting somewhere, quiet and looking confused. Her fur started to look very bad, and she was no longer interested in grooming herself. My brushing her fur did not seem to help very much. Sometimes she used her litter box, but most times it would be somewhere around it, or anywhere in the house that she might choose. She tolerated being petted only for short periods, which was very unlike her. The only time she seemed completely like herself was upon waking from a nap when she would look like a young cat stretching, and posturing, and looking up at me happily, and just for a moment, there was my Pye. But it lasted only a moment. I watched after her constantly to keep her safe, and worried every night, as she slept under our bed - she could still easily jump up to sleep on top as she always had, but no longer chose to - that she would die during the night. The night that this finally happened I did not even know. After months of waking up and going to check on her, I didn't wake up. Pyewacket had gone downstairs during the night and had suffered what appeared to be a stroke. In the morning we found her in the kitchen where she had dragged herself to the heated tile floor - a spot she had never once sought out - but I hope that the heat gave her some comfort. Pye couldn't reach me, but she was always a very smart and independent cat, and even in the end, she knew what to do. I only wish I had been there for her.
As these changes were happening to Pye, I did a little research on Alzheimer's in cats, or Feline Dementia as it is also called. The list below outlines some of the behaviors that may be associated with this disease. I thought it might be helpful for those of you struggling with an aging cat. Your veterinarian of course, is the one to consult with if you are worried about what is happening to your cat.
1. Spatial disorientation or confusion - getting trapped in corners or forgetting the location of the litter box.
2. Altered relationships either with their owners or other pets in the household - increased attention seeking or aggression.
3. Increased irritability or anxiety, or decreased response to stimuli.
4. Changes in sleeping patterns.
5. Inappropriate vocalization such as loud crying.
6. Loss of memory, such as forgetting commands or breaking house training by soiling or urinating anywhere in the house.
7. Changes in activity - aimless wandering or pacing, or reduced activity.
8. Lack of interest in food, although some cats actually want more food, and some want "human food", where never previously interested.
9. Decreased grooming. The fur starts to look matted and unhealthy.
10. Confusion about time, such as forgetting that they have just been fed.