According to an upcoming Journal of Small Animal Practice paper, mental disorders associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s, are far more common in pet cats than previously realized. More than half of all cats over age 15 show signs of senility.
This study supports the claim that most, if not all, mammals have the ability to suffer age-related illnesses and conditions normally associated with people.
For cats, a 15-year-old can be compared to an 85-year-old human. A recent study done on humans showed that around half of all 80-year-olds also show signs of dementia.
Danielle Gunn-Moore, head of the Feline Clinic at the University of Edinburgh’s Hospital for Small Animals, explained that the signs of behaviors linked with senility in cats can range from acting disoriented to their social relationships changing.
They may also change sleeping habits, forget commands, pace, wander, act sluggish, and may have “accidents.” Cats may also show signs of behaviors of not being interested in their food, decreased grooming, and being confused.
Some of these symptoms can also be associated with thyroid problems and diabetes. To rule out those possibilities, one of Gunn-Moore’s team members, Kelly Moffat of Arizona’s Mesa Animal Hospital, conducted a study on 154 geriatric cats brought to local vets.
Based on her results, the researchers concluded that 28 percent of pet cats aged 11 to 14 develop at least one brain-linked behavior problem associated with aging. The percentage drastically increases to 50% for cats 15 years or older.
The research team focused on the cats’ brains, and they identified thick plaques on the outside of their brain cells. The plaques had an Alzheimer-like protein that conflicts with messages to and from the brain.
Gunn-Moore said that the protein is significant in understanding a cat’s aging process. This tells us that a cat’s neural system is compromised in a similar way to what Alzheimer’s patients suffer.
Because pets are living longer, these types of diseases and illnesses associated with aging will become more and more common.
Gunn-Moore says that a good diet, mental stimulation and socialization may reduce the risk of dementia in both cats and humans.
“If humans and their cats live in a poor environment with little company and stimulation, they are both at higher risk of dementia,” she said. “However, if the owner plays with the cat, it is good for both human and cat.”
Source: Discovery News