The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > Mundane Pointless Stuff I Must Share (MPSIMS)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 01-24-2008, 03:32 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
Is my cat senile? (serious question, actually)

I'll probably post this a few places, because I want to get a variety of opinions, but here is the scenario:

First, the backstory:
I have a cat who is almost 18 years old, named Ding. She had been losing a lot of weight a few months back--We thought it was because of the injury she had (and then surgery and recovery from that), and not feeling well, but then we realized she was having a hard time eating the hard cat food that we use (we have two other cats, who are much younger, for what it's worth, and we feed them once in the morning with Science Diet dry food). She is missing quite a few of her teeth at this point, and it looked like in addition to maybe being hard to chew, the food would fall out of her mouth before she could swallow it. We tried soaking the food in water to make it softer, but she still had a very hard time just keeping it in her mouth long enough to chew. We tried elevating the food so she wasn't looking down. We tried mixing the food with sour cream (which she loves). We tried chunky wet food (tuna at first) but she had the same problem. Then we tried baby food, which she would eat, though at first she would only eat a spoonful at a time. Once she was eating bigger servings, we started trying various wet cat foods that were not chunky. At first we mixed them with the baby food, but then we weaned her off the baby food and now she eats Science Diet wet food that is a sort of puree texture. She is able to eat this with no problem, and seems to like it. She will follow you into the kitchen and shark around your legs asking to be fed.

Sounds like we solved the problem, right? Well, no...

As I said we have two other cats, and so we have to sort of fend them off while she eats, (sometimes with military force). This isn't usually too hard, as Cory (the one wearing the cape in the link) will usually wait until she is done before approaching the bowl, and Indigo is too damned skittish to try to get her food before she walks away.

Still, sounds like no problem, right? But no...

Here is where the question in the title comes in. She will eat several bites, then we'll notice she's left the bowl and gone to sit in her bed, or by the heater vent or whatever, leaving most of her food in the bowl. So we say "Ding, don't you want more food?" and tap the bowl, and she comes over--all excited, even--and eats some more. Or we will go and put the food next to her wherever she is and she will start eating again. But then a few minutes later we see someone else eating the food and she's wandered off again, but when we show her the food again she wants to eat more.

It's like she forgets that she's eating and wanders off, and then is happily surprised to find that gosh! there's food!

Ideas? We have discussed this with her vet, and in fact he is coming over this weekend* and I'll talk to him about it again, but I'm curious if anyone has had anything similar happen?


*yes, not only does he make housecalls**, but he doesn't charge us. It's awesome having a friend who is a vet. He considers it a fair trade for us having him and his wife*** over for dinner/drinks/Guitar Hero/Rock Band and stuff.

**before anyone gets mad that the cat is wearing a cute pink party dress, let me 'splain: She's wearing it to keep her from pulling out the stitches in her chest. It's a lot less constricting than the bandaging she'd been wearing for months prior to her surgery, and directly after. Cory, on the other hand, we dress up for no reason at all because he really just doesn't mind at all.

***his wife goes to podiatry school with my boyfriend--that's how we know them.

Last edited by OpalCat; 01-24-2008 at 03:37 PM..
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 01-24-2008, 04:29 PM
Scubaqueen Scubaqueen is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
opalcat, you've stumped me.

i'm guessing two things: either a mouth issue or it's related to the surgery somehow. i'm definitely going to want to hear what the vet has to say about this one when i log back in on monday.

good luck!
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 01-24-2008, 04:38 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
Well the first time I talked to the vet about it he said that it may have been loss of appetite due to the infection her paw had developed or due to the antibiotics she was on, but he also looked in her mouth and said that from her gums he could tell that she'd lost a tooth recently (she's lost so many...) and that gum pain might be part of it. But the thing is back then she was still trying to eat the hard food. On the wet food she seems really into it. Eager. Doesn't seem to have any problems eating it, etc. She definitely has an appetite because she'll chase you down and meow until you follow her into the kitchen and feed her. But then she'll "forget" or whatever it is that's going on.

I'll let you know what the vet says.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 01-24-2008, 08:34 PM
Scubaqueen Scubaqueen is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
oh, that's good. my peggy lost a batch of teeth. didn't seem to keep her from eating at all. murphy kept all of his teeth to the bitter end. depends on the animal, i guess.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 01-24-2008, 08:42 PM
kayT kayT is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Austin
Posts: 2,599
My cat will often stop eating and then if I scrape all the food up in a pile he will come eat again and act like I just put new food there...and the vet says he has lost his sense of smell a bit with age and maybe he really thinks the dish is empty when it's not...
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 01-24-2008, 08:54 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
The vet is still coming over this weekend (for dinner) but I talked to him on the phone this evening and discussed it with him. He said he noticed the same behavior over the break when we were out of town for 10 days and he was coming over here every day to feed the kitties and to check on her (she'd had her surgery about a week before we left. He actually took out her sutures while we were out of town) and he thinks that it might be a little bit of senility (or the feline equivalent, whatever that may be called).
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 01-24-2008, 10:14 PM
Zabali_Clawbane Zabali_Clawbane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
You may have to adopt a feeding ritual where you give her a measured amount (ask the vet how much minimum she should get per meal) and work at coaxing her to eat as much as you can for a set amount of time, say half an hour. If she doesn't finish it in a certain "round" put it up for a bit, (Maybe in a tupperware container so it can stay at room temperature and remain tasty smelling?) and try again later until you've got at least the minimum amount into her. Repeat as needed for each meal. She might have gone "grazer" too. Some cats don't eat all of a meal at one sitting, they nibble a bit here and there grazing through the day. This could be a problem for you, since obviously you can't leave her tasty food laying about for the others to gorge on and get fat. So, I think a "feeding ritual" might be the solution. We had to do that with our elderly cat when he was sick a while back, it's time consuming in a way, but it works.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 01-25-2008, 12:51 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
Well, what we currently do is working just fine (tapping the spoon on the dish to catch her attention, calling her name, moving the food closer to her, etc) so I really am not so much looking for advice on what to do so much as wondering why her behavior is what it is.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 01-25-2008, 05:39 AM
Zabali_Clawbane Zabali_Clawbane is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Could be she was a grazer all along, but it's only a problem now because you can't leave the soft food out for the other cats to eat?
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 01-25-2008, 06:00 AM
Sprockets Sprockets is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
It seems to me it's likely that at her age she's just getting vague. I had a cat of 15 years who was kind of dreamy like that. His channel tuner just kept slipping, which is what you seem to be describing.

My cat also had just one tooth left, but he still managed to eat dry food very well. I don't think the toothlessness is the issue, but the general vagueness.

Can your vet give you a concentrated nutritional supplement, maybe in paste form, that you can give her so you know she's getting the nutrients she needs? If you can do that, then anything "extra" she eats is just something nice.

At this age I wouldn't worry about "fixing" her because it doesn't sound to me like she's broken. If she goes off into la-la land every now and then - or even most of the time - it sounds like she's earned it and she's in a loving family and a good place to do that.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 01-25-2008, 09:25 AM
kayT kayT is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: Austin
Posts: 2,599
Sprockets, I sincerely hope that when I get old(er) I get vague just as you described, and that I have somebody like OpalCat to keep me focused on the food. (Tho if the present predicts the future I will not need help focusing on FOOD.)
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 01-25-2008, 03:28 PM
romansperson romansperson is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Posts: 3,338
Sure, it's possible she's getting a bit senile. I had an old dog who would have to be reminded periodically how to use the ramp that went from the ground to the deck in our back yard. He'd go over to the side of it, look confused and then try to scramble up the side instead of starting at the end and walking up. I'd go down the ramp, call him to me and have him follow me up and everything would be fine again for awhile. He'd also get 'lost' in the yard at night sometimes when it was really dark, so I'd just go out with him.

I think as he got older it was harder for him to see and hear, and to remember things. It's happening to me already!
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 01-25-2008, 03:36 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2000
Pepper Mill swears that, as Midnight got older, she started acting senile. She'd go into the kitchen and then stop and look around, as if thinking Now, what did I come in here for? Then she'd go out, without eating or looking at the Cat In The Oven or wheedling for food.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 01-25-2008, 04:04 PM
porcupine porcupine is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
There's definitely a dog version of senility called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
Symptoms
Quote:
Disorientation—wanders aimlessly; appears lost or confused in house or yard; get’s “stuck” in corners or under/behind furniture; stares into space or walls; has difficulty finding the door; stands at hinge side of door; does not recognize familiar people; does not respond to verbal cues or names; appears to forget reason for going outdoors

Interaction with family members—seeks attention less often; less likely to stand for petting; walks away while being petted; less enthusiasm upon greeting; no longer greets family members

Activity and sleep—sleeps more during the day; sleeps less during the night; decrease in purposeful activity; increase in wandering or pacing; barks at night for no reason

Housetraining—Urinates indoors; has accidents indoors soon after being outside; does not ask to go outside
My 13 year old dog has been diagnosed with this, and he does much better on medication: one med that's usually prescribed for doggy-OCD, and steroids to keep him eating (he's pretty much stopped without the steroids; with them, even at very low doses (5 mg every other day) he is a food-obsessed piglet).

Probably pretty safe bet that there's something similar in cats. I did find this list of symptoms, which is damn near identical to the dog version (from a search on 'feline cognitive dysfunction") Cognitive Dysfunction
Syndrome in Cats

Quote:
Disorientation - Appears lost or confused, doesn’t recognize familiar people, places, or other pets in the house

Altered interaction with family - Solicits attention less, has less tolerance for petting

Decreased greeting behavior - No longer greets owners, or shows a less enthusiastic greeting

Change in sleep-wake cycles - Sleeps more overall, but sleeps less at night
Change in activity Demonstrates more aimless activity, such as wandering or pacing.

Loss of housetraining - Urinates or defecates inappropriately; signals less to go outside (dogs), fails to use the litter box consistently (cats)
One of the links I found said something about if the cat stares at the wall for a long period of time, it might have this. Every cat I've ever had stared at the wall for a long period of time. That's what cats do.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 01-25-2008, 05:11 PM
cwthree cwthree is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
OpalCat, we've been wondering the same things about our little old lady (pushing 19, looks disturbingly like Ding, and has a similar name, too). Eighteen / nineteen is pretty old for a cat, and the behavior changes sure remind me of human senility.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 01-25-2008, 05:27 PM
Pullet Pullet is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
OpalCat, while senility is certainly a possibility, you should rule out hyperthyroidism and dental disease first. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats and caused them to lose weight despite a ravenous appetite.

You've mentioned that she's lost teeth already. It could be that what remaining teeth she has are causing her enough discomfort that she is loathe to eat. Dropping food is a classic fist sign of mouth pain in animals.

If you combine an inability to eat effectively with they hyperthyroidism, you get an older cat who is skinny and who is always interested in food, but gives up due to pain after a little bit, leaving food in the dish. If that went on for a while, the low amounts of food would start to make her feel like crap, so she'd go hunker down in her favorite spot after not finishing her meal.

Last edited by Pullet; 01-25-2008 at 05:28 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 01-25-2008, 05:42 PM
TroubleAgain TroubleAgain is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by porcupine
One of the links I found said something about if the cat stares at the wall for a long period of time, it might have this. Every cat I've ever had stared at the wall for a long period of time. That's what cats do.
Well there ya go. That explains the staring at the corner of the kitchen wall. The other cat's just keeping her company!
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 01-25-2008, 07:01 PM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pullet
OpalCat, while senility is certainly a possibility, you should rule out hyperthyroidism and dental disease first. Hyperthyroidism is very common in older cats and caused them to lose weight despite a ravenous appetite.
Yeah we were concerned about that too, and had her thyroid levels checked at the beginning of December, and (thankfully) they came back fine. The vet says that other than the one place where it looked like a recent tooth-loss that her gums looked ok.

porcupine: thanks for the links! Very interesting stuff.

TroubleAgain: except that it's the other two cats, and not her, that do it. I don't think she could jump up onto the counter anymore. I built her a ramp to help her get up onto the sofa. She's not so spry anymore, sadly.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 01-26-2008, 01:43 AM
Rachael Rage Rachael Rage is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
My cat does this now - she asks for food, I put the food down (after cleaning out what she didn't eat before), she eats a couple bites, then goes a couple of steps away and just sits there. I gently move her back to the bowl and she eats a few more bites. Rinse, repeat, until she finally leaves the room. Sometimes she'll eat more, when it's particularly tasty food.

However, it sounds different since your cat eats heartily and only needs to be reminded about the food, not coaxed to eat. It also doesn't sound like your cat is exhibiting any pain reactions or other odd behaviors (weight loss? heaving or burping after eating? lethargy? drinking less water?). So while it probably is not serious (IANA Vet), it is good that the vet is coming over.

Sadly, my kitty has cancer and the explanation (though it really is more of a guess) for her eating habits is that her diseased liver is pressing down on her stomach. So, though she wants food she has some trouble dealing with it once it goes down which makes her hesitant.

I certainly don't want to worry you as it sounds like a different situation for you but I was ignorant in thinking that because her blood work was all clean that she wouldn't have a serious problem. It was only an ultrasound that identified the cancer - even the internist was surprised at the size of the masses, because she doesn't seem that sick.

So the bottom line is that you might want to ask the vet what to look out for and if/when further testing may be warranted. Best of luck to you and kitty!
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 01-26-2008, 10:45 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
Thanks Rachel, that's a good idea.
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 01-26-2008, 11:15 AM
ivylass ivylass is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Have you noticed similar behavior with drinking? Does she "forget" she's thirsty?
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 01-26-2008, 11:56 AM
OpalCat OpalCat is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Posts: 19,294
I haven't noticed, because the water bowl is in the laundry room. In general, though, cats don't sit down for long drinks anyway.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 01-27-2008, 06:58 PM
TroubleAgain TroubleAgain is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by OpalCat
TroubleAgain: except that it's the other two cats, and not her, that do it. I don't think she could jump up onto the counter anymore. I built her a ramp to help her get up onto the sofa. She's not so spry anymore, sadly.
Oh, well, another brilliant theory shot all to hell.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:36 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.