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Understanding Your Old or Aging Cat

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome has become a well-known syndrome in geriatric dogs. A similar condition is seen in some older cats. Just as in some older people, the older cat may have memory problems, forget behaviors such as how to use the litter box, and lose some awareness of her surroundings. Some cats will pace, sleep less at night, or walk around crying as if they are lost. Disorientation may be evident in up to 40 percent of cats from 16 to 20 years of age.

First, any medical problems that could cause these changes need to be eliminated. If medical causes can be ruled out, the diagnosis is cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

A drug called L-deprenyl (Anipryl) is approved for use in dogs with this condition, but not for cats at this time. L-deprenyl has been used off label in some cats and seems to be beneficial. A release must be signed to use a drug off label. Research is ongoing into other drugs that will increase the action of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, in the hope that they will help older cats with cognitive dysfunction.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"


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