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
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.