As your cat grows older, it will not just age physically, but mentally as well. You know that keeping your cat active is a good way to keep its body in good shape and to ensure mobility and flexibility in its older years, but what do you need to do in order to keep your pet’s brain healthy and active?
Here we want to give some advice on a few ways you can encourage mental acuity and keep your cat’s brain young to help it have the best, fullest life possible.
Be aware of the signs of an aging brain
Your cat may exhibit symptoms of aging, such as decreased interest in playing, poor motor function, or forgetfulness. That forgetfulness can mean that habits you trained in your cat, like using the litter box, can be forgotten.
WebMD advises that you not treat these issues like irreversible effects of aging but rather as treatable symptoms. A lot of the causes of cognitive dysfunction in cats can be treated. Your cat may not get better as fast as you like, but you can make a difference that will have a lasting effect, and you can start to see improvement fairly quickly.
The process of helping your cat to deal with cognitive dysfunction and brain aging starts by first identifying the signs of these issues. If you notice any behavioral changes in your cat as it ages – they’re not grooming themselves, losing interest in food or being active – you should consider that they may be cognitive dysfunction issues and talk to your veterinarian about treatment.
Keep your cat stimulated
Cats need to stay active and engaged to have healthy brains. If they are allowed to simply lie around and be lazy all the time, then they will become lethargic and their brain will atrophy. If your cat’s heart is not working as hard because it is not staying active, that can have a negative effect on its brain functions, according to Journal of Small Animal Practice.
You can buy toys for your cat to play with and engage them in play using a ball, some yarn or string and other toys that pique your cat’s interest. Daily play is important, as it helps to keep brain issues at bay and ensures that your cat feels continuously stimulated.
Watch your cat’s physique
Cat obesity is a serious issue, and once a cat is overweight, it will have a tough time getting around and finding the motivation to move much. According to VetStreet.com, about 50% of all cats are overweight. That’s an astounding number, and what it means for you and your cat is that your feline friend is very likely to suffer from weight problems. You need to encourage your cat to exert itself, and you can do that by placing treats in places that it would have to climb to, such as up a tree or at the top of a staircase. Ensure your cat gets regular exercise and look into online resources on feline nutrition and how to keep your cat in trim shape, like this one from All About Cats.
Get a younger cat for yours to play with
Your cat needs some motivation to stay active and get its brain working. As it ages, your cat will want to simply become restive and relaxed, and if you introduce a younger cat to the household, then you can stimulate your cat into movement. The older cat will help the younger one hunt and teach it how to behave. It will naturally adopt a parental role that helps it to stay active and challenged. It will be on the lookout for dangers to the younger cat as well. All of that activity is excellent for your cat’s brain. Your cat will be entertained, involved and have something to do all the time.
There may be some introductory time needed, so ease your two cats together to see how they interact with one another before just leaving them alone with each other for long periods.
Make meals more interesting
You may be inadvertently causing your cat’s brain to atrophy. If you just deliver your cat’s food to him or her each mealtime, then you are not encouraging your cat to hunt it out or to engage itself in any way. You can make meals into a kind of treasure hunt, hiding the food in out-of-the-way places and making your cat work for its dinner just a bit. This not only gives your cat some more physical activity, which is very important for aging cats, but it also engages their brain and their hunting instincts. These are aspects of your cat that lose their sharpness over time, and you can help keep them sharp by putting some extra effort into mealtime.
We hope you try some of these methods to give your senior cat a healthier brain. It is important that you work with your cat and make sure it is active and stimulated as he or she ages. You may have to encourage your cat to do things it would not normally do on its own, but you’ll have a happier, longer-lived cat with a better quality of life.
There is hope for cats with brain degeneration. NCBI cites research showing that degenerative disorders could be modified and mental aging reversed to some degree, but pet parents will have to take action and work with their senior cats to get those kinds of positive results.
Emma Williams is a professional writer who enjoys spending her spare time blogging about pet behaviour, pet health and pet lifestyle topics on //wereallaboutpets.com and volunteering for PawMaw, the lost cat register. She has two furry friends of her own.