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Strange cat illness - maybe neurological?

February 8th, 2011, 11:15 AM
My cat Jasper is a 9-year-old, neutered, male, medium-haired, orange and white tabby, whom I always called my "gentle giant". He's quite timid and lives completely indoors except for access to our sundeck. Over the last four months he has lost a lot of weight. He also started prowling around the house crying at night. His appetite continues to be good for wet food, but less so for kibble and he's reluctant to drink water -- he returns to the bowl often, then only stares and sniffs but drinks very little (he always used to have a big drink of water at the same time every day).

I took him to the vet in December for an exam and blood panel, but nothing unusual showed up. It turns out his weight had dropped by nearly 4 pounds, going from 16+ down to 12 1/2. I expected a thyroid problem due to the weight loss but according to the results of blood panel, that was not the case. The vet suggested some changes to his feeding program and to keep an eye on him and check his weight again in a month.

I took my cat to the vet again in January. He had become constipated and also developed a bit of a head tilt. The vet checked his ears and cleaned them, but did not see any signs of infection that could cause the tilt. Twice-daily doses of Lactulose have enabled my cat to have semi-regular bowel movements, but the stool is not normal (still very hard). He also isn't using the litterbox when he has a bowel movement. His weight has thankfully remained stable.

There's definitely something wrong -- my cat is behaving strangley and isn't at all like his old self. He's less restless since we started the Lactulose, so I think he's feeling a bit better, but still far from normal. I'm fearing something nasty like a brain tumor! Does anybody have experience with symptoms like this? It's been a very slow and gradual progression from a beautiful, healthy cat to one that's becoming a thin shadow of his former self.

February 8th, 2011, 11:29 AM
Was the blood panel for the Thyroid check sent out to a lab? Was there a urine check for glucose (diabetes)

Normally there is some abnormality in the blood work to indicate something is wrong when there is cancer present.

How are his teeth?

Dropping kibble from his diet could be the cause of his weight loss and him not drinking so much. When I dropped 99% of kibble from my Jasper's diet, he pretty much stopped drinking water and dropped almost 3 lbs in a couple of months and his poops are now nice and firm :thumbs up. He is much healthier on 99% wet/raw diet.

February 8th, 2011, 11:37 AM
When your vet tested for thyroid did he do a full thyroid test or just a "free T4" as I don't think the "free T4" is very accurate. Check to see that they did a full thyroid panel and if not then I'd get one. Also did they check for diabetes, some diabetics lose weight instead of gaining weight. Did they do a really good exam of his teeth, as teeth can say a lot.

You can add some warm water to his canned for to increase his fluid intake or try one of those pet water fountains, you can get them at Petsmart or even Canadian Tire, they're not to expensive and some prefer them to just a bowl.

Wish I had some more ideas but I do hope he feels better soon.

Just one other thing since the vet couldn't find anything did he at least give him some sort of antibiotic, in the off chance it was some sort of infection/bacteria thing.

OOps I type to slow, sorry to repeat.

February 8th, 2011, 12:39 PM
Just one other thing since the vet couldn't find anything did he at least give him some sort of antibiotic, in the off chance it was some sort of infection/bacteria thing.

Not sure why a vet would treat with antibiotics when there is no indication they are needed. :confused:
The head tilt thing I would be a bit concerned with. Did they check his ears and throat really well for polyps? This is something that normally affect cats much younger than your kitty but it can happen.

February 8th, 2011, 12:50 PM
Thank you for your suggestions and ideas!

I have been mixing water with Jasper's canned food a couple of times a day to give him some extra moisture, and also giving him a bit of water by oral syringe when I notice he's been paying lots of attention to his water bowl but not drinking. I also do the skin pinch test between his shoulder blades every so often to check that he's not too dehydrated.

There was an oral exam done (that was one of the first things that both I and my vet considered). However, there has not been a urine test and I'm not sure about the type of thyroid test that was done but I will find out. Antibiotics were not suggested because there was no indication of an infection anywhere.

We'll be going back to the vet soon if there are no positive changes in the next few days. My vet was concerned that there may be something sinister going on in Jasper's system that didn't show up in the December blood panel (i.e. cancer). I lost a close family member to colon cancer a couple of years ago, and despite a range tests over the preceding months -- blood work, ultrasound, scopes, etc. -- nothing showed up till a blockage formed and emergency surgery was required, so I know sometimes these things aren't obvious. Unfortunately, I expect that's also true in cats.

I'm trying not to be pessimistic though, and I'm looking for every positive thing: his appetite is good, he's grooming himself a little, and he's doing less pacing and howling. The first time he pooped after starting the laxitive treatment, the obvious signs of relief would have been comical if it wasn't such a sad situation. I noticed him purring and kneading his favourite bed and sure enough, I discovered that he'd made a deposit in the litter box! If only the head tilt and constipation could show some signs of improving, I'd be overjoyed. He's such a sweet, gentle cat it's really sad to see him so unwell.

February 18th, 2011, 01:06 PM
My poor Jasper continues to be very ill. The vet has said the head tilt and wobbly gait means it is a vestibular problem but there's no sign of an ear infection or other such issue. He said it could be a disease that's affecting the vestibular nerve (i.e. a brain tumor) but without an MRI there's no way to determine that for sure. If it is a tumor, there's nothing to be done anyway so I'm not going to put my poor guy through any more trauma.

So for now I'm going to keep him comfy and keep feeding him whatever/whenever he would like, and continue with the lactulose. I'm continuing to mix water with his wet food to help keep him hydrated, and also giving him a bit of water by oral syringe. I guess what I'm doing is basically palliative care although as long as he keeps eating and grooming a little I have a spark of hope that things will get better. And at least he's no longer crying at night.

I adopted this cat when he was 3 months old. He never goes outside and he's not prone to eating anything other than his cat food. He's always been a sweet, gentle angel of a cat who has never done anything wrong (unlike his terrible "brother" who's into everything all the time). It's very sad to see him so ill.

Right now he's found a sunbeam on the kitchen floor to sit in. As long as he can have moments of enjoyment like this, we'll continue to persevere.

February 18th, 2011, 01:12 PM
That's all you can do. I don't see the point in a MRI unless you were planning on having brain surgery done on him.

I hope you will have many more months and years with your sweet boy, Jasper :grouphug:

February 18th, 2011, 04:10 PM
catnmouse,was it not for the head-tilt,I would have thought Hyper-Thyroidism,weight-loss,pacing,good appetite boy Rocky had it,went from 16lb's to 12 in no time and later because of cancer to 7lb's:(
I think you are doing the right thing by Jasper,I did not even consider any treatment for my 15yr old,it would not have saved his life,just caused him pain and misery. Good Luck with your Jasper:pray:

February 18th, 2011, 05:30 PM
I'd like to share a picture of my beautiful boy, taken late last summer before the onset of his illness:

And here he is with his brother Rupert, who is 16.

February 18th, 2011, 05:56 PM
Beautiful boys, both of them. :cloud9: I love orange tabbies.
Have you done a urine test yet? How are his kidney and liver? It's good he's eating on his own and maintaining weight. Let's hope. :fingerscr With extra water being put in his food he wouldn't be interested in drinking more from his bowl.
If the doctor suspects vestibular disease I'm assuming it's the central type? There is also the peripheral type that mostly affects the balance and eyes.
Here's an article on both types. Maybe it will help.

February 18th, 2011, 06:49 PM
Thank you for your suggestions. I haven't had another round of blood work done, nor the urine test. I went to my vet's office and spoke at length with him about the symptoms. He did not recommend either option. It's not typical vestibular syndrome -- there was no sudden, dramatic onset. My cat very gradually is losing his balance and coordination. From my observations, I think the reason he isn't drinking is partly because he's not thirsty now that I'm getting fluids into him another way, but also because he can't seem to figure out what to do. He seems to lack the coordination it takes to drink water. Even when he's eating, he seems to forget what he's doing and start to walk away. When I redirect him, he eats some more. His mind is very scrambled and his attention span is pretty much zero.

I am debating another trip to the vet just so I can feel like we covered all the bases. However, I don't want to traumatize my poor cat again if it's hopeless. I trust my vet -- he's cared for my animals for many, many years; he's a good diagnostician and is very caring.

I'm still crossing my fingers that there will be a dramatic turn-around but I'm coming to grips with the idea that it's becoming less and less likely.

February 18th, 2011, 07:31 PM
Your boys are just beautiful, catnmouse. :lovestruck:

February 19th, 2011, 09:40 AM
Your cats are just gorgeous,I am so sorry about Jaspers illness:cry:
Maybe he has trouble drinking,because he has a difficult time bending down.
I had Rockys dishes on a dictionary(for lack of anything else),to make it easier for him to eat and drink..
I :pray:for a miracle for your beautiful boy:fingerscr

February 20th, 2011, 02:29 PM
Jasper is gorgeous...(and so is his brother). I'm so sorry to hear what you're going through. It's so very hard when no one has any idea what it is. I think you're doing the right thing by keeping him happy and content. It almost sounds like Alzheimer's....I have heard of cats getting a form of dementia, but don't know whether it's treatable. All the best to you and Jasper.

February 20th, 2011, 09:00 PM
Beautiful kitties, catnmouse! Sorry to hear that Jasper is ailing. Sounds like he's in good and loving hands, though.

February 23rd, 2011, 11:33 PM
I'm not sure if it's my imagination or wishful thinking, but Jasper appears to be doing a little better. He seems brighter and more interested in food, and is moving around a bit more actively. Whether it's an overall improvement, or just a few good days, or whether it's part of the progression of the suspected problem with his brain, it's hard to tell. All I know is he looks to me like his condition is marginally improved. :)

He has, however, developed an unpleasant habit. He has been pooping in inappropriate places in the house occasionally, something I attributed to his constipation problem (which is, at this time, greatly improved) and his strange mental state. Now, in the last 24 hours, he has started to pee inappropriately as well - something he's never done before, and I'm talking big lakes of pee, not little puddles! Thankfully he's chosen to do it on the linoleum, not the carpeted or hardwood areas. I don't know if it's because he has unpleasant associations with the litter box due to his constipation problems, or whether his brain is too addled for him to remember what he should do, or whether he's developing a urinary infection (although I don't see any signs of it), or what the source of the problem is. I only know that I need to do something! I have, in the past, had a cat that suffered from urinary blockages, and Jasper isn't showing obvious signs of that so I'm ruling it out for now. That said, I will be observing him closely for signs of that sort of problem because I know it's a common reason for inappropriate peeing.

So... for now what I'm planning to do, when I'm not able to directly supervise him, is to confine Jasper to a spare room with food, water and a new litter box, and see if I can't get him back into good toilet habits. I'll let him out when I'm able to supervise him, or when I see that the litter box has been freshly used. Any advice or experience would be appreciated! Am I on the right track?

February 24th, 2011, 06:59 AM
Yes, I think you are on the right track, isolating him from his brother will give you a very good idea of what is going on.

Pooping and peeing outside the litterbox normally means a trip to the vet's office and I, personally, would insist upon a full blood panel and urinalysis. A vet can't tell what is going on with a cat just by looking at it.

Other causes of not using the litterbox is the associating pain with using it or a "scary event" that occurred while he was going to the bathroom.

February 24th, 2011, 07:32 AM
I agree with L4,I would do exactly what you are doing,maybe he associates the whole are where his litter-boxes were,with a bad experience.
Moved into another room and fresh litter,he might very well do his business where he's supposed to.

Having dealt with a cat spraying for many years,there is a possibility your other cat will do the same as Jasper,mine did,but it was spraying(not much better)not peeing puddles.

I am glad he seems to be feeling better:fingerscrhe'll he'll continue to do so.

February 25th, 2011, 12:05 PM
After having a couple of good days, Jasper's condition has continued to be poor so we went back to see our vet today. Once again he did not recommend blood work or urinalysis at this time. Based on the symptoms and slow progression, he is 99% certain that we are dealing with a brain tumor/cancer. However, on the off chance that it's a very slow infection, and I think to help me put my mind at rest, he administered an injection of antibiotics. If there's going to be an improvement, we should see it in the next couple days.

Keeping Jasper confined some of the time has helped address his inappropriate peeing and pooping, but all it has basically done is allow me to keep control of the mess, not modify his habits. He does a lot of restless pacing, some howling, and a lot of sleeping. He does still eat his wet food and groom a bit, but that's the extent of his semi-normal behaviour.

If there's no improvement over the weekend, I think I'm going to be faced with a difficult decision. :(

February 25th, 2011, 02:06 PM
Sorry to hear that Jasper is doing worse,or not improving:(
I don't understand why your vet will not check his blood and urine,but maybe that's not done in Jaspers condition,his howling could indicate pain.
Poor beautiful Jasper and you:grouphug:

March 2nd, 2011, 07:51 PM
Jasper is holding his own. I can't say there's been a marked improvement other than he has been using the new litter box I provided for him :thumbs up, but there's been no visible deterioration either. He's eating a lot and while I know that's not necessarily a good thing, I would certainly like it to be! The head tilt and unsteadiness are still there and he seems quite disoriented much of the time. However he isn't howling or pacing much, and in general he seems comfortable. He sleeps a lot. I'm still clinging to a shred of hope, and as long as he's not suffering we'll keep going like this and see what happens.

My vet said blood work would tell us how Jasper's body systems were functioning, but would not be helpful in terms of diagnosing this kind of neurological problem. I'm abiding by his advice.

March 9th, 2011, 12:23 PM
As a last-ditch effort to give Jasper some comfort, we have started him on steroids. The antibiotic, as expected, had no effect. I'm told the steroids could reduce inflammation and make him feel better; they won't cure him but could give him some comfort and stimulate his appetite. On one hand, I'm feeling like I'm only prolonging the inevitable, but on the other, I want him to feel as well as possible for as long as possible.

This has been a rough few weeks - a emotional roller coaster. I dispair over Jasper and think we've come to the end, and then he gives me some little sign that it's not over yet. I feel like I'm managing his comfort to the best of my ability but keep second-guessing myself. I have never had this kind of experience with a young cat before, only with geriatrics whom we knew were coming to the end of their lives. I guess that's what's making it hard to know when enough is enough.

March 9th, 2011, 12:30 PM
I just went through losing a lovely cat...our hope was to keep trying but it failed.
The only concern we had was pain...we consulted with the vet to find out if he was in any...the answer was no and due to this we tried.
I think this is the most important thing at this point is to ask the vet for their honest open and suggestion.
I am so sorry that you are going through this inner battle. I think most have us have been there and understand.
Strength to you and sweet prayers for you lovely kitty.:grouphug:

March 18th, 2011, 11:25 AM
Jasper has been on steroids for just over a week and I have really mixed feelings about it. The good news is that he's more active and is eating more, and has even resumed eating the dry treats he'd stopped being interested in. However, he is very restless especially during the night and early morning, but also on and off throughout the day. He paces and vocalizes, and paces, and vocalizes, and nothing seems to soothe him. I don't get the impression it's pain related, more like anxiety and/or confusion. The constant meowing at night is making my husband and me crazy, and my other cat Rupert has taken to joining in the nightly "song" like it's some kind of new game (and he's REALLY loud). Of course my vet happens out of town for a week, but I spoke with his locum who told me that cats are normally very tolerant of steroids and that this may simply be the progression of the disease. He did offer two courses of action: one was to increase the amount of fluids Jasper is getting because the steroids may be making him thirsty (which I did right away but it hasn't made any noticeable difference in his behaviour after several days), and the second was to decrease the dosage of the steroids by half, which I have done as of this morning. I needed to do something -- I'm on the verge of losing my mind with all the pacing and meowing, and the next thing will be to lock him up where we can't hear him, which I really don't want to do to the poor guy.

Anybody have any ideas, thoughts or suggestions?

March 23rd, 2011, 09:16 PM

My cat also experience head tilt. It happened after she eats much canned food. What do you feed you cat? I found that after I feed her some food contain corn, which can fix it. I guess it is either due to lack of minerals in the food or lack of suger. Cat need a little suger like human. How about try Science Hill mature adult indoor cat dry food. I give her this and stop canned food, fix head tilt.

March 23rd, 2011, 10:25 PM
Cats need sugar about as much as a 5 year old with ADHD needs sugar.

There were just so many things wrong with that post I can't even address them all properly without my head exploding.

March 23rd, 2011, 11:13 PM
Do canned foods tend to be higher in certain minerals or salt than dry foods?

March 24th, 2011, 09:25 AM
I know it could cause debate in my statement, after view so many grain free education. I tried to feed my cat grain free for some time, her head tilt so I have to stop. Individual cat could be different, you may neglect this post if you do not agree. This is for the cat owner whose cat also has head tilt, if your cat does not have, then do not even look at it. Forget to say not every dry food work. My cat tried dozens of canned food and dry food, currently for more than half a year, symptom free. No urine issue and drink lots of water. I control the amount of food with the grain though, and mix with some grain free food.

People advocate canned food, but forget to say canned food has to use preservative to keep it, the preservative is not good stuff, and most cat do not eat raw food. When my cat had urine issue, I used only canned food for some time.

After I read several cat book, and deal with several vets for my cat. still, have to find the way for own cat.

March 24th, 2011, 11:07 AM
People advocate canned food, but forget to say canned food has to use preservative to keep it, the preservative is not good stuff, .

You've got that backwards, actually. Kibble has preservatives, canned doesn't.

After I read several cat book, and deal with several vets for my cat.

Just curious, which "cat books" have you read so I can go check them out?

March 24th, 2011, 11:20 AM
From a FACTUAL standpoint and having previously owned and cared for a headtilt animal and have seen a few while working as a veterinary technician, headtilt hardly has anything to do with "sugar" intake. Headtilt is a neurological problem caused by trauma, infections, fevers, earmites, etc.

People advocate canned food, but forget to say canned food has to use preservative to keep it, the preservative is not good stuff

Depending on what BRAND you are using depends on the preservatives. My cats canned foods have no preservatives. Dry food NEEDS preservatives to hold the shelf life. When a food is canned you often don't need any preservatives because the canning process leaves it vacuum sealed. Perhaps you should read into how canning foods works, one of the many wonderful inventions of the late 1800's. Also the good brands of canned food do not contain BPA in the linings, which I doubt Hill's would care about.

most cat do not eat raw food

Actually, many cats really do enjoy raw food when given to them. Maybe YOUR particular cat didn't, but I know of many many people who use raw foods for their cats, and of the ones that I know that try raw food for their cats, I would say 80-90% of cats enjoy it.

I don't use grain free dry food for my cats but I certainly wouldn't want them eating a bunch of garbage like ground up corn and everything.

I guess it is either due to lack of minerals in the food

ALL pet foods marketed as complete and balanced require the SAME levels of vitamins and minerals, dry or canned.

Cat need a little suger like human
Ever hear of this disease called "diabetes"? Sure, most animals need to keep adequate blood sugar levels, but maybe you should read into how this works. Cats don't need sugar like you would need a candy bar for sugar. Cats glucose levels work DIFFERENTLY than people. I've taken care of diabetic pets in the past, and when their bloodsugar is low you don't go over and say Here kitty have a Snickers bar! No, you just feed them their regular food which is a low grain food as to not send their levels out of whack by feeding them something that is totally species inappropriate.

Here is your cats food

Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Animal Fat (preserved mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Powdered Cellulose, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Mill Run, Soybean Oil, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin E Supplement, Iodized Salt, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, V

1. Random chicken bits.. yeah that sounds nutritious. Corn gluten meal, a byproduct of the corn industry, totally inappropriate for cats that NEED meat. Brewers rice, a cheap byproduct of the beet industry.. totally inappropriate for a carnivore... more corn, that's a good way to wreck your cats insides. Animal fat? What kind of animal are we talking here? Roadkill? Euthanized cats and dogs from shelters? OH and look, preservatives... Cellulose is a cheap form of fiber. Chicken liver flavor? Who knows what that could actually be, probably a bunch of chemicals to make your cat addicted to the food. Soybean byproducts.. more junk that a cat shouldn't be eating. More soybeans, a cheap form of oil and a high allergen.

Then just a bunch of boring vitamins.. nothing special. If anything it seems like this food is LACKING some good vitamins and minerals like Omega fatty acids.

March 24th, 2011, 02:30 PM
My cat also experience head tilt.... How about try Science Hill mature adult indoor cat dry food. I give her this and stop canned food, fix head tilt.

I know it could cause debate in my statement, after view so many grain free education. I tried to feed my cat grain free for some time, her head tilt so I have to stop. Individual cat could be different, you may neglect this post if you do not agree. This is for the cat owner whose cat also has head tilt, if your cat does not have, then do not even look at it. Forget to say not every dry food work.

Well v1356, the truth of the matter is one solution that works for 99 people may not work for #100. If someone else has also been unable to solve the problem with their cat, they may wish to try your suggestion. Your solution is probably more complicated than sugar, but we may never know what it is that makes this food the best one for your cat. Thanks for being brave enough to share even knowing that many would disagree with you.

I do not have a cat with head tilt, but I read threads sometimes just for interest and curiosity and I enjoy learning new things and reading different people's opinions.

March 24th, 2011, 09:47 PM
Anyhow, we are all cat lovers, try to do the best for them. My cat is 9 and half years old female persian. A good vet suggests raw food is the best, and canned has preservative in it. You just need to find the best way for your own cat then. My experience is quite limited though, reply to this post is that his cat had similar symptom as my cat, may be the head tilt for same or different reasons, just want to help the head tilted cat.

Thanks for sharing.

March 25th, 2011, 04:17 PM
catnmouse - this is my first post on this forum. I am so sorry to hear about all your heartache over Jasper. I opened your thread because it sounded similar to the condition my cat is in, however I think they are different after all.. (I think my cat has idiopathic vestibular disease)

For Jasper, to me it sounds like Central Vestibular Disease, which is likely what you have already found out anyway (ie related to nerve function impaired in the brain). Unfortunately it is a serious condition.

I hope that you can come to a decision one way or the other, but it sounds like you have done all you can keeping in mind his quality of life.

April 2nd, 2011, 02:40 PM
My sweet Jasper left this world on Thursday, with the kind and gentle assistance of our vet and with me by his side. The struggle with Jasper's illness became too difficult, and although it was a terrible decision to make, I knew it was time. As sad as I feel, I am at peace with my decision. It was the kindest thing I could do for him. It became very difficult to keep him comfortable and obvious that there would be no recovery. He was the most gentle cat I have ever known and I will always miss him.

April 2nd, 2011, 04:02 PM
I'm so sorry for your loss, canmouse. It's never easy to let them go, but we all come to that time when we have to give them that last gift. :grouphug: He knows he's loved and he'll be in your heart forever.

:candle: Jasper

April 2nd, 2011, 04:05 PM
catnmouse,I am so very sorry for your loss of Jasper,but try to take comfort in the fact he's at peace now,no more pain.
Maybe he'll meet my Rocky at the Bridge.
:rip:sweet boy,Jasper:candle: