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Bad behavior or dementia?

June 22nd, 2011, 12:43 PM
Hello, I'm new here. Posted over in the dog forum, now I've got a question about one of my kitties.

I'm wondering if my cat just has a behavior problem or if she is experiencing cat dementia.

Here is the story, it might be a bit long, so bear with me :)

I still live at home due to economic hardship so this story involves my mom too.

Almost five years ago my mom and I adopted an older cat from a cat adoption agency. We named her Lily and we love her to pieces. For nearly the entire time we have had her, she has been a wonderful cat who never caused any trouble at all. The only thing was that she had food allergies and we didn't know how old she was when we adopted her. We guess she's probably ten years old now or a little older.

Anyway, the problem is this: in the last six months her behavior has become extremely problematic when it comes to food. I give all five cats a generous amount of food daily, enough so that everyone gets enough to eat. For the other four cats, it is plenty. Lily also eats special food that helps her with her allergies.

It seems that these feedings just aren't enough for Lily anymore. Usually, there is plenty of food in the cat bowls over the course of the day. We keep the cat food where Abby (our dog) can't eat it and it worked for four years with no problems at all. Abby doesn't eat the cat food, and the cats don't eat her food. Now, all of a sudden (and it was sudden when it started six months ago) Lily is eating Abby's food, stealing food from our plates, getting into the cuboards and stealing food from there, and just generally eating everything she can get her paws on, even though her food is right in the other room. The only safe place to put food is in the microwave or the stove. When it is nice outside, we'll close the door to our porch (complete with kitty condo and potty :) with her out there so that she can't get into the food while we are eating.

If we are preparing food, she lurks around the kitchen or stands next to us and cries and cries.

The standard correction in our house for bad behavior (for all animals) is a squirt of water. This isn't working with Lily anymore. In extreme situations, I might lightly tap her butt and say "bad kitty." (I don't believe in spanking) For the other four cats, just saying "Bad kitty" in a disappointed tone is enough for them to quit doing whatever was considered "bad." and this used to work with Lily for four years as well, right up until this behavior started.

In addition to the constant eating or trying to get food to eat, she doesn't seem to gain any weight at all. You can see and feel her backbone and her legs are little twigs. She has been skinny the entire time we've had her, but never like this. She is a strictly indoor cat and has regular vet checkups, so she doesn't have a tapeworm or anything of that sort that we can tell. We'll be taking her to the vet in a week or so, but I don't know if the vet will be able to shed any more light on this.

What do you all think could be going on?

June 22nd, 2011, 01:16 PM
I would definitely be looking for a physical cause for these changed behaviours, particularly due to the excessive hunger accompanied by the lack of weight gain. Do the vet checkups include a complete blood panel?

As a cat gets older it is recommended that they get a complete senior's blood panel annually. Explain the symptoms and behaviours to the vet and make sure that the blood work includes a thyroid specific T4 test for thyroid function. Although there may be other physical causes for these symptoms, one possible cause that comes to mind is hyperthyroidism.

Perhaps others will have other suggestions. Do keep us updated on how things are going and the results of the vet visit.:goodvibes:

June 22nd, 2011, 01:22 PM
She is a strictly indoor cat and has regular vet checkups, so she doesn't have a tapeworm or anything of that sort that we can tell. We'll be taking her to the vet in a week or so, but I don't know if the vet will be able to shed any more light on this.

What do you all think could be going on?

When was her last check-up? Did she have a senior blood panel and a urinalysis done?

I'd be taking her to the vet sooner rather than later. Like today or tomorrow. Make sure she gets a full work up. There are a few things that could be going on here (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, IBD) but it's not likely dementia.

What is the special food she eats?

While you're waiting for the vet appointment, you might want to read this link on feline nutrition, and the important role it plays in various common health conditions (like the aforementioned diabetes):

In the meantime, please don't punish her anymore for doing something she clearly can't help. No more squirts with water, no more harsh tones or "tapping" on the bum. She may very well have a medical condition and your only going to add to her stress surrounding her insatiable appetite.

June 22nd, 2011, 03:26 PM
"When was her last check-up? Did she have a senior blood panel and a urinalysis done?"

It's been a few months since her last appointment. I don't know if she had a urinalysis or a senior blood panel done, I will ask my mom when she gets home. If she didn't, I'll be sure to note it in her little book that we need one done.

"What is the special food she eats?"

It is science diet for food allergies.

Most of the time we don't even squirt her with water or tap the bum. And when I say tap, I mean tap. I just wanted to be honest about what type of correction we do use when we use it. I just shoo her away from the food and hide it from her, or let her out on the porch where she can watch the birds for awhile (again with a potty, food, water, and all the amenities) while she is out there.

My mom has to wait until payday (tomorrow) to get Lily to the vet. At first the problem wasn't that bad, but it has been escalating and we know she needs to see the vet.

June 22nd, 2011, 03:36 PM
My mom was able to get Lily into the vet tomorrow! We were going to have to wait but she was able to get the vet to get Lily in sooner.

Thank you for the advice everyone! I'll let you know how Lily is doing. I am very excited to be getting her some help!

BTW the vet said that it was likely hypothyroidism, just as sugarcatmom said.

June 22nd, 2011, 03:37 PM
It is science diet for food allergies.

Ya, I was afraid of that. It's actually a very poor quality food and really doesn't address allergy issues in a way that's healthy for cats. Can actually lead to other health problems (such as diabetes!). Please read that link above, it will really open your eyes regarding what cats should and shouldn't be eating. (hint - dry food is bad, wet food is much better).

What sort of symptoms did Lily have that made the vet think it was food allergies?

June 22nd, 2011, 03:38 PM
My mom was able to get Lily into the vet tomorrow!

Fantastic! Give us an update when you're back. And good luck! :fingerscr

June 22nd, 2011, 03:44 PM
Sounds like HyperThyroidism to me,Rocky behaved almost the same..but I suppose it could be other things,hopefully nothing serious.

June 22nd, 2011, 03:44 PM
Thanks sugarcatmom, you have been wonderful.

The symptoms she had was her hair falling out and throwing up. The science diet did help a bit and it was what our vet recommended, but I will look into other types of food for her.

I should also clarify that I said this has been going on for about six months and that was an estimate with some room to wiggle. It was a gradual process with the food problems until it got to this point and it seemed like suddenly something was really wrong! We love our cats and will do anything to keep them healthy. I never like correcting them in any way, so this is a huge relief to know that she can't help it. Now I feel like such a jerk :(

June 22nd, 2011, 03:47 PM
Awww don't we all live and learn with our kitties:grouphug:

June 22nd, 2011, 03:52 PM
Yeah, Chico2, we do. It's a lot like parenting I'm sure (I don't have any human children lol) and you make mistakes, all you can do is make it better for them in the future.

June 22nd, 2011, 05:21 PM
Now I feel like such a jerk :(

I'm sure Lily doesn't think so! Cats can be amazingly forgiving of our human foibles. It can be hard sometimes to know what's behavioural and what's medical, so I've learned to err on the side of medical. When I was a kid my best friend was a big stray tom cat that followed me home from school one day. A year or so after he came to live with us, he started chowing down on a houseplant that he'd never shown any interest in before. He was constantly trying to eat that plant, and it drove my mom nuts (it was some kind of large ficus that couldn't be moved). She would yell at him every time she saw him doing it. But that didn't stop him, he would just be sneakier about it. Fastforward a couple months - he was diagnosed with feline leukemia and it was discovered that his esophagus was filled with tumors. The obsessive plant-eating was his attempt to "clear his throat". :(

June 22nd, 2011, 06:27 PM
Thank you Sugarcatmom. I love my cats so much I just want what is best for them. Same thing with my dog. I posted about her behavior problem (and I think in this case it is behavioral) on the dog forum, but so far no suggestions. I'm so grateful everyone here on the cat forum responded so promptly. The minute I told my mom about what it could be, she called the vet and pulled the necessary strings!

I'm wondering, could it be that her "food allergies" were actually Hyperthyroidism all along? I say that because I was reading about the symptoms of it and she had those as far back as when we got her, but our vet said it was food allergies, after running some tests. Is it possible she was misdiagnosed?

June 23rd, 2011, 10:06 PM
My mom took Lily to the vet today and she does indeed have hyperthyroidism. I have to pick the medicine up tomorrow morning. Hopefully her condition will improve. My mom and I both feel bad that we didn't recognize this as a health problem and not a behavior problem sooner, but all we can do now is make sure Lily gets better and love her up!

June 23rd, 2011, 10:52 PM
I'm glad you got a diagnosis for the hyperthyroidism. I hope treatment takes care of all her symptoms! :goodvibes:

June 24th, 2011, 07:41 AM
ALC,I am glad you found the cause and can start with the meds,it will probably take a bit to find the right dosage,but all it involves is blood-tests.
If caught early enough,Hyper-T can be kept in check.
Love the pics of all the kitties and the little pup:lovestruck:

June 24th, 2011, 07:48 AM
Just wanted to add,if she is a problem piller..
My Rocky was,but I put his pill in a soupspoon mashed it up and added a bit of his wet food,he licked it up with no problem,then I gave him his dish with food.
That way,I was sure he got his meds.

June 24th, 2011, 11:05 PM
She's taking her pills just fine :) If she starts to disagree with taking them, I will give that a try.

Thank you again so much on behalf of my mom, myself, and especially Lily. If I hadn't been desperate for an answer to this behavior, I wouldn't have joined the forum, and it would have been at least a week before Lily got her medicine or got a diagnosis.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

June 25th, 2011, 12:20 AM
So glad you have an answer now, and Lily is on the way to better health :thumbs up. Pill Pockets are another option if she ever starts objecting to the meds. You can also have it compounded into a transdermal gel that you rub on the inside of her ear. But in the meantime that's great that she's going along with this. I have a cat that gets totally freaked out by any handling of his mouth. I vowed never to force anything down his throat again because it's too traumatic for all of us, so he gets about 8 supplements and meds mixed into his wet food. He's usually pretty good about taking stuff that way, thankfully.