Today, I had to take my foreign car... er, senior cat to the veterinarian for an annual workup, and I got some pretty surprising news.
Eamon has been dealing with arthritis for about 5 years now. He takes supplements every morning, and has a muscle injection two times per week. Every day, he also takes the medication gapapentin for pain. That means I spend a lot of time, every day, trying to keep his pain under control. It's a top-of-mind issue for me, mainly because there are so many details to stay on top of.
And, of course, anytime he has any kind of strange and new behavior, I blame that on the pain. Recently, he's started throwing out a ton of these new behaviors. So off to the vet we went, and mentioned Eamon's:
- Sedation. He's been sleeping for the majority of the day, and he's been sleeping in the middle of the room. That means he's often interfering with the flow of traffic, and he doesn't seem to move when people walk by. My interpretation: Sedation from the drugs.
- Aggression. I've been bitten by Eamon twice. Neither bite broke the skin, but both the nibbles were pretty hard and they came during petting sessions. He's never done anything like this before. My interpretation: Pain from arthritis.
- Short temper. Eamon often initiates play sessions with the other pets. But when they play, he seems to tire of them really quickly, and the play suddenly becomes a fight. My interpretation: Pain from arthritis.
- Forgetfulness. Several times throughout the day, Eamon seems to hear an internal breakfast bell. If I walk through the kitchen, he runs to his breakfast spot, even if he's just finished eating. My interpretation: Side effect of medications.
- Vocalization. Eamon has always liked to sing for his supper. But lately, his cries have been ever more piercing. And he's been starting them earlier and earlier in the day. My interpretation: ??? (if I'm being honest).
At 14 years old, Eamon is right in the pocket for dementia onset, and every single one of the signs I'm seeing could be caused by a decaying mind. The kicker? A true hallmark of dementia is increased hollering in the midnight hour. That's something we've struggled with in the past, but it's not constant. I didn't even think of it until the veterinarian mentioned the issue.
And this is just a tiny sliver of all of the problems impacting Eamon right now. He also seems to have a mass in his mouth (tumor?) that's growing. It's not painful, but it's awfully firm. That smacks of the big C. And, he's lost about a pound of weight within the last year, even though he's been eating the same amount of food this entire time.
This poor guy is dealing with a lot of difficulties, all at once. So his behavior changes might also be due to cancer, a metabolic problem or something else altogether.
So we're talking quality of life. I really HATE that discussion.
In the interim, we're backing off his gabapentin dose and adding in a different pain medication that isn't sedating. We'll monitor and see if some of the sleepies and grouchies and weirdness goes away, and if he isn't painful and limping as a result.
And if that doesn't work?
I don't want to talk about it.
But, I do want to hear from you if your cat has dementia. What sorts of things have you tried to make quality of life better? What worked? Share with me in the comments, won't you?