At what age does cognitive decline typically start?


TCS Member
First, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer all of our questions. I've learned a lot from reading the other threads, as I'm sure others have.

My question is this-when does cognitive decline usually start in cats? My family has been lucky to have two cats that lived into their very late teens and early twenties. But, as they grew older, they seemed to go senile in a sense. One of them, Wanda, would have episodes where she would become very forgetfull and disoriented for a period of time, then recover. Although from what I've read cats don't have strokes like humans do, that was the best way our vet could explain what was going on to my Dad.

Dad's cat Pumpkin is now 10 years old. Occasionally, she'll seem to have "vacant" spells, where she seems to be staring off at nothing. I know this is common among all cats, but I know it upsets my Dad. As of her last vet visit, she is healthy and everything is normal (they've started doing yearly comprehensive blood tests because of her age). Is this something he should worry about, and what signs or symptoms should he be looking for?

amy shojai

TCS Member
Young Cat
Hi Christy,

In one of the first studies done on feline cognitive disorder (FCD), they measured cats' behavior in several categories: disorientation, interaction, sleep changes, and litterbox accidents. The survey found that only 3 percent of 11-12 year old cats were positive for more than one of these categories.

As age increased so did the number of cats showing signs. Probably the majority cats who are affected will begin to first show signs between ages 14-16.

Not all these signs are due to FCD. Disorientation, for instance, could be due to dimming eyesight or hearing.

By the way, cats CAN suffer from a stroke (that's the last chapter in the book, COMPLETE CARE FOR YOUR AGING CAT). But the causes are different in cats than in people (cats don't have problems with cholesterol). Stroke in cats is commonly due to high blood pressure caused by kidney failure.

Stroke is harder to diagnose in cats--it takes an MRI and even then may not be visible. Cats usually suffer strokes in the forebrain, are severely affected at first, but then slowly improve and recover more quickly and easily than people do.