By Grace Park
Published: 11/12/2020, edited: 11/19/2021
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Cats are pretty cool companions. Despite their periodic nocturnal ramblings and the occasional appearance of a hairball where you least expect it, there is definitely something to be said for having a cat.
Our furry felines offer us so much, after all. They comfort us with their purring, and their cuddle factor is pretty compelling.
A cat becomes part of the family almost the minute they arrive in our home. They have no qualms about just being themselves and display their distinctive personality in such cute ways.
But if you see your cat acting in a way that is unusual and it causes you concern, monitor their behavior. Consult the veterinarian if things continue more than a day or so.
A cat acting weird or confused may point to a health issue or condition, or it could be a sign of a cognitive issue. Let’s take a look at the reasons why your cat is spacey.
Signs your cat is spacey
There may be indications that your feline four-legger is not quite up to snuff cognitively:
Your kitty stares off into space and doesn’t acknowledge your presence the same way they used to
Your cat may wander the house at night, vocalizing more than normal
Your once house trained cat now misses the litter box, or even worse, now uses the bathroom at random places in the house
Your cat seems agitated
Your cat sleeps even more than they did before
Illness can cause personality changes in your cat
Cats are pretty good at masking things when they are sick. Signs may be subtle, like shedding more than usual and a change in appetite. You may not notice these differences unless your cat is shedding in excess or is visibly losing weight.
Other signs of an illness can be:
Changes in breathing pattern
Discharge from the nose or eyes
Sitting in a hunched position
Carrying their tail low
Becoming more withdrawn
Becoming more clingy
Changes in activity level
If you feel your kitty is ill, a visit to the veterinarian may be all that is needed. A course of antibiotics or medication for an undiagnosed condition could be the solution to turn your cat back around to wellness.
Remember, aging in general may be the reason for the change of behavior. Normal aging processes like arthritis can cause discomfort that leads to pain. Supplements to ease lameness can be another option to treat a cat who appears spacey.
It may be Feline Cognitive Dysfunction
But if the vet does not find a physical reason for your cat’s spacey behavior, it may be time to consider feline cognitive dysfunction.
Cats with feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD) are usually between the ages of 11 and 20. More cases are diagnosed in cats in the older age range, of course, which is when other senses may weaken as well. Hearing, sight, and general awareness can be present in older cats and FCD only compounds the confusion.
Why diagnose the problem?
Cats who suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction may be experiencing anxiety. This can change how they interact with you and with other pets in the home they previously were best buddies with.
Diagnosing FCD can make pet parents aware of the need to be more patient and to also be understanding that the behavior is caused by more than just aging. Your vet can advise on steps to take to assure your cat they are valued and loved just as much as ever.
Help to maintain your cat’s quality of life
What can you do to help your spacey cat? Your veterinarian is the best person to determine what can be done.
#1. Medicinal treatments
Although most often used in canines, some medications are being assessed for cats. Anti-anxiety drugs can ease the emotional discomfort a spacey cat feels as well.
#2. Environmental changes
If your cat is falling on the stairs due to spatial problems, consider removing their access to that area to prevent injury. If your cat’s favorite place to nap is upstairs, assist them by carrying them or supervising as they climb the stairs.
You can also encourage your kitty to stay on the main level of the home by creating a cat haven—a space with a new comfy bed that is impossible to resist.
#3. Litter box help
If your once fastidious cat is having accidents throughout the house, add a few litter boxes in additional rooms. Keep the original litter box in its usual place while adding more boxes in obvious locations. Make sure the litter boxes are easy to enter and have low sides.
#4. Soothe them to sleep
A cat with feline cognitive dysfunction may roam and vocalize a fair bit at night. This can be hard to take when you need to get your own sleep. Engage your cat during the day with attention and playtime. Buy a new toy and set aside time for your cat to have some fun with you.
Even if your cat is in the middle of a nap, gently wake them and increase their activity. Do this a few times a day. When it is bedtime, settle your kitty down for the night and make use of a pheromone diffuser in the room where your cat usually sleeps. Pheromones have a calming quality that just may help your furry companion get a good night’s sleep.
#5. Appetite help
Feeding your cat a high-quality diet high in vitamin E, omega 3’s, and antioxidants may help them as they age. Try giving your cat their food on a schedule. Establishing a routine often gives a cat a sense of security. If you think your cat would benefit, place some of their meal in an interactive toy for mental stimulation. Then feed the balance in their bowl as usual.
#6. No new friends
You may be considering adding to your pet family, but if you are, now is not the best time. A cat that is feeling spacey and out of sorts will not always take well to a second cat or a dog. Hold off, and adopt a cat in need once your treasured pet has crossed the rainbow bridge.