Cat Behavior 101,  Cats,  Mondays With Merlin

Senile Cat? Who Me?

If you love cats, sharing makes us purrrr :-)


It’s Monday. I know that. I’m a Siamese cat. Check. My name is Merlin. Check. I’m going to be 18 this year. Check. It’s Mondays with Merlin. I get it. I’m not senile. I even know they have a catchy name for it. FCD or feline cognitive disorder. Common name: senility. Senile, aka kitty Alzheimers or aged, doddering, feeble-minded, old fogey, fuddy duddy, fossil. One word worse than the other.

My mom Layla is concerned that I may have some of the symptoms, like increased vocalization. What do you expect? I’m Siamese, but seriously, if you have a senior or geriatric cat, you should know that FCD affects more than 55% of cats aged 11 to 15 years and more than 80% of cats aged 16 to 20 years. Whoops, that’s a scary stat for me. This another reason older cats need twice yearly vet visits, or in my case, every three or four months. Layla thinks I’m the ideal poster child for aging well. Scroll down for her handy cognitive checklist.

My vet says I’m not too bad yet even though we’ve ticked every box except #1. There can be many physical causes which need to be ruled out before a vet diagnoses FCD. Many of my symptoms are attributed to vision loss from cataracts, but it’s complicated and the truth is: the cause of FCD is unknown.

All of the Cat Wisdom 101 team get vitamins and supplements like essential fatty acids which supports cognitive function. When I really belt it out Siamese style, I like treats like Calming for Cats from Pet Naturals, Feliway (a natural pheromone) sprayed in my favorite sleep spots and/or good cuddle.

An older cats doesn’t mean a boring cat. Enriched play during the day helps or what I prefer, a good sniff and walk with Layla in garden. It perks me up and makes me less noisy at night. It’s important with older kitties to keep human stress levels down and reduce big changes like moving and re-decorating. We like that smelly, old sofa just fine. Just because a cat is old doesn’t mean we don’t notice things. Stop yelling. Breathe. Do yoga. Cats don’t like change and older cats like it less. Getting older can be scary whether you have two legs or four. Be kind.

Layla will be sharing more about FCD in future posts since this is her area of expertise. Thanks to me, one of her teachers! We believe it’s never too late to learn something new. If you have any tips to share about your older kitties, please leave a comment.

This check list is not for diagnosis. Only your veterinarian can diagnose. It is useful to create an awareness or a baseline of what’s normal for your cat before their behavior changes. Cats are experts at hiding symptoms and sometimes changes are subtle.

Feline Cognitive Disorder Check List


  • Litter box issues. Going outside the box, not covering feces, eliminating in human’s bed or other inappropriate places.
  • Sometimes unable to recognize familiar people and family pets.


  • Disoriented in familiar places.
  • Stares into space or spaced out.
  • Wanders about, sometimes in circles.
  • unable to maneuver around obstacles or familiar pieces of furniture.

3)Social Behavior

  • Less interested in petting, more aloof with humans or pet companions.
  • Needs constant attention, overly demanding or needy.

4)Physical activity changes

  • Less interested in playing, exploring or in their environment.
  • Less interest in grooming themselves or pet’s companions.
  • Eats or drinks less or more than usual.

5) Emotional/vocal changes

  • More anxious or irritated.
  • Changes in vocalization. Less often, more often and/or more urgently.

6)Sleep Cycles

  • More nocturnal restlessness.
  • Sleeps more during the day.
  • More vocalization at night.


  • Berry

    It is really a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Oui Oui

    We had one cat who forgot how to use the litter box. What a nightmare it was! Thank goodness she was the only one. Or perhaps she might have been the last cat the mom had.

  • Abby

    This was very interesting and thank you so much for sharing it.
    It also in many ways applies to dogs as well.

  • Kathy Thompson

    It would seem as with humans the more we increase the life span the higher the stats go for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I think that our environmental deterioration and contamination plays a role in all of this as well. I do however think that stimulation,good care and attention play a big role in helping to prevent dementia. I cannot imagine how it is to be you Merlin but I pray for your continued good health until the one who made us all calls you home one last time. All our love and prayers Skeeter and Izzy and Kat >^–^<

  • Cheysuli

    We are surprised at the stats too. We’re wondering if even the most minor stuff is counted? We did have a cat who spent about 6 months with evening vocalizations at about 7 years old and then he stopped. He had no other real issues until about the last week of his life and we knew we were losing him. Georgia of course has severe dementia but she also had a brain tumor. She was great up until about 20 or so when the tumor was diagnosed.

  • Random Felines

    Maestro says: check check check. though he is still good about the litterbox. Mom just wishes there was something that we could do for him. we have some calming treats – may have to try those (Maestro is 17)

  • Bernadette

    I guess I’m with questioning the stats as well. I’ve had 8 cats live past 16 and only seen anything approaching senility in Peaches, but I think that was just her personality, ignoring things she wasn’t interested in.

  • CATachresis

    As Austin is an outdoor hunter/gatherer type, I am well aware that he might not reach old age 🙁 I am hoping his natural caution and being street savvy will allow him to live long and prosper lol Merlin is a good old boy and a credit to you and your care x

  • Ingrid King

    I’m with Sparkle: these stats seem awfully high to me, too. I’d be curious to learn where these numbers come from.

    The quote you used with Merlin’s photo makes me a little sad, because that’s probably exactly what it feels like to cats as they loose cognitive function.

    • boomermuse

      The stats are from a widely circulated 1998 study. Also of interest is the 2007 by study Professor Clive Ballard, the former
      Director of Research for the Alzheimer’s Society who currently conducting a new study.

  • Kathryn

    These are all very good to know. Thanks. PS I love Merlin. Older cats are so adorable. Reminds me of when Emma was 16 to 20. She slowed down. We had 1 baby, then 2. She wasn’t super slow until 18 to 20, when she spent most of her time in a basement cubby. She came out to see me one morning when I put in the laundry. She breathed her last, right in front of me.

  • Sparkle

    I am not so sure about these stats because my human’s two cats before me never showed any FCD symptoms and they lived to be 18 and and 15-1/2 respectively. And her parents had cats that lived well into old age and they didn’t either.

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