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Feline Cognitive Dysfunction (FCD)


What is Feline Cognitive Dysfunction?  

Feline Cognitive Dysfunction directly affects the ability of the brain, memory, your cat's ability to respond and be aware if it's surroundings. 

It's normally considered an illness in older cats but as with dogs, studies are showing that cats can sadly start developing feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome as early as 6 or 7.77 years. The main question is why both cats and dogs are developing issues with their cognitive behaviour at such early ages and how you as the pet owner can help prevent cognitive dysfunction syndrome in your cat.

How is Feline Cognitive Dysfunction Diagnosed? 
What are the Symptoms of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome? 

"Cats are less studied than dogs, but researchers have seen increased amyloid (protein) deposits in the brain that are associated with cognitive dysfunction and probably effects on memory." It's also thought that a reduction in blood flow to the brain and an increase in free radicals damage are influences in the development of cognitive dysfunction.

To date there is no proper diagnostic test for Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. Any diagnosis relies on information from pet owners about behavioural changes in their cat and by your vet going through a process of elimination for other possible causes for the changes in the cat. Many of the symptoms that present as FCD are similar to other illnesses or diseases in cats such as hyperthyroidism.

In some cases the acronym DISH is used to help diagnosis FCD:

  • Disorientation
  • Interactions
  • Sleep changes
  • House soiling

Cats suffering from cognitive dysfunction may suffer from one or more of the following:

Disorientation. Affected cats may get lost, even in their own home, a general sense of seeming "lost" at home. They may stare fixedly at one spot. They may wander aimlessly or get "stuck" because of an inability to navigate around objects in their path.

Memory Changes. Cats with cognitive dysfunction may stop using the litter box as they may not be able to recall where it's located or in more severe cases remember how to use it. They may be unable to recognise familiar people and/or objects and be unable to recognise their surroundings.

Behaviour Changes. Cognitive dysfunction may result in less interest in interacting with people or other pets. Conversely, some cats may become overly dependent instead, seeking constant contact with their owner. Some cats may stop grooming themselves properly and/or become less active. Others may become restless or irritable. Your cat may have an inability to find it's food bowl, an increase or decrease in appetite, or even an avoidance of his once favourite foods. Vocalisation, especially at night, is not unusual. (can also be a sign of hyperthyroid disease).

Changes in the Sleep-Wake Cycle. Cognitive dysfunction may disrupt the cat's normal sleep patterns. Often, it may seem as though the cycle is reversed, or their sleep may be fitful for affected cats.

Cognitive Dysfunction Treatment and Prevention in Cats 

Similarly to dogs, some of the main triggers for cognitive dysfunction syndrome are:

Poor Diet

As is becoming more evident across all aspects of health both in humans and animals, diet has a huge, if not fundamental role to play, in both short term and long term health. More and more evidence is pointing to the fact that the right kind of nutrition can be its own form of preventative medicine. The wrong kind of nutrition can be the foundation for dis-ease in the body.

Research in humans and dogs has shown that diets enriched with antioxidants and essential fatty acids reduced amyloid (protein) production and improved cognitive function. With the little amount of research out there, these benefits for humans and dogs are presumed to work for cats too.


Science has proven that diet can have huge implications on the whole system of the body. It's known that food can effect anything from a single building block of DNA to large segments of DNA that contain chromosomes.

Poor diets such as processed or cooked food negatively impact gene mutation in your cat or dog. These negative Genotype changes begin to tell the story through the phenotype/the physical characteristics that start to present in your cat or dog such as illness and disease.

Exposure to toxins

The liver is like the pivotal organ in the body, if the liver becomes stagnant or congested with having to fight multiple forms of contamination from poor food choices and environmental toxins it has a negative impact on all the other organs in the body. Some of the first signs the liver is congested or stagnant is through digestive issues. 

The digestive system has the second largest concentration of nervous tissue after the brain and spinal cord and is directly linked to brain function through the vagus nerve, This nerve controls most of the organ function from the neck down into the gut, the overall health of the brain and even moods. When the liver is left congested or stagnant from constant over exposure to toxins and poor diet choices, there are likely to be serious health issues later on with your cat.

Lack of exercise

Cat's are very territorial and instinctive animals and typically separate out their "home space" from their "hunting space". An average intact domesticated cat if given the ability to leave their home environment, typically has a hunting ground of between 2 to 5 miles.

Their home is for eating, sleeping, playing and interaction. Their hunting ground is for finding food. If food is plentiful and available then a cat tends to stay closer to home. If food is scarce then the cat's hunting space expands.

Their home-base is for defending, their territorial space is for marking their space around their home or den, alerting other cats of their territorial space and ultimately, to avoid any direct conflict with other cats that are roaming the same territory. The roaming ground has to give the cat the ability to do high level activity such as running and stalking.

For a cat's physical and emotional well-being and following his natural instinct, it's essential your cat is able to establish territory - both a home-base and a hunting ground, where your cat is allowed to roam. Cats' need an enriched environment for good mental and emotional well-being.

A two year study by the University of Illinois showed that, even highly domesticated cats need to fulfil their natural instinct to run and stalk even if it's for only a small amount of time per day and that an enriched environment helps with nerve stimulation and growth.

In order to help prevent cognitive dysfunction syndrome in cats it's important that your cat has access to raw food, minimal exposure to toxins such as the over use of cleaning products, chemicals to treat your plants and grass, over-vaccination etc. and that he has a proper nest-territory space/enriched environment for his emotional well-being, ideally access to both an indoor and outdoor space.

*It's important to note that changes you see in your cat are "not normal" age related changes in cats. Some of the simple ways to monitor the health of your pet - either your cat or dog, is through their bowel movement. Changes in your cat's poo, frequency, texture etc. are one of the first signs that something is out of balance in your pet's body. Other things to note are if their food and water intake changes. These are really simple first clues that something is going on with the health of your cat. 

What type of supplements could you consider to avoid cognitive dysfunction or help reduce the impact?  

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome has no known cure but you can help your cat through preventative measure.

Nutrients necessary for increased cognitive function include potassium, vitamin D, B1 and B6 and manganese. "A essential amino acid SAM-e has also been studied to help treat cognitive dysfunction in dogs and cats". SAM-e helps with biochemical reactions in the body and has an role in gene expression. It can be found in foods like egg whites and wild caught fish.

"Supplementing the diet with Vitamins E and C and antioxidants such as selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, Vitamin A , flavonoids may be helpful. In addition, l-carnitine and essential fatty acids such as omega 3 fatty acids, click here for a recipes, may also provide some benefit. 

It's also worth exploring acupuncture or acupressure to help with any neurological changes,  the flow or energy in your cat's body, stimulation of blood flow and help alleviate any pain they may have..


Probiotics can help improve cognitive function and ward off dementia, including Alzheimer's. According to a 2017 study in Scientific Reports, the Bifidobacterium breve strain A1 may be of particular use in Alzheimer's treatment. 

Using Alzheimer's disease model mice, the researchers were able to confirm that daily oral administration of B. breve A1 reduced the cognitive dysfunction normally induced by amyloid beta.

One of the mechanisms behind these protective effects was found to be the suppression of amyloid-beta-induced changes in gene expression in the hippocampus. In short, the bacterium had an ameliorating effect on amyloid-beta toxicity.

A 2019 study found that rats given both probiotics and prebiotics performed significantly better on spatial memory tests, and this improvement was attributed to increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Having a good source of pre and probiotics is fundamental to your cat's cognitive function as research has shown that "the progression of cognitive impairment is indeed affected by changes in microbiota induced by probiotics and prebiotics."


Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA ) produced when gut bacteria ferment fibre. It's role is important in helping protect the cells of the colon and prevent inflammation by regulating inflammation levels and contributing to overall immune health. It's important to have healthy levels of butyrate in the gut as it contributes to activating the protein, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and impacts gene expression. Butyrate's overall role is to benefit the brain, immune system and skin.

Butyrate levels are influenced by the microbiota in the gut so it's important for your cat's health that she has balanced microbiomes. Butyrate, is a byproduct of the having the right probiotics. The short chain fatty acid produced by the right bacteria will make a sharper mind. So it is the probiotics you want to have right.. As for how to nourish the gut microbiome, the best way is to make your own fermented vegetable, click here for recipes, which will provide plenty of beneficial bacteria for a fraction of the cost of a supplement and have more long term beneficial effects over synthetic supplements as you want to create an environment in your cat's gut for the healthy bacteria to grow and flourish.

"Nutrition is the basis for many of our tissue biochemical pathways and cycles"  You want to consider supplements that increase circulation and decrease inflammation, such as antioxidants, and supplements that support mitochondria with CoQ10, but you veterinarian will be able to help you choose an appropriate supplement for your cat, if necessary. 

However, if you start with raw food that your cat's digestive system has totally been designed for and ensure good gut and liver health, you'll be on the right path to helping your cat have a healthy life.

NOW, we'd love to hear your feedback so LEAVE A COMMENT and feel free to share this with people you think will love it.

Natural lifestyle, naturally health, naturally thriving!!
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Friday, March 31 2023

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