It has long been known cats can suffer from dementia, but the study identified a key protein which can cause mental deterioration, similar to humans.
Scientists already thought cats were susceptible to dementia because previous research identified thick, gritty plaques on the outside of the elderly animals’ brain cells, similar to those found in humans.
Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore, of Edinburgh University, said: “This newly discovered protein is crucial to our understanding of the ageing process in cats.
Thanks to an improved diet and health care cats are living longer. Just as some geriatric diseases in humans became apparent as human lifespan increased–osteoporosis, for one, and there’s thought that menopause is due entirely to the longer human lifespan–as our pets live longer they too will suffer from maladies that were unknown even twenty years ago just because their bodies are lasting longer than nature intended and engineered.
There’s one interesting note in the article (which, I admit, I’ve discovered late as it was published back in December), that “The shorter lifespan of a cat, compared to humans, allows researchers to more rapidly assess the effects of diet, high blood pressure, and prescribed drugs on the course of the disease.” Perhaps if the course of Alzheimer’s can be charted in cats and therapies developed, then there’s hope for human sufferers of the disease. While it pains me to think of a cat suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s reassuring to think that understanding the feline Alzheimer’s can make a difference to humans as well. And considering that the Baby Boomers could be facing the very scourge of Alzheimer’s in the next twenty years, anything that could help slow or stop the mental deterioration of the disease is a good thing.