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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 10389
Experience:  I have loved and owned cats for over 45 years.
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R 16 year old healthy cat has started a new habit of biting

Customer Question

r 16 year old healthy cat has started a new habit of biting the end of her tail, chasing it and at nite a series of long harsh meows. Any ideas or is it just old GE, THANK YOU
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Strange behavior is often perplexing. I'm sure the Veterinarian can help you. What is the cat's name?
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about PATCHES?
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 11 months ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Deb and will do my best to help you today.

I'm sorry for this concern for Patches. I do have a few additional questions to ask about her first if you don't mind:

How long has she been chasing/biting her tail?

Is this something that she does all the time or is it only intermittently?

Any other symptoms such as acting confused?

Thanks, Deb

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
probably only in the last few weeks it happens only intermittently. sometimes she sits and reaches around and simple softly bites it because she acn reach it.
She did meow at the neighbours door the other day. lost Confused, has kived at this residence for 8 years.
Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 11 months ago.

Thanks for the answers to my questions and the additional information.

Please give me time to type back a response for you. Thanks for your patience. Deb

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 11 months ago.

I'm not certain if both of these problems are related although they could be. They are, however, not necessarily associated with old age.

I'll primarily address the vocalization issue although include a possible explanation for the tail biting/chasing.

1. Cats with senility or dementia will often excessively vocalize; I think it reflects the confusion and/or anxiety that they are experiencing. Many of these cats will experience memory loss, possibly inappropriate elimination, staring off into space or acting like they don't quite know where they are at times. Signs can be intermittent but the condition does tend to progress.

We also recognize "Sundown Syndrome" in these cats since some of them will only vocalize during the nighttime but not as much (if at all) during the day.
Treatment options are limited, unfortunately, but there are a few things which may be of help.
a) Feliway diffusers or a spray which are natural pheromones which can sometimes instill a sense of calm may be helpful. There a similar oral product called Composure Chews. These products are available on the internet or at most pet stores
b) Fish oil supplements such as Welactin may help some cats because of their anti-oxidant properties.
c). Specific cognitive supplements such as Neutricks, SAMe (Novifit) and Senilife may be useful as well as NuCat Senior supplement. They should be available on the internet.

d). Sensory stimulation such as touching, brushing, and massage therapy may also reduce progression of this condition.

2. Cats with hyperthyroid disease will often excessively vocalize. I don't have a good explanation for this (probably secondary to hypertension....see below) but I see it all the time. Blood work would diagnose this problem and there are good treatments for this disease.

3. Cats with arthritis pain or other pain in their bodies will vocalize; perhaps such a condition might explain how she's behaving with her tail. We are also somewhat limited in treating cats with this problem but options to consider would include:
a. Cosequin for Cats which is a joint supplement.
b. Occasional use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Onisor which is licensed for use in cats but can only be given for three days in a row.
There is a drug called Metacam but it is somewhat controversial in veterinary medicine. It's use can cause significant damage to the kidneys and should be used with great caution in older cats.
c. Adequan which is basically a stronger supplement but is an injection and needs to be given by your vet.
d. Fish oil supplements as I mentioned above
e. Pain medication such as Buprenex can be very useful and could be given every day or only on the days that she needs it.

If you think this might be the problem, you could discuss trying drugs for a week or so to determine if there is improvement in the vocalization. Some cats will benefit from acupuncture believe it or not.

4. Cats with hypertension can behave in some odd ways. This is rarely a primary problem in cats but usually secondary to Hyperthyroid Disease (#2 above) or kidney issues or Diabetes. Blood work would help diagnose either one of these conditions.
And blood pressure measurements are routinely done in cats these days and they can be treated for it, similar to a human.

5. She is going deaf. I think these cats meow louder to hear themselves.

6. I always worry about a brain mass when older cats start to behave in odd ways. I only include this to be complete but not to alarm you.

I often suggest that owners give their cats over the counter, human Melatonin which can help some of them sleep at night and thus prevent the vocalization that they're doing. It may also help in patients with Cognitive Dysfunction.

Just be sure to double check the label and avoid those with Xylitol in them. The dose would be 3-12mg about one hour or so before bedtime; I usually start with the lower dose. For some cats, it can take several weeks before improvement is seen. Nature's Bounty is a good manufacturer since what's in the bottle is not necessarily what's on the label.

I hope this helps and provides you with options to consider. Deb

Expert:  Dr. Deb replied 11 months ago.

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?

Dr. Deb