Any suggestions on how to get a dementia patient to part with her cat?

Asked by

My 92 year old mother-in-law is now in an assisted living facility. She has been having trouble adjusting to being left alone in her room from time to time. She has obsessed about her cat for several years now...constantly wanting to know where the cat is, wants it brought to her, wants to sleep with it, calls it to come to her all the time...which it doesn't do because it's a cat...wants to hold it all the time, etc. Now she is clutching the poor cat so hard that she is being scratched and the sons are considering moving her to the memory care unit where she is not allowed any pets. We are looking for suggestions on how to ease her into not having her cat with her. What can we tell her so that she will not go to pieces? I understand that something comforting can be said...such as she is sleeping at the other house and you will see her later and then quickly redirect the conversation and/or get up and move...head for ice cream or something. But I'm sure with her dementia she will be asking for the cat over and over again.
Has anyone else had to deal with this and what worked best for you?
Thank you so much.


Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
My 95 1/2 year old client lost her cat in October, when it had to be put to sleep. She also has Dementia. This cat was her LIFE. She went into such a deep depression it looked like she was going to die - literally. She would walk though the house calling "Kitty? Kitty?" - it would break your heart. Eventually I think she really did grasp that Kitty wasn't coming back. But her live-in caregiver got a kitten for them. Now I can see such life in her eyes. She's deighted with this kitten, and it cuddles with her and gives her a real sense of security. Obviously, hugging the cat too closely is a problem. But what if you got an older, elderly companion cat that would just hang with her? Losing a pet can crush their spirit, I believe. You might try a stuffed cat... maybe one of those realistic ones.
It's extremely important to an elderly individual's well-being to have a furry animal close by. Research studies indicate that just the presence of a cat or dog in the same room can lower blood pressure.

If you can't find a boneless cat, then, there's certain dog breeds that'll take just about anything. If that weren't true, there'd be a lot of dead kids in this world. I have a Lacy Cur and although not crazy about kids, she is devoted to my parents. The Lacy Cur was bred to be a ranch hand and Ruby "herds" both of my parents when we're here. She patrols the house and lets me know if either needs help when I'm in the other room.
I am 80 years old and do not have dementia but I am full time caretaker for my 80 year old husband who has late stage Alzheimers. Please let her have her cat. That is all she has right now and if it makes her happy let her have it. She is probably used to a few growls and scratches and will tolerate them. That cat will also adjust to her. I know. I have a cat whom I love dearly and he loves me but like all things we have adjusted.
If she is going to the memory care unit and they have a NO pet policy, kitty is going to have to find a new home. Better sooner than later.

This isn't very kum-ba-ya but can you fib and tell her that one of the grandkids wants a cat for Christmas and that's where kitty went. Take a photo of kitty with a bow or Santa hat (LOL) and frame it for her. So every day kitty is there. Then you or your bros take kitty. And give her a new "realistic" stuffed kitty. A
At my mom's NH there are a couple of ladies who have realistic baby dolls they have with them all the time (these are kinda spooky) and others who have stuffed dogs - they keep them calm and something to focus on. Apparently this is very common as the nursing staff rolls with it. Good Luck!
I agree that it's great for them to have pets AND STILL if she is not allowed a pet in the elder care unit, the cat is not an option. Does this unit have a "pet" for everyone? Some do. Also the social workers there will have seen this before and can give you some advice. Good luck!
Let her have her cat and back off from her meds, especially any meds like cholesterol lowering drugs that cause DEMENTIA.. All prescribed drugs for the elderly are TOXIC. Get a doctor that specializes in alternative care, get her off of her drugs (HBP drugs cause heart failure) and onto good supplements which will improve her over all well being and behavior like Vitamin B Complex, Magnesium Citrate, Ubiquinol, Vitamin C, for starters. Most meds actually cause the body to become extremely deficient in many of these vitamins that might be obtained via food. Good luck.
I have seen those dolls that look like babies that even talk -when my husband was in rehab and they worked well with the residents-some NH have a resident cat and families can bring dogs on leashs into our local NH if she moves into the other unit maybe a teddy bear would be helpful.
get her a stuffed cat that looks just like the one she loves. tell her the cat passed on, but left his buddy to keep her company.
Please let your mother keep her cat if at all possible. Remind her to hug gently - very gently.Get a stuffed animal and help her practice "good hugs" each day. If she can still read, leave a note on the bathroom mirror that reminds her to stick with safe hugs. A pet can make people want to stay with us instead of giving up on life.
I have to agree about getting her a stuffed cat. My mom has two stuffed animals that she believes are her cats. They bring her much comfort. She talks with them, grooms them and asks the caregivers to feed them. No litter box to clean!

Share your answer

Please enter your Answer

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support