Inappropriate Mentation in Cats

Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Cat Reflection
Cyndi Monaghan / Getty Images

Cats exhibit quirky behavior at times, but owners who know their cats' habits will easily recognize signs of inappropriate mentation. If a cat seems unusually confused, disoriented, or uncoordinated, then a visit to the vet is warranted. The cat could be suffering from acute sickness, a neurological disorder, or exposure to an environmental toxin, causing abnormal behavior.

What Is Inappropriate Mentation?

Inappropriate mentation is a broad term that refers to behaviors induced by disrupted cognitive functioning.

Symptoms of Inappropriate Mentation in Cats

Brain "misfiring" can manifest in a variety of abnormal behaviors. Sometimes these issues appear suddenly, caused by an injury or inflammation. Chronic brain disorders may induce gradual changes in behavior that worsen over time, resulting in a compromised quality of life.


  • Difficulty remembering the location of food bowls or litter boxes
  • Unsteady gait
  • Lack of coordination
  • Balance problems
  • Stunted growth (early in life)
  • Disorientation
  • Pacing
  • Confusion
  • Senility (late in life)
  • Anxiety

Cats learn by remembering. But a kitten who suffered a head injury early in life may have damaged the portion of the brain that affects short-term memory. A traumatic brain injury could account for difficulty remembering the location of food bowls or litter boxes. It can also explain an unsteady gait, lack of coordination, and balance problems.

Traumatic injuries can also cause stunted growth. So a new pet that seems to be on the smaller side for its age and breed, or a kitten who fails to grow, may have previously suffered an injury.

Neurological disorders can also cause disorientation, pacing, and confusion just following an episode. And old age can result in senility, presenting as forgetfulness, anxiety, and uncoordinated behavior.

Toyger (Felis silvestris catus), age 6 weeks, with crossed paws
Erich Schmidt / Getty Images

Causes of Inappropriate Mentation

There is much debate over whether or not a cat can have a mental illness. If your cat's behavior seems "off," it could be ill or could have a problem with its nervous system. Possible causes of inappropriate mentation include:

  • Brain injury or infection
  • Environmental toxin exposure
  • Seizure disorders
  • Genetic mutations
  • Tumors
  • Cognitive dysfunction (older cat)
Cat having a blood sample taken by a vet
Gary Ombler / Getty Images

Diagnosing Inappropriate Mentation in Cats

At the vet's office, any potential brain injury is treated as an emergency, especially if it was a result of recent head trauma. In addition to stabilizing your pet, the vet will perform an exam to evaluate your cat's neurological system, including an MRI or CT scan, which will also help rule out inflammatory conditions or tumors.

In the case of environmental toxin exposure or a seizure disorder, blood tests will help determine if there is organ damage (specifically to the kidneys or liver). Blood work will also indicate whether or not there is a metabolic problem causing seizures. Severe seizure cases may require an EEG to measure the electrical activity in your cat's brain.


Any cat that suffers a potential head injury needs to be examined by a veterinarian. A vet will first stabilize the injured kitty using IV fluids and oxygen. However, a full recovery is not always guaranteed.

Cats exposed to environmental toxins are often in danger of dying. Treatment by a vet may include induction of vomiting, charcoal to absorb the toxin from the gut, and IV fluids and medication.

For seizure disorders, a vet will prescribe medications to control the seizures.

There is currently no cure for feline dementia or senility. Maintaining a good routine, providing options for exercise, and feeding your cat high-quality food will help treat further decline. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids, SAMe, and melatonin may improve brain function in older cats.

Prognosis for Cats with Inappropriate Mentation

The prognosis for cats with brain disorders varies according to the type and severity of the malfunction.

After a brain injury, your cat may act differently, lose its coordination, or exhibit a personality change. If this happens, the best you can do is provide a loving and supporting environment, reduce stressors, and eliminate unpredictable events as much as possible. Observe your cat's limitations and provide a lifestyle that works within them.

Acute illnesses, inflammation, tumors, or toxins can be life-threatening and their prognoses depend on treatment options. Seizure disorders are often manageable with lifelong medication. Senility is incurable, but some senior cats can maintain a good quality of life with supportive care.

How to Prevent Inappropriate Mentation

While there is little you can do to prevent brain injury, seizure disorders, or senility, you can help support proper brain health in your cat's developmental years. Early nutrition greatly influences kitten development, so feed your kitten high-quality food. Also, provide your kitten opportunities to exercise and sharpen its skills to create greater coordination down the road.

Also, restrict your cat's access to household toxins such as rat poison, cleaners, fertilizers, poisonous garden plants, or pesticides.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.
Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Diagnosing Behavior Problems in Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.

  2. Nervous System Disorders and Effects of Injuries in Cats. Merck Veterinary Manual.

  3. Cognitive Dysfunction. Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

  4. Neurological Disorders. Feline Health Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.