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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 December 2006, 01:34 GMT
Feline Alzheimer's found by study
cats - NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
Cats are known to suffer from a form of dementia
Cats can suffer from a feline form of Alzheimer's disease, according to new research by scientists.

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.

The research was carried out at the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Bristol and California.

The shorter lifespan of the cat may make it easier for scientists to uncover how the condition develops.

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.

'Gritty plaques'

Dr Danielle Gunn-Moore, of Edinburgh University, said: "This newly discovered protein is crucial to our understanding of the ageing process in cats.

"We've known for a long time that cats develop dementia, but this study tells us that the cat's neural system is being compromised in a similar fashion to that we see in human Alzheimer's sufferers.

"The gritty plaques had only hinted that might be the case - now we know.

"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."

Experts suggest good diet, mental stimulation and companionship can reduce the risk of dementia in both humans and cats.

The findings of the study have been published in a recent edition of the Journal of Feline Medicine.

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