New research has concluded that cats can suffer from Alzheimer's disease, raising hopes that the discovery could be beneficial for the treatment of human patients.
The study, by scientists at the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Bristol and California, revealed that there is a form of feline Alzheimer's which, because of the shorter life span of cats, could provide insight into the development of the disease.
However, the chief executive of Alzheimer's research charity BRACE, Dr Sian MacGowan, has said that the finding raises concerns about public perceptions of animal research.
"The cat Alzheimer's is interesting. My only worry is that people might think that animals might be tortured for information. We certainly don't support any animal research unless it is required for clinical trials or drug testing," said Dr MacGowan.
"I wouldn't advocate this as a way of doing it, unless the animal dies and is given for research purposes.
"If it highlights the fact that this can happen in animals and it brings more awareness of the fact that it's happening in humans then we are keen to see it publicised."
The research has built on earlier observations that gritty plaques, similar to those found in human Alzheimer's patients, can form on the outside of old cats' brain cells.