What's Happening to My Hungry, Loud Senior Cat?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses how senior cats meowing loudly and eating excessively could indicate hyperthyroidism.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM

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Q: My 17-year-old cat got sick last fall and the vet put him on canned food. Now he wants it all the time. I still feed him dry cat food plus canned food at night. My cat will not sleep at night; he continually wants to eat and keeps me up meowing all night long. I also noticed that he urinates on the carpet in the basement. I just don’t know what to do anymore. Our local vet said they didn’t know what was wrong with my senior cat and wants to do exploratory surgery. My cat is too old for that and I don’t want to let them do it. Do you have any suggestions?  

A: It sounds like you have two separate problems. A continually hungry 17-year-old cat who stays up meowing at night may have hyperthyroidism. This glandular disorder occurs when the thyroid gland produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone; it is only seen in older cats. The most common signs of hyperthyroidism in cats are weight loss and excessive appetite. Other signs that you might see include excessive thirst and urination, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity and increased vocalization. Every cat is different in terms of the signs that they manifest. You didn’t say if your cat is showing any of the other signs I’ve described, but his age and the increased appetite and increased vocalization certainly fits. You should have your veterinarian check your senior cat for hyperthyroidism.

As for his urination in the basement, this could be due to a medical problem or a behavioral issue. A urinalysis, urine culture and an X-ray should be performed. A 17-year-old cat is likely to have some kidney impairment, and this can predispose him to urinary tract infections, which could explain the urinating on the carpet.

If is a behavioral issue, your vet can suggest how to make the litterbox more appealing (and visit the CatChannel litterbox section) and how to make the spot he’s going on less appealing. Because the urinating occurs on the basement carpet, perhaps you can restrict his access to the basement. As for surgery, I can’t imagine what type of exploratory surgery your vet is pondering, unless there’s some information you haven’t told me.  In any event, get your cat’s thyroid urinary system evaluated.
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Reader Comments

Brenda    Peoria, AZ

4/27/2013 7:55:02 PM

I am having the same issues. I took Sammy(16) to the Vet hyperthyroidism is the diagnosis. He is on meds 2xs daily.Still cries every 3-4 hours. He now suggest UTI. I appreciate this as it is a second opinion. I do wish I could find the correct stuff to kill the odor though. thanks so much!

Ana    West New York, NY

3/10/2013 7:27:50 AM

If you allow me to say this, I would start by looking for another vet right away. Any vet that wants to do 'exploratory" surgery on a 17 year old cat is simply insane and probably just wants your money and could care less about your senior kitty. I do agree with the hyperthyroidism hypothesis. The urinating in the basement could be as simple as the fact that your cat may travel downstairs as a routine he's had all his life. But now, not only out of confusion but also because it may be difficult or painful to go up all those steps, he just stays down there and does his business because he doesn't want to climb back up or he can't do it on time to reach his litter box. Don't put him in the bathroom! The more confused he is, the more you need to be there to reassure him and guide him.

gg    la, CA

2/6/2012 2:35:08 PM


Linda    Voorhees, NJ

1/27/2012 12:47:07 PM

I too, have a male cat that is old, loud, has urinated where he shouldn't and thinks that he always needs to be fed. Fortunately the vet we see is experienced and was able to diagnosis him quickly so we could set up a program that benefits everyone, especially my big guy! He was diagnosed with feline senility. He probably urinated in the dining room at night because he was confused, meowed often because older cats need more attention and often we think they are hungry. He also used to meow all night. The solution we came up with is as follows; at night when we go to bed he is brought upstairs with us and lays on the bed when he gets up and starts to meow, we put him in the bathroom off our bedroom where he has a litter box, night light, food and a bowl of ice water. But his favorite thing is his big basket with a cushion and blanket in it With all of those things in the bathroom often times we find him tucking himself in anytime of the day or night.
Hope you find this helpful!

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