My Senior Cat Meows Loudly

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, shares advice for aging and elderly cats.

Posted: November 12, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: My cat, Bailey, just turned 22 this past Easter! She is a seal point Siamese mix. Bailey still gets around fairly well, and even jumps onto our kitchen counter to get to her food. Aside from some occasional random places we have caught her urinating, she seems to be aging well. For the past several years, however, Bailey has made some incredibly loud meows, mostly at night. She actually wakes me up at night. They sound similar to a cat in heat and seem to becoming more frequent. Do have any idea what the cries are?

A: Increased vocalization is fairly common in senior cats. As pets get older, they will sometimes experience a decline in cognitive function. Changes in memory, learning, perception and awareness are well documented in aging people, and similar changes have been described in aging companion animals.

In dogs and cats, this decline may manifest itself in several ways. Forgetting previously learned behaviors such as housetraining, acquiring new fears and anxieties, changing sleep-wake cycles, acting generally “disoriented” and failing to recognize people, places and other pets are the most common behavior changes described by owners of aging pets.

In my feline practice, I’m often asked to evaluate a senior cat whose only clinical sign seems to be pointless, strident meowing, mostly in the middle of the night. While primary behavior problems may develop in aging cats and dogs, the possibility of a cat's underlying medical condition should first be considered. Hyperthyroidism, a glandular condition in which the thyroid gland produces excessive thyroid hormone, is one possible cause. Diagnosis is usually straightforward, using as simple blood test. In most cases, no medical problem underlies the behavior. Although it’s tempting to call this condition “senility,” a more correct term would be Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Have your cat’s thyroid checked. If it is normal, I’d venture that CDS is the cause. The drug used to treat this in dogs is not approved for use in cats. You can administer other supplements, however, to cats that often cause significant improvement. One of them is called Novifit-S, which is a tablet that is given once daily. Ask your veterinarian about this product.

See more articles by Arnold Plotnick, DVM>>

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CatChannel Editor    Irvine, CA

10/21/2013 11:11:43 AM

George -- Yes, cats have thyroid glands and can suffer from conditions related to them, such as hyper- and hypothyroidism. Thank you for bringing your senior cat to the vet to evaluate his condition. A blood test should show if there is a thyroid problem, but talk to your vet if you feel that test results were inconclusive to diagnose your cat's condition.

george caminati    wheatley heights, NY

10/19/2013 2:07:53 PM

Tigger is a 16yr male tabby,and suffers from all these symptoms sometimes forgetting previously learned behaviors such as housetraining, acquiring new fears and anxieties, changing sleep-wake cycles, acting generally “disoriented” and failing to recognize people, places and his tabby brother skeeter who is doing fine @ 16. Do male cats have thyroid? He had a blood test and the vet said all is normal.

C.    Freeport, IL

10/5/2012 8:00:47 AM

One of my tortoiseshell female cat of 15 years was exhibiting this loud meowing at night, then during the day. I had just put down another aging cat a few months prior, so I thought she was showing her grief, missing her buddy. After taking my tort to the vet, he did tests regarding her thyroid. The results were that the vet stated he had never seen a thyroid level so high in a cat. Just wanted to comment here that the thyroid, aging, and these behaviors are connected, and your article confirmed this. Thanks!

christina    brooklyn, NY

2/25/2011 7:11:40 AM

I have the same problem I have a female cat who came from the outside took her to the vet and they told me that she is around 7 or 8 years old.
she wakes me up at 2am & 3am with her meowing to I am still don't know what to do.
I have a total of 5 cats counting her they are all from my backyard yard where I trap them and bought them to the vet.
I even closed my bed room door but I can still hear her meowing so loud for a hour or so and then she stops meowing.

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