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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Reader Comments

Cathy Colfer    Eugen, OR

7/6/2015 1:10:44 PM

My cat Sarah is 9 yrs old and she is a senoir
and she meows lound and it scare me and worrie
me to the point were I cry myself to sleep
wondering if she will still be with me the next
morning.

cathy colfer    Eugene, OR

7/6/2015 1:05:30 PM

my cat Sarah is 9 yrs old and it worries me
when she meows lound that she is in pain
and I cry myself to sleep at night not
know is she is in pain.

Sheila    Naples, FL

4/7/2015 5:30:37 PM

My 21 year old cat does this too! In the middle of the night several times and it is so loud I am afraid the neighbors might think someone is getting hurt! I took her to the Vet she had an exam and bloodwork and nothing is wrong! I pick her up tomorrow since my Vet is keeping her over night so I can get one good night of rest. She is going to give me some kind of meds to put in her food at night maybe that will help us all sleep!

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.

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