why does my old cat howl at night
Your aging feline gets the best of care, yet she's crying out more and more, especially at night. After she's repeatedly wakened the whole family, you may wonder, "What's up with that? Is Fluffy is getting senile? " Sadly, geriatric cats do show signs of age-related changes in behavior. From disorientation and shifting sleep habits to that unwelcome yowling, senior felines exhibit symptoms that researchers have likened to dementia or Alzheimer's in humans. If your older feline has just begun her nightly serenades, you'll want to know how to cope with this baffling behavior:
What prompts the loud vocals? A cat may howl at night for reasons that are not age-related. She could simply be responding to frustration or anxiety due to a recent move or other household change. Or she could be bored, eagerly seeking any kind of attention. If your cat is not spayed, she will grow more loudly vocal during heat cycles. Howling can also indicate illness, particularly high blood pressure or hyperthyroism, both of which can be treated with medication. However, this behavior is more likely to start as she ages. Senior cats (those 8 years or older) suffer any number of ills and may be in pain or expressing anxiety by meowing loudly at night. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), the onset of dementia-like behavioral changes in older dogs and cats, makes cats confused or anxious. The fading of a cat's vision or hearing are also possible triggers for nocturnal yowling.
Is it day or night? An older cat may exhibit other signs of confusion, including going back to her empty food bowl soon after eating, apparently forgetting that she's just finished a meal. She may be distressed at being separated from you or other family members at night, when you're busy sleeping and not giving her attention. If her hearing is impaired, she may cry out more loudly, just as a human who cannot hear well will talk louder. If her eyesight is dimming, her frustration at trying to maneuver around her home may cause her to howl. In an otherwise healthy cat, such symptoms are indicators of aging, and signs that she may suffer from CDS. She will be understandably bothered by the changes taking place in her body and brain, as CDS also affects her sleep cycle, leaving her restless and anxious. Instead of sleeping at night, she may slumber more during the day and wander the house crying at night. PP Hi Dr. Neely! I trapped our boy, Pharoah, at a dumpster 17 years ago. He has been indoors since. Though he says hello every time someone speaks to him, and occasionally does a happy, excited cry when we bring home special food for the cats, like baked chicken, he's never been an excessive crier at all. Our vets are baffled by his recent behavior. This past winter, he started a new thing of getting onto the bathroom sink and crying in the middle of the night.
I ran water in the sink for him to drink (though they have bowls of water everywhere), and he was happy. Since he continued this crying at 3 am, I decided to fill the sink up partially with water every night before going to bed. That solved it for several months. However, about 10 days ago, he started crying again. He gets on the sink and cries out very loud, not his normal tone or decibel level. The sink already has water in it, so I've tried numerous other things to calm him. He often reaches for me like he wants to be held, so I will hold him and walk around a while. If I sit down, or lay back down with him, he immediately goes back to the bathroom and resumes crying. I've also tried giving him his favorite special occasion foods like canned food, tuna, strained chicken baby food. He'll eat, then go back to crying. The crying first lasted a half hour. Now it's up to two hours or more. He starts at about 2 or 3 am and finishes around 4 or 5 am. During the day, he wasn't crying at all, though in the last couple of days, he's started crying then as well, but it only lasts 5 or 10 minutes. I spend two hours at night carrying him, talking to him (he went deaf about two years ago, though), massaging his neck and face and belly, feeding him, opening a window for him to sit in and look out, etc. I've also noticed that his ears are often hot, though he has no other fever signs, and his nose is cool and wet.
He had a URI about two months ago, treated with Convenia because of his intolerance to Clindomycin and Amoxicillin. He's had three injections. He's been in to the vet several times in the last couple of years for dentals and one UTI. I'd get mad at him for interrupting our sleep, but I know he's trying to tell me something the only way he knows how. In all other ways (eating, drinking, eliminating, etc. ) he seems fine. Do you have any interpretations? Thank you! Dear Kimber, Night time howling in elderly cats is not uncommon, as you can read from from one of our readers, and can happen for a number of reasons. Cats that are deaf often howl due to the loss of that sense, as do older cats as they become more needy and desire more of your attention and affection. However, because your cat's howling behavior centers around the water in your sink, although you have brought him to the vet recently, I would strongly recommend getting full bloodwork done for your cat. Howling and increased (or different) water intake are often symptoms of feline hyperthyroidism. In the meantime, while you are awaiting a bloodwork appointment with your veterinarian, I would recommend leaving a night light on for your cat. This often helps with night time howling behavior in cats. All the best, Dr. Neely
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