At some point, a cat owner is bound to wonder “why is my elderly cat yowling at night?” But even if your old cat gets the best care, they can become very restless at night, vocalizing at all hours and waking the family.
However, this yowling behavior is prevalent in aging cats. From shifting sleep habits to disorientation and vocalization, older felines exhibit many symptoms that researchers believe is very similar to dementia. If your elderly cat has started yowling at night, then you’ll need to learn what you can do to cope with this unwanted behavior.
Cats, just like people, need more care and attention as they grow older. And just like people, their behaviors, activity level, mobility, and appetite will also change. Older cats are more susceptible to illness and often deal with a decrease in activity, appetite, and mobility.
While yowling and other certain types of behavioral changes may seem like a normal part of aging to pet owners, there are some critical red flags you should be aware of to ensure you’re providing your pet with the best care possible.
It’s also important to learn what signs and symptoms to look for that can indicate your cat needs to see their vet.
Why Do Cats Yowl?
While it may seem pointless or even random, older cats will yowl at night for many reasons, some of which aren’t age-related.
Your cat may be anxious or frustrated, or they may be lonely and seeking attention. If your cat isn’t fixed, he or she can become very vocal during heat cycles. Yowling can also indicate an illness, such as hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure.
However, this behavior usually begins as your cat gets older. Cats that are older than eight years of age are considered seniors and they often suffer from many illnesses as they grow older.
The yowling can indicate that they’re in pain or they may have dementia. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is often the cause. This condition, also known as CDS, causes the onset of dementia-like behaviors in both dogs and cats, causing pets to feel anxious and confused. The cat’s changes in hearing and vision can also trigger yowling at night.
Older cats often exhibit other signs of confusion, such as going back to their empty food dish right after they have eaten, forgetting that they’ve just cleaned their plate.
Other causes of yowling include:
- Hypertension: High blood pressure in association with other diseases, or alone, is a common occurrence in aging cats.
- Overactive thyroid: Hyperthyroidism is also common in older cats and can cause excessive vocalization, increased hunger, increased thirst, restlessness, and weight loss.
- CNS disease: It’s also known as central nervous system disease can cause significant changes in behavior such as tremors, seizures, numbness, pain, paralysis, and yowling.
There are many health and general age-related reasons your cat may be more vocal at night. Some point to health issues, while others are specifically behavioral. Knowing whether or not your cat is showing signs of a more severe condition can help you determine whether a vet visit is necessary.
Is My Old Cat Yowling for No Reason?
Getting older is not easy, even for cats. Confusion, changes in mobility, vision, hearing, and even their taste buds will leave any animal feeling disoriented, scared, and insecure.
In some cases, pinpointing what’s causing your cat to be more vocal at night is simple, while for other felines, especially those who are normally ambivalent to their humans, it can be more difficult to find the cause.
A cat can be distressed at being separated from family members during the night and may want attention. If the feline has a hard time hearing, they may yowl too loudly, just like a human who has begun to have a hard time hearing and may talk louder than they realize. If the cat’s eyesight is also going, they may be frustrated at trying to walk around the home.
If a cat is otherwise healthy, these symptoms are indicators that your cat is getting old and may suffer from cognitive dysfunction syndrome. The cat will be bothered by the many changes that are taking place in the brain and body, and as cognitive dysfunction syndrome affects their sleep cycle as well, the cat will be left feeling anxious and restless. Instead of sleeping through the night the way they once used to, they may sleep more during the day, aimlessly wandering around the home at night, yowling.
Even if you take your cat to the vet every year for a checkup, if they begin yowling at night, you should take them in for a thorough examination as soon as possible. Elderly cats will go through many physical changes. A checkup can determine if your cat is suffering from an illness such as diabetes or renal failure. A dietary change or medical treatment can help to minimalize nighttime vocalization.
Confused Sleep Pattern
Typically, an aging cat will have trouble sleeping. They may get their days and nights mixed up, so they’ll spend most of the day sleeping, and at night, they’ll prowl around the house.
They can be very confused and disoriented at this time, wondering why the home is dark and everyone is asleep. This will further add to their anxiety and stress and is one of the main reasons, so many elderly cats begin yowling during the night.
Keeping your cat comfortable during the night can also help to reduce anxiety. An elderly cat is not able to efficiently regulate their body temperature, which is why they tend to gravitate toward warmth more and more as they grow older. Make sure your cat’s bed is located in an area of the home that isn’t drafty. If possible, try adding a couple of blankets to the cat’s favorite napping spots around the home.
If your feline’s vision is going, a nightlight may help them to navigate around the home in the dark easily. You can also turn a radio on, setting it at low. The noise can help soothe the cat and will help them not to feel so alone.
Try to keep your home as clutter-free as possible to make it easier for your cat to walk around at night. This can help minimize stress and anxiety.
Other Changes in Elderly Cats
Another common question cat owners have is how to make an elderly cat poop when they’re constipated? That’s right. Your cat will also struggle with urinating and defecating, and this can lead to unwanted yowling during the night.
Many older cats tend to get constipated if they’re not switched to a cat food designed specifically for seniors. Regular cat food has too much protein, which can easily lead to constipation, diarrhea, or bloating.
Peeing and pooping outside of the litter box is another common behavior that’s reported by cat owners. It’s also one of the main issues caused by medical problems including painful urination. Incontinence, urinary tract infections, and increased frequency of urination.
Cats that suffer from arthritis or back pain may have trouble getting in and out of the litter box, which is why many will urinate on or close to the litter box.
A cat that is constipated and suffering from dementia can roam around the home at night, yowling in pain and discomfort and may display inappropriate elimination as a way to show you something is wrong.
Changes in appetite are also common. As cats age, their energy requirements change due to a slower metabolic rate. Around eight or nine years of age, they will require less food since their metabolism and activity level slows down.
However, during the next two years, their energy requirements may skyrocket as they begin to lose muscle mass and need to compensate by eating higher levels of protein. But, a cat’s appetite can also go up and down based on many types of age-related health conditions.
As an example, cats tend to crave more food when they have hyperthyroidism or diabetes.
Some conditions can also cause oral pain and anxiety. Cats can also experience a dip in hunger if they experience a loss of smell. Cats that are experiencing an increase in hunger, combined with dementia, may wander the home at night in search of more food and may begin yowling in an attempt to wake you up to refill their food dish.
If your pet is experiencing a sudden change in appetite, you’ll want to make an appointment with their vet to rule out any health-related conditions before you contribute it to simply growing older.
Old Cat Yowling at Another Cat
As our pets grow old, like people, they go through many changes, and because we love them, we adapt to those changes and continue to care for them, no matter what. But many of us also miss the good old days, when our cats love to chase a string or play with balls, rolling around in the grass or following us around the house adoringly.
So, what do we do once our old cats can no longer play or show us the type of affection they use to? We bring in a new kitten or cat. We don’t do it to spite the old cat or rub it in its face that we’ve replaced them, which is what most aging animals probably think. Instead, we’re adding to our family, and hoping, with a little luck, everyone will get along just fine.
But an older cat is certainly not someone a kitten or an adult cat should mess with. Have you come across your old cat yowling at another cat at night? Are you worried that the situation can escalate into a fight?
If your old cat is struggling to accept the new one, it’s important to give them both some space, far away from each other. If you haven’t set up a special room or spot in the home for your older cat, it’s important that you do so now.
If your old cat still yearns for your affection, then you must make an effort to give equal amounts of attention to both animals, to avoid a jealous rivalry.
As long as the younger pet learns the boundaries, over time, both cats can learn to live together, in a more civil manner. However, if your elderly cat has dementia or health issues and is also struggling with anxiety, you may want to plan on keeping them apart for the long term.
Anxiety and How You Can Help
As a cat’s sensory abilities begin to decline as they age (hearing, vision) they can often become more fearful.
Their trouble hearing and seeing can make them less able to manage threats or predict interactions, making them feel less secure and safe. An older cat will usually have a lower stress threshold. If you feel like your cat has feline dementia, you may notice their anxiety increasing as the home winds down for the night.
Increased aggression is a common sign of anxiety in older cats, and it can take on a variety of forms. This type of increase in aggressiveness can also be brought on by central nervous system illnesses. A cat who is anxious and startles easily can claw at their beloved owner if you do not first make your presence known before picking them up or petting them.
A cat with poor vision may snarl and hiss if he or she unexpectedly comes upon another animal in the home during the night, even though the other animal has been a family member for years.
The cat can also become more territorial, afraid that another animal in their home is after their napping spot or they can even become more possessive of their owner fearing that another animal in the home is stealing attention. It’s not uncommon for pet owners to report that their old cat is yowling at another cat in the home, especially if that cat is younger.
So, what can you do to help? You can make your cat’s area more predictable to help them to feel more secure. Create napping spots around the home and ensure your cat is aware of them. Additionally, before you stoop down to pet your cat, make sure he or she is aware of your presence and take special precautions to avoid surprising your furry friend.
Obvious Signs Your Cat Might Be in Pain
Cats with a diagnosed or undiagnosed condition may have an increased sensitivity to pain and may not like to be handled or picked up the way they used to. This type of pain can significantly increase a cat’s anxiety level. If your cat is anxious and in pain, they can become less tolerant of people touching them in general. Aggressiveness is usually the most common sign of increased pain.
In cases such as these, you must seek medical attention for your pet. Your vet may diagnose a serious condition such as cancer, or they may contribute this increase in pain to arthritis and joint pain.
Whatever the cause, it may be severe enough that your cat needs pain management medication. If a pain is the underlying cause of your cat’s anxiety, managing their pain can make a world of difference and can even stop your cat from yowling at night or another cat or dog in the home.
Pain combined with dementia and a decrease in the senses can be very frightening for an aging animal. As their owner, it’s your responsibility to provide them with a loving home and medical treatment when necessary. This is especially true when it’s obvious an animal is suffering, whether physically or mentally.
Some cat owners may simply write off these behaviors as normal for an aging cat. While some unusual behavior can be expected, there are certain behaviors that are very concerning, especially if your cat has not had a routine exam in years.
Managing anxiety is possible. It can involve medication, more attention, or providing your cat with its own special place to rest.
Many animal behaviorists believe that a cat’s tendency to disguise their pain and discomfort is a type of evolutionary holdover from the days before domestication when an obvious injury or illness made them vulnerable to predators. Visible weakness could also put a cat in danger of being abandoned by their group.
These days, since their domestication, a cat doesn’t have to worry about falling victim to a wild predator. However, they may view other animals in the home as competition for food and water, and other resources. For this reason, many cats, old and young, continue to worry that showing pain can cause them to lose out to another animal, which encourages them to hide their symptoms.
Symptoms of Pain
Cats that are in pain usually display certain behavioral changes that can tip off a pet owner to the fact that something isn’t right. Some common signs that a cat is in pain or sick include:
- Sitting hunched up and still
- Loss of interest in activities, other pets, and people
- Aggression or restless
- Yowling at night
- Excessive meowing
Inappropriate Litter Box Elimination
An elderly cat who’s in pain can also vomit, show a loss of appetite or they can become more clingy than usual.
Cats experiencing chronic pain caused by arthritis may stop jumping onto high perches or climbing.
Any type of abnormal behavior calls for a prompt vet visit. Your vet can help to determine whether their changes are just a basic part of aging for your feline, or if they’re due to pain brought on by an underlying cause. A vet can also help with pain management and may prescribe heat therapy, pain medication, massage, or physical rehabilitation, depending on the cause,
If your cat is overweight, your vet may prescribe a new pet food that can help with weight management. This dietary change will be important to follow, especially if your cat is suffering from joint pain. Certain supplements can help your cat maintain their mobility. However, the vet may recommend therapeutic foods that can help with managing their underlying condition.
If you suspect your cat’s yowling and changes in behavior are due to pain, the last thing you want to do is administer over-the-counter medication. Many medications designed for human use are toxic to felines. Make sure you also speak with your vet regarding any supplements you plan on giving your cat, in order to ensure they’re safe.
A vet can prescribe mood stabilizers that will help a sick cat to cope with pain and anxiety.
Changing Your Cat’s Environment
At home, you may want to consider relocating your pet’s food and water bowls, bed, and litter box, so they’re more accessible.
The litter box should be low and easy to climb in and out of. If you have a litter box with a lid and deep sides, you may need to replace it with a short, open structure. The litter box should be scooped out as frequently as possible to accommodate your pet.
If you have children in the home, discourage them from trying to pick the cat up or playing too rough.
For any pet, the best way to control many issues that accompany aging is a well-balanced diet and annual vet checkups, both of which can go a long way toward preventing your pet from developing a painful condition.
Caring for your aging pet can be as simple as giving them their own space, away from the loud goings-on in the home. A place that’s dark, quiet, and comfortable, and full of familiar smells can be beneficial.
As a pet owner, you want your cat to be healthy and happy during their golden years. Learning to recognize when your cat is anxious or in pain and determining why your cat is yowling at night, can go a long way toward improving their quality of life.