Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My cat Maddie will not stop meowing. She is about 14 years old and she has never had this problem. She will whine very loudly at night almost like she is trapped. When I go downstairs, she is fine and follows me to my bed. I just moved a month or so ago and she seemed fine with it the first two weeks. It seems like she is having dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Siouxsie: Before we answer your letter, Nathan, we want to introduce you to our new sister, Chrysanthemum. She’s still getting used to her new home, so she’s not quite ready to start answering letters yet, but we know she’ll be joining us and dispensing her wisdom soon. *purrrr*
Thomas: Now, on to your question. There are quite a few reasons why an older cat might suddenly start carrying on in this way.
Siouxsie: If this had started right after your move, we might have attributed it to the stress, but you said she was fine for the first couple of weeks.
Thomas: This leads us to be concerned that your Maddie might be having health issues.
Siouxsie: There are a number of health problems commonly seen in elderkitties that can cause excessive vocalization. And although one of those conditions is cognitive dysfunction syndrome (a.k.a. “kitty Alzheimer’s), we’re a bit concerned about hyperthyroidism, too.
Thomas: One of the primary symptoms of hyperthyroidism is the sudden onset of excessive meowing. Hyperthyroid cats also start losing weight and may have other behavior changes.
Siouxsie: Pain can also cause excessive vocalization.
Thomas: Given that there can often be an underlying medical cause for this alarming change in behavior, we’d strongly recommend that you take Maddie to the vet for a complete physical exam, including a blood test that will measure her thyroid, kidney and liver function, as well as her blood glucose level.
Siouxsie: If Maddie’s bloodwork comes back with no signs of physical disease, your vet can help you work with her to ease the anxiety caused by possible cognitive dysfunction.
Thomas: There are behavior modification tools you can use — including our favorite, sleeping in Mama’s room — and if that doesn’t work, medications are also available.
Siouxsie: Remember that as cats get older, their needs change. It’s wonderful that your cat has reached this graceful, wise age and that you’ve obviously taken good care of her in order to get her there. I’m 16, so I know a little bit about those age-related changes.
Thomas: Sometimes Siouxsie even calls out in the middle of the night, like she’s lost or something. Then Mama says, “It’s okay, sweetie,” and she comes into the bedroom and joins us on the bed.
Siouxsie: Thanks a lot, Thomas! I totally needed you to tell the whole world that sometimes I get a bit forgetful.
Thomas: Oh, come on. It’s all right. After all, who’s the Top Cat and Queen Of All Eastern Cats? You!
Thomas: Anyhow, we hope this helps and that your kitty comes back from the vet with all signs normal. But remember, even if your cat does have hyperthyroidism or some other condition, there are ways to manage those illnesses and give your feline friend a good quality of life for a long time.