Why is my elderly cat meowing all the time?

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I have a female silver tabby of 16 years old this year (but have only had her for the last 7-8 years). In the past several months, she has started ‘crying’ meowing for no apparent reason. She has a clean litter tray, fresh water, milk and food. I give her plenty of attention and always let her go outside when she is waiting by the door for me to let her out.

Also, she has twitches from time to time: when she is sitting upright and her legs and paws tiwtch or shake briefly. I am not sure if the twitches started when the crying did. I am at a loss to help her when she is always coming up to me and crying. She is using the litter tray well, her appetite is good, she is responsive with all limbs and tail, purring like a demon and still affectionate.

I am concerned with the shakes and the constant crying when she is not resting or asleep. Am I not doing something I should be doing? She has been neutered previously … but could she possibly be coming into heat? She has never been like this before, hence my concern.

~ Dal and Loopy

Siouxsie: Dal, one thing we’re certain of is that your kitty is not coming into heat. She’s neutered, and if she hasn’t shown any other signs like this in the last eight years you’ve had her, the operation was done properly and your kitty doesn’t have the organs to produce the hormones that bring her into season. However, there are a few common reasons why elderly cats start crying a lot.

Thomas: The first of these is that she could have a condition called hyperthyroidism. Some cats with this disease have behavior changes that include frequent crying and calling out.

Dahlia: Another possibility is that she’s beginning to develop feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome, also known as “kitty Alzheimer’s.” Between the decline in eyesight and hearing that aging cats experience, they can get disoriented and forget where they are in the house. When that happens, they cry out for help.

Siouxsie: Sometimes elderly cats cry out a lot because they’re uncomfortable. Even if your kitty doesn’t show pain when you pet her or examine her, that doesn’t mean she’s not hurting somewhere. Cats can and do develop arthritis. I’m not exactly a kitten myself, and I’m getting a bit creaky with the years. Mama gives me glucosamine-chondroitin treats, which help some. She also lets me sleep in the bed under the covers, and the warmth helps me feel better.

Thomas: The shaking limbs could be a symptom of arthritic pain. If your cat seems to move more slowly or carefully when she first wakes up, this may be another sign of discomfort.

Dahlia: One of Mama’s friends has an 18-year-old cat that was crying a lot. He is hyperthyroid, but his condition is well controlled with medication. When Mama’s friend got a heated bed for her kitty, he started sleeping better and his nighttime operas have decreased in length and frequency.

Siouxsie: What you need to do, Dal, is take your cat to the vet for a full checkup in order to make sure she’s not suffering from hyperthyroidism or any other diseases that elderly cats tend to get. Once you’ve ruled out physical illness, you can make changes that will make her aging body more comfortable.

Thomas: To keep your cat’s discomfort to a minimum, be sure that she has soft and warm places to sleep. Consider helping her to reach her favorite high places by giving her steps or ramps so she doesn’t have to jump so high or hit the ground so hard when jumping down.

Dahlia: When you pick up your cat to hold her and pet her, do so gently and support her body weight so she doesn’t get sore from the strain on her muscles and ligaments. And, of course, put her down gently: don’t just let her leap out of your arms like she did when she was a kitten.

Siouxsie: Sometimes when I cry out in the middle of the night, Mama calls me. I feel better when she does that. Not that I’m scared or forgetful, mind you! I’m just glad to know Mama’s there and she cares about me enough to make sure I’m okay. Besides, sometimes I’m just calling out because I’ve got my favorite mousie toy and I want to show it off.

Thomas: So, Dal, we hope that a trip to the vet can shed some light on what is — or isn’t — going on with your kitty. Once you get the results, you can look for more information on how to make life easier for senior cats. If you click the Senior Cats tag in the sidebar, you’ll see all the articles we’ve written about care of elderly cats.

Dahlia: Amy Shojai wrote a wonderful book, Complete Care for Your Aging Cat, which is another excellent resource for caretakers of elderly kitties. Good luck to both of you!

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  • John

    My cat Lincoln I thought was a gonner until the third vet. Great people at Richland Hills animal hospital. His back teeth were so bad he couldn’t eat He had leisons on his gums and his throught and hard food caused alot of pain and stopped eating and losing weight. It was very sad. The new vet said besides removing the teeth she would give him two shots a month and after the first shot Lincoln is back to his 14lbs.8ozs. of fluff and fun.Also us the Friskies Classic Pate, very soft and healthy.

  • http://www.shojai.com Amy D. Shojai, CABC

    Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

    Thank you for mentioning my book! I’m deeply flattered and my Seren(kitty) sends cordial greetings to you. I love your advice! You may be interested to know the book will soon be revised and updated, and made available on Amazon Kindle. I wanted you to have the “scoop.” *s*


  • http://www.markzonder.com/ Amy

    My cat Lincoln I thought was a gonner until the third vet. Great people at Richland Hills animal hospital. His back teeth were so bad he couldn’t eat He had leisons on his gums and his throught and hard food caused alot of pain and stopped eating and losing weight. It was very sad. The new vet said besides removing the teeth she would give him two shots a month and after the first shot Lincoln is back to his 14lbs.8ozs. of fluff and fun.Also us the Friskies Classic Pate, very soft and healthy.

  • Pete

    My old cat is at the vet now. I renamed him Chairman Meow since the last few months he meows CONSTANTLY. He is 16 and very slight in the weight dept. We have a much younger female cat that seems to enjoy her food and his. Woudl decreased weight be a sign of hyperthyroidism?

  • marie

    i have a 18year old male cat,for the last 5mouths all he simes to do is meow all the time y.he eats well and in good hearth .is very well loved and carefull.so y is he crying all the time.thank you for your help.marie

  • Cynthia

    Pete: Yes, weight loss is one of the primary visible side effects of hyperthyroidism. The thyroid is the gland chiefly responsible for weight/appetite regulation.

  • Roger

    My cat turned 20 on Aug 1st, 2011. She’s deaf, and has arthritis that we treat her for. When she’s not sleeping, she meows constantly, but when I pick her up and hold her, she stops. So, she gets a lot more attention than she used to. We bought a Japanese kotatsu, a small table with a heater in the bottom, then covered it with a blanket. She loves to sleep under there, and it keeps her quiet. Good luck everyone, with your senior felines!

  • Laura

    My cat is 18 yrs old and almost blind. She meows a lot too. But that let’s me know she’s up and walking around. I just reassure her she’s okay and not forgotten. Like Roger, I’ll pick her up sometimes and put her on my lap, when I’m just sitting on the couch. She’ll curl up and sleep for hours, if I can stand to sit there that long. Otherwise, I just move her to her fav corner of the couch. She’s much happier near me.

  • Patricia O’Connor

    This is an informative site. It answers the question of the cat crying out with accurate answers. Thank you for providing the information. My cat developed hypothyroidism at age 17. The use of Methimazole gel in her ear twice a day helped her and she lived to the age of 19.

  • Alex

    My cat is soon to be 18. For the last 2 years, he has spent the entire day sleeping and the entire night meowing, almost crying, at us to get him food. The weird thing is, he already has a load of food in his bowl, he just doesn’t seem to want it/ We wonder whether he can no longer recognize his own smell, and thinks another cat has been at his food?

    He’s crying at me now and I’m not sure what to do. I want to let him into my room because the noises he is making are heartbreaking, but I need to work tomorrow and can’t afford to have yet another bad night because of him. Does anyone recognize these signs in their cat? Please help, I’ve had him since I was 3 and feel awful.

    Thank you
    Alex x

  • RealityDood

    Siouxsie: guess what? You’re not a cat. You’re a human. You’re probably an obese late-middle-aged woman. I guess you got bored of hassling service personnel and decided to pretend to be a cat.

    • Abby

      RealityDood: I’m so glad that you figured out that a real cat did not write this post. But why is it necessary for you to be so mean? Are you an unshaven beer-drinking single guy who drives a loud truck? And why are you trolling on this site if you’re such a tough guy?

  • Ron

    My cat “Pepper” is 22 years old, she have yelling fits that last around a minute. Her meows start off meows and turn to what sound like painful moans by the end of the episode/fit. The episodes/fit happen many times during the night. She also has started peeing in places other than her litter box. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms? I’m guessing she has dementia. Is there anything I could do to alleviate her episodes?

    • jenni

      my 15 year old shelter rescue, Mr Dude, has arthrities (he had severe gengivitis when i adopted him, but i’ve taken steps to at least lessen the gengivitis. its stil ther ebut not as severely)
      mr dude has spasms before/during/after storms, he’ll be fine one moment and the othre he jumps and runs into another room while screaming “OW!” the ntire time he’s running. he thankfully goes in for another anti-inflamatory shot on the 26th, which my vet is really good with him and that was her recomended course of action. if the spasms came back and persisted, i had to ring him back, other wise i have to keep an under the sheet warmer on my bed, since he likes to cuddle with me. the warmer is helping him, and i have low-laying beds in his favorite spots, im working on making stairs to the window sill he prefers in the living room. he will paw at m when he wants me to lift him onto the bed when his arthritis acts up, otherwise my bed is actually low enough to the floor for him to hop up onto. he LOVES cuddles and never leaves my side when i’m at home. my vet also asked me to give him half a cup of dry cat food to half a cup of warm chicken broth, which he has taken an instant likeing to. it’s helping him regain any lost weight from when he gad a more severe form of gingivitis and the ingoing warmth is easier for his body to register and digest, and who doesnt like the feeling of eating or drinking something warm and that warmth just spreads through yor body? im sure the same goes for our furry family members!

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