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!