Q: Pete, our 15-year-old cat, yowls at night. His hearing is gone, he has arthritis and hyperthyroidism, but otherwise, the vet says he seems younger than his years. What is causing the yowling, and what can we do about it?
A: Many senior cats yowl at nighttime, disrupting their human family’s sleep. Fortunately, once the cause is identified, yowling responds well to treatment.
Yowling cats with vision or hearing impairment benefit from night lights or sleeping in a bathroom with the ventilation fan or a radio turned on to provide soothing background noise. A Feliway plug-in diffuser releases a pheromone that helps these cats relax and feel secure.
Some cats yowl because they’re hungry. Try feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal just before bedtime, or offer Pete a feeding station with compartments that open on a timer.
Hyperthyroidism that isn’t well regulated can cause nighttime yowling, and it and other diseases can cause hypertension, which also can induce yowling. Ask your veterinarian to check Pete’s thyroid status and blood pressure, and if necessary, adjust his medication.
Pain from arthritis or dental disease makes cats cry at night, when there’s little to distract them from their discomfort. If Pete isn’t taking pain medicine for his arthritis, talk with your veterinarian about pain management.
One-third of cats, ages 11 to 14 (and half of all cats 15 and over), develop dementia, also called senile cognitive dysfunction, a common cause of nighttime yowling. These cats are helped by the environmental enrichment methods mentioned above, nutritional treatment, supplements and medication.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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