Do cats meow more as they get older? Sep 19, 2018

Do cats meow more as they get older?

Original Question: Do cats meow more as they age? - Keith

Hi Keith,

Thanks for your question.

Every once in a while I get a question that I really enjoy. This is one of them.

I have an overwhelming inclination to say no, cats do not meow more as they age. My instinct is to look beyond the question and try to speculate what may be happening with your cat to cause you to ask this question. You are likely asking it because your cat is reaching a geriatric age or advancing in age and you’ve noticed that they are vocalizing more. To reconsider my answer, I will say that cats can end up vocalizing more as they age but there are causes for this. Not every cat will vocalize more simply because they are older, however, there are common conditions that older cats develop that will cause increased vocalization.

Here is a list of possibilities that I can offer.

  • Reduced senses. As our pets age, they experience a decline in their senses. They experience impairments to their vision, hearing, smell, mobility, etc. We have to remember that our cats interact with the environment more than us and they are used to having control over their interaction with it. The world can be a scarier place if you cannot see or hear as well. This can lead to anxiety which has been known to manifest in excessive vocalization. You could have these faculties assessed by your veterinarian and speak to them about anti-anxiety supplements and medication to treat it. You may accept this behaviour and tolerate it before employing a treatment but keep in mind that if it is present, it would mean that your cat is experiencing anxiety on a daily basis and the treatment would improve their quality of life, and not just yourself.
  • Senility. Age-related decline of the mind can create confusion. A sense of being lost and crying out can result. I believe that anxiety is much more common in a cat than true senility, but it can occur. You could speak to your veterinarian about the symptoms and ask if they concur. Treatment with supplements and diet could improve cognitive function.
  • Hyperthyroidism. This is a common condition in cats where the thyroid gland becomes overactive and overproduces thyroid hormone. This, in turn, increases the metabolic rate and can cause a cat to be over stimulated. This can result in the symptom of staying up throughout the night, wandering and vocalizing. I recommend that you have your veterinarian perform blood testing to identify this condition if it exists. There are various treatments that can be considered if it reveals a positive result.
  • Disease-related conditions. There are ailments of the liver and kidney which can result in the build-up of waste products in the bloodstream. These entities can have an impact on proper cognitive function and create a general dullness and lack of mental acuity in your cat. This can result in confusion and excessive vocalization. I recommend you have general wellness bloodwork performed to evaluate for any of these anomalies and then have your veterinarian advise you on treatment options.
  • Behavioural. It’s possible that something in the environment is creating a sense of stress in your cat. Cats are very sensitive to the changes in their environment and they can develop stress for many different reasons and sources. Examples could be a family member leaving for school, another being introduced or removed from the home, odours from outside when windows are open in the spring, and so on. They can be hard to identify and confirm but recent changes in the household should be reviewed and considered as causes of behavioural change. In some cases you may be able to resolve this situation and others may be difficult to change. If these modifications to the environment are difficult to reverse, you could consider offering an anti-anxiety treatment as suggested above to help your cat cope with the changes.

I hope this helps.

Dr Clayton Greenway

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