Your aging feline gets the best of care, yet she\’s crying out more and more, especially at night. After she\’s repeatedly wakened the whole family, you may wonder, \”What\’s up with that? Is Fluffy is getting senile? \” Sadly, geriatric cats do show signs of age-related changes in behavior. From disorientation and shifting sleep habits to that unwelcome yowling, senior felines exhibit symptoms that researchers have likened to dementia or Alzheimer\’s in humans. If your older feline has just begun her nightly serenades, you\’ll want to know how to cope with this baffling behavior:
What prompts the loud vocals? A cat may howl at night for reasons that are not age-related. She could simply be responding to frustration or anxiety due to a recent move or other household change. Or she could be bored, eagerly seeking any kind of attention. If your cat is not spayed, she will grow more loudly vocal during heat cycles. Howling can also indicate illness, particularly high blood pressure or hyperthyroism, both of which can be treated with medication.
However, this behavior is more likely to start as she ages. Senior cats (those 8 years or older) suffer any number of ills and may be in pain or expressing anxiety by meowing loudly at night. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), the onset of dementia-like behavioral changes in older dogs and cats, makes cats confused or anxious. The fading of a cat\’s vision or hearing are also possible triggers for nocturnal yowling. Is it day or night? An older cat may exhibit other signs of confusion, including going back to her empty food bowl soon after eating, apparently forgetting that she\’s just finished a meal. She may be distressed at being separated from you or other family members at night, when you\’re busy sleeping and not giving her attention. If her hearing is impaired, she may cry out more loudly, just as a human who cannot hear well will talk louder.
If her eyesight is dimming, her frustration at trying to maneuver around her home may cause her to howl. In an otherwise healthy cat, such symptoms are indicators of aging, and signs that she may suffer from CDS. She will be understandably bothered by the changes taking place in her body and brain, as CDS also affects her sleep cycle, leaving her restless and anxious. Instead of sleeping at night, she may slumber more during the day and wander the house crying at night. PP My sweet 17-year-old Ellie Catz is the apple of my eye. She s been my companion since I rescued her when she was 1 week old. I am very worried about her. Recently she started walking around the house late at night crying and wailing loudly. I noticed it started after I bought some new furniture and rearranged the house. Should I be concerned? It is not unusual for elderly cats to become disoriented and to develop cognitive dysfunctions and impairments. Cats, like people, suffer the consequences of aging.
Before approaching this as a behavior problem, take your cat to her veterinarian for a geriatric exam. There are diseases that are more prevalent in elderly cats, manifested by many of the symptoms you have described. While Ellie is having her checkup, talk to the veterinarian about her distressing behaviors. If the veterinarian identifies this as a behavioral or cognitive challenge, you can help Ellie Catz overcome her nighttime confusion. Install night lights throughout the house. Calling her name while she is crying out can also help re-orient her. Familiarity and consistency in schedule, diet and environment is also important. When bringing in new pieces of furniture or rearranging the house, do it gradually, allowing Ellie Catz to familiarize herself with the new locations of the furniture. Also place her scent on the new furniture by gently petting her cheeks with a soft towel or sock and then rubbing the socks or towels on the new pieces of furniture.
She will recognize her own scent, which will help her feel a little more secure. Mental stimulation and activity are important for helping keep senior cats young. Clicker training is one example of a training method that stimulates and challenges cats, even elderly ones. I ve observed from working with both my mildly cognitively impaired 16-year-old cat and a client s elderly cats, that older cats who are clicker trained become more mentally alert and active. The sessions do not have to be long; sessions as brief as five minutes a day can make a difference in a cat s alertness and activity level. And, elderly cats can learn new tricks. Keep the individual cat s limitations in mind though. For instance, if your cat suffers from arthritis or joint pain, don t ask her to do high or long jumps. Simple tricks such as sitting, waiting and shaking hands will be easy and fun to teach.