As cats age, they may start making noise more often, particularly at night. Some cats meow more than others, but if your elderly cat starts meowing a lot more frequently and, in some cases, too much, it can be upsetting and distressing for both of you.
Determining the cause of the increased meowing and getting to the root of the problem will help you to remedy your cat’s meowing. Read on to discover 11 common reasons your old cat is meowing so much.
The 11 Common Reasons Old Cats Meow
1. Dementia / Cognitive Decline
Cat dementia, or feline cognitive decline (FCD), is a group of symptoms and changes in an elderly cat’s brain caused by old age (or, more appropriately, oxidative stress). FCD is generally understood as the degeneration of tissues in the brain due in part to oxidative damage, but genetic predisposition also plays a role.
This degeneration causes a reduction in the function of an elderly cat’s brain and a slew of symptoms, one of which is excessive crying.
Confusion, changes in memory, and fear are big reasons your cat might be meowing so much because they can sometimes forget where they are or who you are, causing them to cry out.
While it’s not a certainty that all cats will get FCD, it’s known that one-third of all cats will show some symptoms of cognitive decline by the age of 11, and this rises to 50% of cats over the age of 15.
2. Losing Their Senses (Sensory Decline)
Sensory decline is another reason your older cat may be crying more, as losing the ability to see, hear, or smell as much is stressful to a cat. Sensory decline can be part of the aging and degeneration process, but any suspected changes to your cat’s senses (or behavior) need to be addressed by a vet as soon as possible.
This loss of some or all of the senses is incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing to cats as their senses enable them to make sense of the noisy, bright world around them. Cats struggling with sensory decline might be crying to ask for help as they’re not sure about navigating an area or aren’t sure who is present in a room, making them feel unsafe.
3. Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is commonly seen in older and geriatric cats. Current studies show that the most common ages for a cat to be diagnosed with hypertension are between 13–15 years old.
Hypertension can be caused by many things, including kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and obesity to a lesser degree.
Hyperthyroidism is another common illness in elderly cats, with estimations that over 10% of cats over 10 years of age will develop the disease. Hyperthyroidism is a problem with the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck.
This gland produces too many hormones (thyroid hormones) that slowly change the metabolism in the cat’s body, leading to damage to organs, increased blood pressure, and heart problems if not treated. This issue is usually caused by a benign (non-cancerous) growth on the cat’s thyroid gland, and while symptoms can be subtle and take a while to show, they often mimic signs of “old age” in cats.
5. Arthritis/ Joint Pain
Inflammation and degeneration of the joints in elderly cats can cause great pain and discomfort. This pain and arthritis usually affect the spine and legs, which causes a slow or awkward gait and painful vocalizations as your cat tries to move.
There are usually other behavioral changes seen in cats with joint pain, such as reluctance to walk up and down stairs, not wanting to jump up or down from furniture, or not wanting to climb into the litter box, causing accidents around the home.
Research shows that more than 80% of cats over the age of 10 suffer from arthritis or joint degeneration, so the problem is prevalent and causes cats to meow in pain in many cases.
6. Neurological or Central Nervous System Disease
Central nervous system (CNS) disease are common in aged cats, and certain neurological conditions can cause behavioral changes, including meowing. Brain tumors such as meningioma (tumors in the membrane surrounding the brain) are more common in elderly cats. Other causes of CNS disease include feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) or toxoplasma infection, which are less common in old cats but can still occur.
Brain tumors like meningiomas usually grow slowly, causing the affected cat to develop symptoms gradually over time. One of the most common symptoms is behavioral changes such as excessive crying, coordination problems, pain, seizures, and different pupil sizes.
Sometimes, elderly cats just need some attention and loving from their owners and will croakily meow to get it. Constant or excessive meowing can be frustrating for owners, but try to remember that you’re the person your old cat will look to for comfort and reassurance or for help if they have a problem.
Cats can get lonely, bored, or even afraid, particularly cats suffering from cognitive decline, so they may try to get your attention in one of the only ways they know how: by using their voice.
Old cats, like young cats, can suffer from stress that can cause them to meow. Some of their stress can be caused by dementia/ cognitive decline, but some can be caused by changes in routine or changes around the home, such as the introduction of a new pet or baby to the household.
Older cats deal with stress less effectively than younger cats, as they’re generally less tolerant of it and can become easily overwhelmed, leading to other health problems that cause excessive vocalizing, such as increased blood pressure.
9. Memory Loss
Memory loss is an unfortunate symptom of feline cognitive decline and is often the most upsetting for your cat. This can be a main source of stress in cats, as it makes them feel less sure of their surroundings, and they often cry in confusion or fear when they feel as if they’re somewhere unfamiliar.
Cats with memory problems can vocalize a lot because they suddenly don’t know where they are, who you are, or what/where certain items are. For example, they may be crying out of hunger but can’t remember where their food bowl is.
Your elderly cat may need reassurance and guidance on finding particular objects or comfort if they’re meowing in fear, and they also might be crying because they’re stuck somewhere, such as the top of the stairs, if they can’t remember how to get back down them.
10. Dental Problems
Dental disease is prevalent in older cats, with 50% to 60% of cats older than 4 having some kind of dental disease, which gets more severe as the cats get older.
Dental problems can cause great pain and can make it impossible to eat, especially dry food and biscuits, causing your cat to meow in pain.
Some dental disease is caused by other illnesses, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leucopenia virus (FeLV), or diabetes.
11. Your Cat is Just Vocal
Usually, if your cat is always talkative, they will be for their whole life. Their meow will probably change as they age), but if your cat just likes to sing, they’ll keep on singing in their twilight years.
Some breeds, such as Siamese, Bobtail and Bengal cats, are known to be very vocal and will often talk to their owners all day long, but if your cat is usually quiet and suddenly starts to meow lots or loudly, they should be checked out at the vets to ensure nothing is wrong.
At What Age Is a Cat Considered Old?
Due to the average cat living longer, a cat is now considered “mature” at 7 years of age (when cognitive decline can start), considered “elderly” at 11 years, and classed as “geriatric” at 15 years and above.
Old cats are truly wonderful to be around and are often cuddly and calm. They usually take life in the slow lane in their old age, but when your cat is meowing excessively, it can become distressing for both you and your feline friend.
Finding out exactly what the cause of your cat’s crying is can help you both remedy the situation, and it’s important to remember that your cat isn’t doing it on purpose and is rather reaching out for your help or crying in pain or distress. If none of these apply, your cat may just be chatty, and a little extra playtime can help burn off any excess energy they have that they might use for talking!
Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock
- The 11 Common Reasons Old Cats Meow
- At What Age Is a Cat Considered Old?