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Why is My Old Cat Meowing So Much? 11 Common Reasons

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.

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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.

Signs and symptoms of FCD include:
  • Confusion
  • restlessness
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Crying (particularly at night)
  • Changes in the sleep cycle
  • Changes in memory and recognition

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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Diagnosis by a veterinarian is the first action to take if you think your elderly cat is showing signs of FCD
  • Record any instances of excessive vocalizing (alongside other suspicious symptoms) in a diary or notebook to take with you to the vet visit
  • Once treatment is started (usually a combination of medications and increased omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), the signs of cognitive decline can be improved, but the disease cannot be cured
  • Providing your cat with a predictable routine and mental stimulation can help both you and your cat cope with these brain changes, as well as improve your kitty’s overall quality of life
  • Pheromone therapy such as feline appeasement pheromones (“happy” smells released by cats when they’re comfortable and relaxed) can help to reduce anxiety
  • Playing the radio on low overnight tuned to a talk show can reassure your elderly cat that they’re not alone and improve nighttime yowling
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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.

Symptoms of Sensory Decline in cats include:
  • Excessive vocalizing
  • Having toileting accidents in the house
  • Being unresponsive to calling their name
  • Sleeping lots
How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Once a vet diagnoses FCD, medication to improve brain function can be given
  • Predictability and routine are essential, making for calmer, happier (and less noisy) cats
  • Offer your cat a comfy bed that’s padded and warm, and potentially use nightlights in your home to help your cat better navigate in the dark if they have vision problems.
Cat meowing at you
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay
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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.

The symptoms of high blood pressure in cats include:
  • Sight loss due to detachment of the retina
  • Neurological signs such as disorientation, seizures, lack of balance
  • Behavioral changes such as excessive meowing
How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Diagnosis at a vet’s office is important, as high blood pressure can cause damage to organs if not treated, such as the kidneys
  • Medications prescribed by the vet can help reduce blood pressure and improve symptoms such as amlodipine
  • Once blood pressure begins to lower and stabilize, generally, behavioral problems such as meowing will resolve
  • lots of tender loving care during this time will help to reassure and comfort your cat
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4. Hyperthyroidism

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.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive crying
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Scruffy, greasy fur
How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Once your cat has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism at a veterinarian’s office, there are a few ways to treat the disease. Surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid and treatment with radioactive iodine or medication are all choices of treatment, with medication being the most commonly prescribed
  • Keeping on top of your cat’s treatment is the best thing you can do to reduce their crying if it’s caused by hyperthyroidism, as symptoms often quickly resolve, and your old cat will feel much better
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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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Pain relief from the vet is the number one way to resolve painful meowing, along with lots of tender loving care and comfort.
  • Adapting your home to make mobility easier for your elderly cat is a great way to reduce their pain (thus reducing their meowing). Adding ramps to furniture, getting a lower-sided litter tray, raising their food and water bowls so that they don’t need to bend down, and providing warm, soft areas for your cat to sleep are all ways to keep them comfortable.
cat with arthritis
Image Credit: Todorean Gabriel, Shutterstock
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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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Neurological problems need to be seen by a vet straight away, as issues like brain tumors can become deadly very quickly
  • The vet will diagnose and prescribe either medication or surgery to help as much as they can, but your elderly cat will need lots of calm reassurance from you, as they’ll likely be confused and stressed
  • Keep things your cat uses lots within easy reach of them, such as their food and water bowl and their litter tray, so they don’t have trouble reaching it and create a safe space for them (such as a soft bed or a cardboard box) that they can relax in at night
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7. Attention

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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • It’s best to investigate the cause of the attention-seeking meowing, as there may be a problem you haven’t spotted yet, as cats are very good at hiding problems or pain from people
  • Keep in mind that your cat may just want to spend time with you, so dedicating some time to play with them and give them your undivided attention will do wonders, and let them know you love them
  • Stroking, making eye contact, and gently talking to your old cat can reassure them that you’re paying attention
  • If you’re busy at the time, reassure them that you can hear them by talking softly and stopping to stroke them
cat rubbing its head against the owner's legs
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock
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8. Stress

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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Using pheromone diffusers around the home can help your cat to relax and feel comfortable in their surroundings
  • Lots of love and affection can help to reassure your cat that things are ok
  • Resource spreading can help to alleviate the tension, such as adding more litter boxes around or giving your old cat a certain room in the house
  • Giving your old cat their own hiding places, such as boxes, can also help them feel more secure
  • Getting back to a normal, calm routine as quickly as possible is one good way to help your elderly cat to destress
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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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Taking your cat to the vet (for the same reasons you would for cognitive decline) is the first step in helping your cat get better
  • Always stay calm and don’t shout at your cat for meowing or forgetting since it’s not their fault, and they’re reaching out to you for help
  • Keeping a routine and not moving things around the home can help your cat remember where things are, giving them a better chance of finding them themselves without meowing for you
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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.

Symptoms of dental pain and disease in cats include:
  • Teeth/jaw chattering
  • Drooling
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Crying in pain

Some dental disease is caused by other illnesses, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), feline leucopenia virus (FeLV), or diabetes.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • Pain relief at a vet is the first step in reducing your cat’s pain and helping them eat, meaning they meow less in pain and out of hunger
  • Dental treatment under anesthetic is usually needed in severe cases
veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock
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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.

How to Remedy the Behavior
  • A certain amount of meowing should be “allowed” or “put up with” because meowing and vocalizing are one of the ways your cat communicates, and it’s a natural behavior for them
  • Helping your older cat burn off some excess energy and alleviate their boredom can help to reduce the amount they meow, such as playing with them throughout the day and offering them new toys or interesting puzzler toys with a treat inside
  • Giving them plenty of attention when you’re home can also help them stay calm and meow less, and a radio left on a talk show when you’re out can help them feel like they are not alone.

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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.

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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!

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock