Why is My Old Cat Yowling Nonstop? What the Meows Mean and How to Help


It’s common for elderly cats to meow more as they age. Increased vocalization can be caused by a variety of factors, from medical conditions to cognitive decline. As cats get older, their senses start to dull and their bodies undergo changes that can result in discomfort, disorientation or confusion. This understandably leads to increased crying, howling or meowing as a way for senior cats to express their needs. It’s important for cat owners to understand why an elderly cat may meow more and determine if it’s part of the normal aging process or indicates an underlying issue needing veterinary attention. This article provides an overview of potential causes of excessive vocalization in senior cats and tips on managing it while ensuring your cat’s quality of life.

Possible Medical Causes

There are several medical conditions that can cause elderly cats to vocalize more, including:


An overactive thyroid gland, known as hyperthyroidism, is common in older cats and can lead to increased vocalization. Hyperthyroidism speeds up a cat’s metabolism, causing symptoms like weight loss, increased appetite, and restlessness that may prompt meowing [1].

High Blood Pressure

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another illness seen in senior cats that can result in excessive meowing. High blood pressure puts pressure on a cat’s organs and causes nausea, confusion, and discomfort that the cat may vocalize [2].

Cognitive Decline

Dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome is common in aging cats. Disorientation, confusion, and memory loss associated with cognitive decline can prompt anxious meowing as cats try to reorient themselves [3].


Elderly cats often develop painful conditions like arthritis that may cause them to meow excessively. Cats are good at hiding pain, so increased vocalizations may be their way of expressing discomfort [2].

Sensory Decline

As cats age, their senses of vision and hearing often deteriorate. Declining eyesight and hearing can cause disorientation and anxiety in senior cats, leading to increased meowing and vocalization.

Vision loss is common in older cats. Conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal degeneration can impair eyesight, making it more difficult for cats to see their surroundings clearly. Cats with declining vision may meow excessively when confused or lost in once-familiar environments. They may also meow loudly for attention and reassurance from their owners.

Hearing loss frequently occurs as well. Studies show over 60% of cats 11-14 years old experience some degree of hearing loss. Deafness or muted hearing makes cats less aware of environmental sounds. A senior cat may meow more frequently due to disorientation or to elicit a response when it cannot hear its owner approach.

While sensory decline is often irreversible, steps can be taken to support senior cats experiencing vision or hearing loss. Providing consistency and routine in their environment along with extra affection and reassurance when they vocalize can help manage anxiety and excessive meowing.

Increased Vocalization

As cats age, their vocalizations often increase, especially nighttime yowling or meowing. One key reason elderly cats yowl more is due to cognitive decline and resulting disorientation or anxiety.

With age, cats can develop feline cognitive dysfunction which is similar to dementia in humans. The cat essentially becomes confused, anxious, and disoriented. This is often worse at night or when the cat’s surroundings change. The cat meows excessively as it tries to re-orient itself and seeks reassurance from owners.

Elderly cats may also yowl due to anxiety, particularly when their familiar environment changes such as furniture getting moved or a family member leaving. The meowing is their way of calling out for reassurance and stability. [1]

In addition, meowing can be a distress signal in senior cats as their senses start to decline. Meowing helps them re-establish their territory and environment. Pet owners can help reduce disorientation by keeping the cat’s surroundings familiar and predictable.

Changes in Environment

Changes in a cat’s surroundings and daily routine can lead to increased vocalization. As cats age, any change from their normal habits and environment can be stressful and disorienting. Some common changes that may upset an elderly cat include:

  • Moving to a new home: Cats grow attached to their territory. Moving disrupts a cat’s sense of security and familiarity with their surroundings. This major change can cause anxiety that leads to meowing.
  • New people or pets joining the home: An elderly cat accustomed to a quiet environment may feel stressed by new sights, sounds, and smells. Vocalizing can be a reaction as they try to re-establish territory.
  • Shifts in schedule: Cats thrive on predictability and routine. Changes like a new feeding time, people coming and going at odd hours, or disrupted sleep/nap times can upset a cat. Meowing may reflect their unease with unpredictability.

To ease anxiety, make changes gradually and reassure the cat with calming behaviors. Keeping their core schedule consistent will help minimize stress. Feliway pheromone products can also promote relaxation in stressful situations.

Tips to Reduce Meowing

There are some strategies cat owners can try to reduce excessive vocalization in elderly cats:

More playtime and exercise – Older cats still need activity and stimulation. Try engaging your cat in more interactive play and exercise to work off excess energy. This can help curb attention-seeking meows. Use wand toys and laser pointers to get your cat moving and chasing.

Consistent routine – Meowing can sometimes arise from confusion or disorientation. Sticking to a predictable, consistent daily routine can provide your cat with a sense of security and stability. Feed meals, playtime, and lap time at the same times each day.

Cat-appeasing pheromones – Pheromone diffusers or sprays containing “feline facial pheromones” can have a calming effect and reduce stress-related meowing. Consult your vet about trying these synthetic pheromones.

Distraction with toys/treats – When your cat starts up with loud meowing, try redirecting her with an engaging toy, tasty treats, or affection. This interrupts the behavior and refocuses her on something positive.

When to See the Vet

A sudden increase in meowing, especially in an elderly cat, can be a sign of an underlying medical issue and warrants a visit to the vet. According to LA County Vets, meowing is one of the most common signs of illness in cats. Some key reasons to take your cat to the vet include:

Sudden increase in meowing – If your cat’s meowing has spiked for no apparent reason, it could signal pain, distress, or cognitive decline. Don’t assume it’s just normal aging – have your vet examine your cat.

Weight loss – An elderly cat who has suddenly lost weight while meowing more may have kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer, or other conditions leading to appetite changes. Weight loss should always be addressed promptly.

Lethargy – An excessively meowing senior cat who seems more tired and inactive may be ill. Lethargy plus meowing can indicate misery and sickness.

Other symptoms – Increased thirst, changes in litter box habits, vomiting, diarrhea, limping, or other signs along with excessive meowing are red flags. Get your cat checked out.

In older cats, any significant change in behavior or health warrants a veterinary visit to diagnose and treat any underlying disease. It’s important not to dismiss increased vocalization as just an inconvenience or quirk of aging. Schedule a checkup if your senior cat is meowing more to ensure quality of life in their golden years.

Managing Feline Cognitive Decline

As cats age, it’s common for them to experience a decline in cognitive function leading to disorientation, anxiety, and increased vocalization. While feline cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) cannot be cured, there are ways to manage the symptoms and improve your cat’s quality of life.

Providing mental stimulation is important to keep your senior cat engaged and active. Try puzzle feeders, new toys, daily playtime, and even simply rearranging furniture to create a “new” environment to explore. Keeping to a routine with consistent feeding times and sleep/wake cycles can also help reduce anxiety.

Your vet may prescribe medication such as selegiline or natural supplements containing antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Though not a cure, these can help improve cognition and reduce vocalization.

Most of all, be patient with your cat. CDS can cause personality changes, but your pet is still the same beloved companion underneath. With time, management, and TLC, you can ensure your senior kitty continues to live a good quality life. For more information, see this article from the ASPCA.

Ensuring Quality of Life

As cats age, their quality of life can diminish due to physical discomfort, lack of stimulation, and less bonding time with owners. Here are some tips for ensuring your elderly cat continues to have a good quality of life:

Address physical discomfort – Older cats often suffer from arthritis and other age-related conditions that cause pain or discomfort. Talk to your veterinarian about options for managing pain through medication, supplements, or alternative therapies. Make your home cat-friendly by providing steps or ramps to your cat’s favorite spots, soft and warm beds, and litter boxes that are easy to access. VCA Hospitals

Environmental enrichment – Cats thrive when they have opportunities to play, explore, and stimulated their natural instincts. Rotate toys to spark your cat’s interest, provide scratching posts, set up window perches for “cat TV,” and consider adopting a younger feline companion. Use food puzzles or hide treats around the house to encourage foraging. PetHelpful

Bonding time with owner – Spend quality one-on-one time petting, grooming, talking to, and playing with your elderly cat. Cats crave companionship and affection. Create a soothing routine and give your cat your full attention during daily interactions.


In summary, elderly cats may meow more due to medical issues like declining senses, cognitive dysfunction, or pain. Environmental factors like changes in the home or schedule can also trigger increased vocalization. While there may not be a way to completely eliminate excessive meowing, you can take steps to make your cat more comfortable by addressing medical issues, keeping their environment consistent, engaging them in play, and sticking to a routine. It’s also important to get veterinary advice if the meowing becomes disruptive or distressing for you or your cat.

Understanding why your senior cat is meowing is the first step to addressing the behavior. Their needs change as they age, so being attentive and providing enriching care is key to their wellbeing. While meowing can be frustrating, remember that it’s your cat’s way of communicating with you. With patience and compassion, you can ensure your elderly feline continues to live a happy and healthy life.

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