Why Does My Old Cat Keep Yowling? The Reasons Behind Your Senior Kitty’s Vocalization


As cats age, they commonly develop behavioral changes that can be concerning for owners. One of the most distressing behaviors is increased vocalization, especially loud yowling or crying for no apparent reason. This guide will provide an overview of the main reasons senior cats may yowl more as they get older.

Cognitive Dysfunction

Cognitive dysfunction is similar to dementia in elderly humans and involves mental decline and behavior changes. As cats age, their brains undergo changes that can result in disorientation, anxiety, decreased responsiveness, and vocalization, especially at night. Cognitive dysfunction is estimated to impact over 55% of cats aged 11-15 years and more than 80% over age 15.

Cognitive dysfunction occurs when the neurons in a cat’s brain deteriorate, impacting memory, learning, perception, and awareness. Cats essentially become confused about where they are in the home, may fail to recognize family members, and experience anxiety. This anxiety and disorientation leads to nighttime yowling as the cat tries to reorient itself and seeks reassurance from its owners.

Nighttime yowling, staring into space, aimless wandering and getting trapped in corners, forgetting litter box training, and changes in sleep cycles are common symptoms of cognitive dysfunction. The key is that these behaviors represent a marked change from the cat’s normal habits and temperament.

While cognitive dysfunction cannot be cured, treatments like medication, dietary supplements, pheromones, and environmental enrichment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Consulting a vet is important to rule out any other medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms.





Dementia or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is common in older cats, with some estimates suggesting around 28-30% of cats over 11 years old may be affected to some degree (Source). As cats age, they can develop protein deposits in the brain that lead to memory loss, confusion, and personality changes. Symptoms of feline dementia include disorientation, loss of litter box training, decreased interest in play or pets, anxiety, nighttime yowling or screaming, and excessive vocalization in general (Source). The memory and learning impairments caused by dementia can leave cats feeling frustrated and distressed. Their nighttime yowling and other excessive meowing may be a cry for attention and comfort in their state of confusion.

Loss of Senses

As cats age, they often experience a decline in their senses, especially hearing and vision. This sensory deprivation can cause anxiety, disorientation, and excessive vocalization or yowling in elderly cats (Petful, 2019).

Gradual hearing loss is common in senior cats. Not being able to hear well can make cats feel isolated from their environment and anxious. They may yowl frequently to get attention from their owners or as a distress call when feeling lost or confused. Elderly cats with hearing loss may also startle easily or react strongly to loud noises they can’t anticipate (ASPCA).

Vision loss is another sensory change in aging cats. Conditions like cataracts can cause blurry, cloudy, or diminished eyesight in older cats. Not being able to see clearly can cause disorientation and anxiety. Older cats may yowl when they feel lost in an environment they can’t navigate visually anymore. Declining vision also contributes to separation anxiety and vocalizations when a senior cat can’t find where their owner has gone (PrettyLitter, 2019).

Overall, elderly cats who are losing their sight and hearing undergo stress and anxiety from the world feeling unfamiliar. Their excessive yowling and crying out is often an indication that their senses aren’t as sharp anymore. Consulting a vet about possible treatments for sensory loss can help reduce senior cats’ anxiety and overvocalization.

Medical Causes

As cats age, they are more prone to developing medical conditions that can cause vocalization and yowling. Some common medical causes include:

Hyperthyroidism – An overactive thyroid gland is common in older cats. It can cause increased vocalization, anxiety, and agitation. Treating the underlying hyperthyroidism may resolve the excessive yowling (1).

Kidney disease – Chronic kidney disease leads to the buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, causing nausea, discomfort, and changes in cognition. This can manifest as increased crying and confusion (2).

Arthritis – Degenerative joint disease causes chronic pain that can worsen at night. The discomfort may cause the cat to yowl when moving around or settling in (3).

High blood pressure – Hypertension stresses the cat’s organs including the brain, kidneys, and eyes. This can lead to disorientation, vocalization, and altered sleep-wake cycles (1).

Cognitive dysfunction – Similar to dementia in humans, this age-related decline in mental faculties often causes nighttime yowling and altered sleep patterns (2).

Any medical condition can potentially worsen at night and disrupt the cat’s sleep. Taking the cat to the veterinarian can help diagnose and treat any underlying issue to help reduce excessive nighttime yowling.

(1) https://www.prettylitter.com/blog/why-is-my-elderly-cat-yowling-at-night

(2) https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/older-cats-behavior-problems

(3) https://www.readingeagle.com/2022/08/10/yowling-is-common-in-elderly-cats-ask-the-vet/

Attention Seeking

As cats get older, they often become needier when it comes to attention and companionship. An elderly cat may yowl more frequently due to cognitive decline, sensory issues, or simply feeling lonely. With limited mobility, vision, and hearing, senior cats can feel anxious when left alone. They may vocalize loudly to get their owner’s attention and reassurance.

Cats are social creatures that thrive on routine and bonded relationships. In their later years, they depend even more on their human companions for safety, comfort and affection. An elderly cat who suddenly starts yowling may be expressing distress over a change in household routine or environment. They may yowl when their owner is out of sight to solicit attention, interaction and affection.

To reduce attention-seeking yowls, make sure to spend quality time bonded to your elderly cat daily through grooming, petting or play. Keep to a consistent schedule and don’t make drastic changes. Consider getting a second cat or pet to provide companionship. Use calming pheromones or talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medication if yowling becomes excessive. With patience and care, you can help meet your senior cat’s needs for safety and socialization.


As cats age, they can develop cognitive issues like dementia or senility that lead to disorientation. According to the ASPCA, older cats may vocalize excessively due to disorientation from conditions like cognitive dysfunction. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/older-cats-behavior-problems

When cats become disoriented, they can become anxious because their surroundings seem unfamiliar. This anxiousness leads to increased meowing and yowling, especially at night when surroundings are darker and more difficult to navigate. Disoriented cats may yowl while wandering at night because they are lost or confused about where they are.

According to a study in BMC Veterinary Research, disorientation was one of the most common causes of increased vocalization in elderly cats. The researchers found that the disoriented cats seemed anxious and would yowl more frequently, often without any apparent target or stimulus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7341261/

In summary, disorientation from age-related cognitive decline can cause anxiousness in senior cats, leading them to yowl and meow more than usual. Their vocalizations are a response to feeling lost and confused in once familiar environments.


The loss of an owner, another pet, or a familiar environment can cause a cat to grieve and vocalize cries more often. Cats form strong bonds and routines, so a major change like the loss of a family member, either human or animal, can be very distressing. According to the Blue Cross, signs of grief in cats after a loss include: loss of appetite, crying or searching, sleeping more than normal, or acting more clingy and attention seeking.

Some grieving cats will yowl or meow frequently to express their sadness and confusion. It’s heartbreaking for owners, but important not to punish or scold the cat during this time. Patience, keeping routines consistent, and providing comfort is key to help a cat through grief. The loss of a familiar environment, like a longtime home, can also cause disorientation and vocalizing as the cat tries to adjust.

What To Do

There are several ways you can try to address excessive vocalization in elderly cats:

Training – Ignore the vocalizations and reward quiet behavior with treats and affection. This helps reinforce being quiet. You can also try startling devices like a spray bottle or loud noise when the cat yowls to disrupt the behavior. Just be sure not to scare your cat.

Enrichment – Make sure your cat has enough mental and physical stimulation. Increase playtime, puzzle toys and vertical spaces to climb. Keep your cat engaged and entertained.

Medical treatment – Take your cat to the vet to rule out any underlying medical issues causing vocalization like thyroid problems, dementia or hearing/vision loss. There are some medications that can help in certain cases.

Routine – Stick to a regular feeding and play schedule. Cats feel more secure with consistency. Make sure litter boxes are clean. Try calming pheromones.

Patience – Elderly cats can become disoriented and vocalize more. Respond gently and try to reassure them. Excessive yowling may be a sign your cat needs more affection and companionship.

When to See the Vet

While some yowling in elderly cats is normal, there are certain signs that indicate a need for veterinary attention. A sudden increase in yowling, especially at night or when combined with other symptoms, can signal an underlying medical issue that requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.

According to the ASPCA, urgent veterinary care is advised if your cat exhibits excessive vocalization along with:

  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat
  • Lethargy, lack of interest in surroundings or weakness
  • Difficulty using the litter box
  • Appearing restless, distressed or painful
  • Excessive thirst or changes in water consumption
  • Sudden aggression or other behavioral changes

The Village Vets also notes that nonstop yowling combined with pacing, staring into space, or getting stuck in corners could indicate cognitive decline or neurological issues requiring medical intervention. If your cat cries out when touched, cannot walk properly, or shows other worrisome symptoms, contact your vet right away.

While some meowing is normal in aging cats, be alert for any sudden increases in vocalizations or accompanying symptoms that suggest your cat is in distress or pain. If in doubt, reach out to your veterinarian, as timely treatment greatly improves outcomes.

Scroll to Top