Dot Wedemeyer’s June 7 letter to my Times’ column about her yowling tabby generated many more letters in response than I have room to print in a daily newspaper column. Fortunately this blog has space for me to print them here. It’s an important subject, affecting a lot more humans and their companion cats than I realized. Has your aging cat suddenly started to "yowl" (cry loudly) in the middle of the night or during the day? Maybe this is why:
** Our 17-year old cat yowls when he "loses" us. It is a strong Y-O-W-L that can be heard throughout the house. He can’t hear well, can’t see well, sleeps a lot. When he feels alone, he lets us know. One time he walked past us, sat down with his back to us and began to yowl. We called to him and he turned, startled, to discover us.
He gave us a soft, happy "Mrrrp" and came over to claim a lap. (Margaret, Cosby’s mom, Alamo, CA)
** We have friends whose elderly cat has taken to yowling like that. In his case we think it is because he is either lost in the house, i.e., can’t remember the basics about his house, or has "discovered" he is now alone and wants to be with people. If they yell loudly, most of the time he comes running and looks very glad to have found them. Other times the yelling must not be loud enough or he has decided, "Enough is enough, let them come to ME for a change." When they find him, he again looks happy to have his people around.
We also think his hearing may be shot because when he is sleeping, he doesn’t react to noises like he used to. Of course this could all be because he has figured out those noises don’t represent a danger, so why expend the energy to be alert?
Cats, go figure. (Dodie, Pleasanton, CA)
** Re: the howling cat, we have had a similar experience. Our 19 year old Himalayan, Beezie was diagnosed with lymphoma on 8/16/04. She has been on prednisone ever since, and is still alive and well with a good quality of life. However, several months ago she began to howl at night, normally either in the kitchen or in the hall on the way to our bedroom. I would get up, pick her up, (she would immediately start purring), and bring her into our bedroom and put her on the bed.
In the winter, our cats usually sleep with us, in warm weather they make other arrangements. The howling increased, and started happening during the day as well. When I would go to pick her up, she appeared disoriented but immediately started purring. Our vet could find nothing to cause this, her hearing seems OK, though her eyesight may be getting poor. Anyway, it started happening numerous times at night and was seriously disturbing our sleep, so finally in desperation, I began to close two doors that locked off the hall and our bedroom, but left her access to her food, litter boxes, and an upstairs family room.
She began going upstairs at night, sleeping in her favorite chair. And after a couple nights of this, I no longer had to close the doors. Now every night after we give her the prednisone pill, she goes upstairs and gets comfortable in "her" chair, and no longer howls at all, day or night.
I don’t pretend to know why going upstairs has stopped her howling, but my feeling is that she got "lost" and disoriented on her way to our bedroom, and now she just goes directly to where she feels safe and knows where she is. Maybe the kitty needs to be placed in a safe sleeping spot where he (or she) would be content to stay during the night. (Sandy Rollins, Livermore, CA)
** In response to Dot Wedemeyer’s letter about her yowling cat, we too had a cat that would yowl at different times of the day, but mostly in the middle of the night all by herself. And, it sounds really pitiful, like she’s lost. Turned out our cat, who was 14 at the time, had an overactive thyroid, which is really quite common in older cats. Our vet said she has seen other cats with overactive thyroid do the same yowling, and she doesn’t quite know why except that they feel so hyper, that sometimes they have to let it out, and sometimes get kind of disoriented. If she has not had her cat checked for that, I would suggest it. It took some time, but after medication, she stopped the yowling entirely. (Sharon, cyberspace)