Why Does My Senior Cat Yowl Or Cry?

( 3 mins read)

Is your senior cat yowling more than ever?

Well, they may be telling you it’s much more than old age crankiness.

Vocalization is one of the more common signs of Feline Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), a disease in cats similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

As most cats are prone to this disease as they age, every cat owner should know how to recognize the signs of CDS and what to do to improve your feline friend’s quality of life.

CDS is way more common than we think

Results from the study show that CDS affects an estimated 28-36% of cats aged 7-14 years, 50% aged 15 years or older, and a whopping 88% of cats aged 16-19 years!

And like Alzheimer’s, there is currently no cure.

Owners rarely seek veterinary attention for behaviours like cat yowls and house-soiling for a variety of reasons.

Many believe it to be just a normal part of aging, while some are embarrassed that they can’t cope well with their pets, and others have the misconception that nothing can be done by the veterinarian to help them.

Because owners fail to report those behaviours, vets will diagnose CDS much less often than they would if given all the facts.

Diagnosing CDS

CDS is a diagnosis by exclusion. In other words, many diseases can mimic the signs of CDS (hypertension and diabetes, for example), and your vet needs to rule those out first before confirming that your cat has the disease.

The clinical investigation would include a thorough physical exam and complete blood chemistry and urinalysis. Because CDS affects the brain, your vet will also watch how your cat moves to see if they seem disoriented or if their other senses have been affected.

Four reasons your cat cries

The most apparent sign of CDS is a marked increase in vocalization, especially at night.

So, how do you deal with your cat when they are crying continuously?

If your cat is:

  1. Seeking attention – Give them attention. Pet, cuddle, or hold them and give them lots of reassurance and affirmation.
  2. Disoriented, confused, or lost – Leave soft music on and plug in a nightlight. Ask your vet for some help in the form of drugs, nutraceuticals (like vitamins, minerals, dietary supplements, or natural foods), or even a diet change to help reduce anxiety. 
  3. Seeking food – You may need to adjust their feeding times and may, for instance, feed them a small meal at night. You may also consider food puzzles as a form of environmental enrichment.
  4. In pain –Have your vet diagnose the cause and prescribe an appropriate nutraceutical or drug to make your pet more comfortable.

If these suggestions don’t work, noise-canceling devices are an option.

The most important thing to remember is that they aren’t behaving that way to bug or annoy you, so please be patient and NEVER shut them out of your room or scold them.

That only increases their stress and will likely contribute to even more cat yowling.

Advocating to help your cat

Although there is no cure for CDS, you can advocate for your senior cat and take an active role in helping them by first determining if CDS might be the cause of their increased crying.

It will help you identify tell-tale signs and give your vet the base of information they need to begin a diagnostic investigation.

Nobody wants their cat to be in distress and the behaviours that CDS causes can be very stressful to your cat and you as well! We – owners and vets alike – need to do a better job of getting our senior cats diagnosed earlier and more often.


Dr. Mike

Veterinarian and Pet Wellness Advocate
Fear-Free Certified Elite Level practitioner.
His mission is to encourage pet owners to welcome the responsibility of providing their pets with the very best care possible.