Strange feline behaviour
December 20, 2008 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand my cat's strange behaviour

My cat is about 15 years old, now toothless, a neutered tom, very loving and 'talks' a lot to me. However, in the last few weeks, he's been much more aggressive in the way he speaks, especially if I'm in a room he can't get into or he's hungry. Instead of the bog-standard mew, he now makes this back-of-the-throat "weaaaaow" sound that I've not heard before.

The strangest thing is he goes to the spare bedroom upstairs and continually meows as if he needs letting in somewhere, but I've been up and there's nothing he needs there. He just sits in the middle of the room meowing wildly.

I give the wee fella a lot of attention, and he's with me many hours of the day, either sitting on my lap or beside me as I work. Our only other problem is that he just won't eat food with lumps in unlessthey're cat biscuits. Given he's toothless, you'd think he'd prefer the soft lumps, but no, it's all or nothing with this guy.

I suspect a lot of his problems are old age, but any light that can be shed on his strange behaviour would be most welcome.
posted by stenoboy to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He might be just needier as he ages which is not unusual. But - he could also be experiencing some pain somewhere like a urinary infection or something. Is there any pattern to when he meows?
posted by typewriter at 6:32 AM on December 20, 2008

Response by poster: No, there's no pattern to the miawing, just when he goes into the spare bedroom he starts off. I wonder if it's haunted!
posted by stenoboy at 6:36 AM on December 20, 2008

is there a mouse or something in the walls there? You should maybe observe the cat meowing in there (or put in a wee camera) and see if he is doing any OMG PREY!!!11! behaviour.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:38 AM on December 20, 2008

I'd chalk this up to your cat being... a cat.

Seriously, my cat does some pretty strange things. I've learned to mostly ignore them, because they quickly go away in favor of more normal cat behaviors, like butt licking or chasing a scrap of paper.
posted by nitsuj at 6:48 AM on December 20, 2008

I have heard that this behavior can be signs of thyroid problems. I'd check with the vet on this.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:05 AM on December 20, 2008

My senior citizen Bart started acting sort of like this, the meowing at least, when he started going deaf. He's completely deaf now and loooves to meow. I just assumed he was trying to hear his own voice, in vain.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 7:07 AM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Given his age, a quick trip to the vet may be in order.

However, as others have already said, he's a cat, and therefore likely to engage in all sorts of behaviors inexplicable to mere humans like ourselves.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:13 AM on December 20, 2008

Yeah, cats do weird things. If they are sick, they may, like humans, "not know what to do with themselves," and start exhibiting weird behavior which may come and go. (Lately, my cat suddenly seems to be begging for food or water, when her dishes are full. When the bathroom faucet was on, she jumped in the sink and drank from the flowing water, and was happy to lay in the sink drinking that way for as long as I would let her. Go figure.)

Anyway, it may be some latent feline instinct coming to the fore, either due to some illness, or for no reason whatsoever.

Has he lost weight? Increased thirst and urination? Increased appetite and bowl movements? Those could be signs of thyroid problems (as noted above) or diabetes.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:41 AM on December 20, 2008

I have heard that this behavior can be signs of thyroid problems. I'd check with the vet on this.

That was my vet's diagnosis when my 17 year old cat started doing the same thing. I hope yours responds better to treatment than mine did. :-(
posted by Joe Beese at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2008

If it helps, my beloved 16-year-old cat has started making this hideous yowling noise in the last couple of years - he's always been pretty vocal, but only in the chatty/hungry kind of way. This is a horrible throaty, forlorn noise - my brother calls it the cancer howl. (N.B. he's perfectly healthy, or at least being treated for everything wrong with him, mostly old age.) We attribute it to him being lonely; giving him a nice cuddle always stops it.

He's the most amazing cat, and absolutely adores human company - we think he's just getting a bit old and insecure and wanting even more cuddles than usual. He does it sometimes if you're in them same room and he can't see you; if you call him, he looks round, startled, and shuts up. You said your cat does it sometimes when you're in a room he can't get into, which sounds similar to mine.

So, make sure he has a clean bill of health, and then I wouldn't worry about it, it's probably just strange old-cat behaviour. So give him lots of hugs and attention and resign yourself to having a needy cat. (Just think of him as being a little old man who gets lonely easily, and wants someone to listen to his stories about the war over and over again. Or Grampa Simpson.)
posted by badmoonrising at 8:08 AM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Especially since your cat's male, another possibility that a quick trip to the vet can rule out is feline urinary blockage.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:20 AM on December 20, 2008

My wife's old kitty did this at the age of 18 years or so, when she would wake up and realize we weren't in the same room as her. She'd yowl hoarsely until one of us called her or went to get her, at which point she'd stop. I wouldn't rule out a vet visit, but it could just be the surprise a cat feels when it's sleep becomes more important to it than it's automatic radar-tracking of all nearby humans.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:21 AM on December 20, 2008

My sister's old (and now dead) cat used to yowl when he was in a room alone, especially at night. My sister eventually discovered he was deaf. Are you sure your kitty can hear?
posted by cropshy at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2008

My cat is an older cat and does this -- but only when he is looking at his water dish. In all other respects he's his usual self, he's just started....singing to his water bowl for a minute or so each day, before he drinks out of it.

Maybe he's saying Grace.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:46 AM on December 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

My elderly cat used to do this. We were told that she was probably senile, and she was definitely deaf, and she would get confused about where she was if she was alone so she would yowl really really loudly. Then she wouldn't be able to hear herself, so she would yowl even louder. It was the most heartbreaking yowl--I'm all alone in the world!! I'm lost!! Where are my people?!!!

You should get him checked, but he's probably just old and deaf.
posted by min at 9:58 AM on December 20, 2008

when my beloved cat got to be about 17, she started doing the MEOW thing too. she'd stand at the top of the stairs and do it, and i'd run out of the bedroom afraid she's been crushed by something, and she'd just be standing there, looking at me. it was a bit nerve wracking actually. so, nthing it's just that he's getting old.

when another one of my awesomely awesome cats got to be in her late teens, she went deaf, and her meow was just defaulted to LOUD because she couldn't hear herself.

so, all i really have are anecdotes to say that, it's probably just old age in kitties.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:13 AM on December 20, 2008

My aging cat did this as well. Then general consensus we came up with was that she was just lost and couldn't remember where she was. She yowled like never before, hoping someone would come and find her. For the most part it worked; someone always came running, but it was definitely unnerving.
posted by cgg at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

From the ASPCA's website:
"Important: If you own a cat who has traditionally not bothered you, but is now restlessly wandering about the house and crying during the night, there may be an underlying medical problem. If your cat is also eating noticeably more, she may have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which can be easily controlled with medication. To be on the safe side, have the cat checked by your veterinarian."
posted by terranova at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2008

My cat is only 8 years old and he wanders into other rooms and yowls loudly for no reason. This behavior just started last year. We think that he is calling for us to get in there and give him some attention. We call to him and he will not stop.
We recently moved and he went to the vet and was completely checked over before we lost our insurance. He's got a clean bill of health and one annoying habit!
posted by phytage at 11:28 AM on December 20, 2008

Is he urinating in that room? Is that where his litterbox used to be? Did another cat live in that room recently? I would definitely get him checked out.
posted by desjardins at 12:07 PM on December 20, 2008

Nthing possible hearing loss. One of my girls got progressively louder as she aged and I eventually figured out that she couldn't hear much else either.
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2008

My cat does this too, especially late at night. It's been going on for years.

We've taken him to the vets numerous times, but they've never discovered the cause of it. Finally we just learned to put up with it. Still wakes me up at 4 AM though...
posted by mikeand1 at 12:46 PM on December 20, 2008

Nth+1 hearing loss.

Get a comb. Sneak up behind him. Run your thumb down the comb. Haven't met a cat yet who can resist taking a look. (One of my oldest ones used to yawn whenever she heard it.) Good hearing test.

Also, jingle some car keys. In addition to human-audible frequencies, car keys emit ultrasonics that they can hear, too.

Last item... canned air.... the kind you clean your keyboard with. (You DO clean your keyboard, I trust?!) It emits loud ultrasonics.

If he's hard of hearing, he'll fail these tests. If he can hear, you'll have to figure out something else.

(Old kitty = sad. I hates me some calendar, I do.)
posted by FauxScot at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2008

N'thing that this warrants a trip to the vet. This kind of behavior often indicates a change in mental status or a physical illness.
posted by biscotti at 2:23 PM on December 20, 2008

Whenever your cat's behavior abruptly changes, you should get him checked by the vet just to be safe.

There might be a mouse in the walls of the spare room.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2008

My cat (16) has started doing this too, and I have definitely noticed that she's quite a lot deafer than she used to be. I've had her checked at the vet and it seems to be unrelated to anything medical, but it's good to do that check and know for sure.
posted by OolooKitty at 4:50 PM on December 20, 2008

Yeah, my 16-year-old cat does this and the cause is clearly that she's going deaf. :-(
posted by kindall at 5:39 PM on December 20, 2008

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