Cat is HOWLING, what can we do to make her simmer down?
November 21, 2012 1:35 PM   Subscribe

Please help us try and figure out why our cat is behaving the way she is, and if possible recommend some solutions to help...

The cat in question is a normal domestic short hair who is about 9-10 years old. She was a few months old when my S.O. got her originally. In the past she has been a somewhat shy, keep to herself kind of cat - spending most of the day under the bed or hidden away somewhere. Over the last couple of years she has come out of her shell a bit, and seems more social, but still has the skittish, 'hiding out' tendencies. We have one other cat who's personality is about as close to a dog's as you can get. They both are eating and using the bathroom normally.

Last month we moved into a new permanent place after having a terrible experience over this past summer where we had to live in about 5 or 6 different temporary housing situations (don't ask!). In each of those places the cats definitely were stressed, but within a day or so they seemed ok and settled.

This cat's behavior is fairly status quo for the most part - she'll be hidden away all day napping, but as it gets late at night, she'll start doing a few out of character things that are annoying. One thing she does is try to get inside closets or doors that are closed, and howls loudly if she can't get access. Curiosity we assume. Additionally she'll sit at the top of our stairs and howl as well. Sometimes when one of us is just sitting there she'll howl a little and try and get our attention. It's usually at night that we can pet her a lot easier, and she's more affectionate, whereas most of the other times she avoids contact altogether. She loves her head to be scratched, and we notice that her head feels quite warm at times - and she has not been laying in the sun or under a blanket. We can't say for sure if she's sick because she is definitely not lethargic.

We think she is mostly bored and needs to be played with more. At our last home (not the temp housing), she had more windows to look out of at night, which she liked doing. We are trying to set that up for her now, but it's been a challenge moving into this new place and we're waiting on curtains to be made etc. because we have to keep the blinds closed for privacy (1st world problems, meh). We've helped the loud howling a little bit by wearing her out with some more attention/playtime.

Is there any other thing we can do or try other than get the cat TV (windows) working ASAP?
posted by kilohertz to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
This to me sounds like it could still be transitional, getting used to the new place. Cats take a surprisingly long time to truly adjust to changes, large or small. Our older cat will take days to weeks to get used to the simplest change in her environment.

I would give it more time, if she continues to behave like this, I would take her into the vet, it may be the onset of a thyroid problem.
posted by nanook at 1:42 PM on November 21, 2012

I agree. Sounds like a transition problem and I further agree that it can take cats a LONG time to make these types of transitions. I'd be thankful that she's not peeing on everything!

Do you have a garage? If so there are a few things you can do with it to stimulate your animal which will often change a cat's behavior. Release a few crickets and let the hunt begin!
posted by Paalen at 1:51 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

When our cats were trying desperately to get into closets at a new place it turned out we had mice.
posted by crabintheocean at 1:57 PM on November 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

Has she had any bloodwork recently? 9-10 years old is prime time for cats to develop hyperthyroidism, which is insanely common in older cats and (thankfully) very very easy to treat and control with an inexpensive daily pill. One of the common symptoms is new, excessive vocalization. Might be time for a checkup, especially if she's lost a little weight recently.
posted by jesourie at 2:12 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Crabintheocean: I have been wondering the same thing about my cat over the past few weeks (howling at cabinets, staring at the space under the dishwasher, etc), and today I found a dead baby mouse IN THE OVEN (OMFG FREAK OUT), so you may have a point...
posted by roboton666 at 2:20 PM on November 21, 2012

@ jesourie

She had some bloodwork done either earlier in this year or last year, and everything checked out ok at the time. She does seem like she has lost weight actually, thanks for reminding us of that fact.

We probably need to get her checked out at the vet.
posted by kilohertz at 2:24 PM on November 21, 2012

Rule out hypothyroidism. Can she have access to closets and closed (interior) doors? It might be that the exploring is part of her sussing out the new space and checking out all its nooks and crannies. Can you just leave them ajar for her? She can almost certainly tell that this place is more permanent than your recent leapfrogging around, so she's perhaps getting comfortable and familiar with it. Is it larger than the other places you've lived? The yowling might be contacting you across the new space, filling it up with her noise, sort of a territorial claim. In my experience, fretful cats are hiding cats, and yours sounds to me like she is getting comfortable in her new digs.

And your requisite kitty image link appears to be missing or broken.
posted by Lou Stuells at 3:05 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'll third that this sounds like what my cat did when we had mice - but it's impossible to tell without pictures of said cat/s. Also, cats are weird, check with the vet etc.

My only other suggestion would be to get an aquarium (with a lid!) and fish (or with no lid and fish that you don't care much about). And yes, we often have crickets that have escaped from feeding the gecko, and the cat will hunt them. As a bonus, our house also always sounds like we're camping.
posted by peagood at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

It sounds territorial. Especially in a new place, cats have a very strong need to check out every little nook and cranny in their world. Your cat may give you some peace if you leave some closet doors open at night so she can check them out. My cats need to do this periodically, and it seems perfectly reasonable to me.
posted by Corvid at 3:49 PM on November 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Just chiming in that not being able to have a closed closet door is a not-uncommon trait for cat owners. My mom's cat gets downright angry when the door is closed. Mine work together as the three musketkittehs to open all mine. Heck, one of mine is even offended by closed kitchen cupboards, but she's learned she can't always get what she wants.

As a good rule of thumb however, because cats are so good at hiding symptoms when they're sick, any change in behavior usually warrants a trip to the vet.
posted by cgg at 4:02 PM on November 21, 2012

After the vet, maybe some things you can try:
Can you raise the blinds a bit and tape up cardboard for privacy, but leave a four inch hole in it for cat viewing? Nthing the aqua show. If you don't want live fish, this might work. Or even this jelly fish mood lamp!

Sleeping during the day? Why not wake her up for some five minute play sessions? What's wrong with letting all the closet doors open a tiny bit at night? How about interactive toys that only come out at night that can be spread around the house? Freebies would be boxes taped together with holes--some with toy mice, some without. Grocery sacks are always a hit, and some cats like bubble wrap. Yarn, pieces of fabric, milk jug lids, etc are all good. Then there are interactive toys like some of the ones here: smart box, tweet thing, crinkle balls, bungie shrimp, balance ball--you could even try the nighttime twinkle ball to see how that works (haven't seen that one.) Various danglers tied from door knobs are good. If your cat hangs out on the stairs, I'd be so tempted to get a slinky!
posted by BlueHorse at 4:16 PM on November 21, 2012

We have Pride Time at night, every night. We all get in the bed and tummy rubs, and nuzzles and petting happens.

Then they get some whipped cream on a plate and everyone's done for the night.

So perhaps a kitty/people ritual at night where everyone knows when it's time to turn out the lights and settle down.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding ruling out hyperthyroidism. Her age + the weight loss + the howling are all classic indicators. It's easily treated (though unless you go the drastic, expensive, and radioactive route, it'll be treatment she needs the rest of her life), but you definitely don't want it to go unchecked for long as it can lead to serious problems.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:50 PM on November 21, 2012

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