Q: We have an 18-year-old indoor spayed cat. For the first 16 years she was a typical house cat, but over the past two years she has grown progressively more and more boisterous. Several times a day she emits very loud meows; sometimes almost growling noises that can be heard throughout the house. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. It’s cute during the day but not at 2 a.m. … in our bedroom. We’ve had her vet-checked, but they say she’s in good health and can’t explain why she’s suddenly making all this noise. All her other behavior is normal so we’re thinking it might just be dementia sinking in. Any suggestions other than banishing her to the basement at night?
— T.C., Akron
A: Geriatric cats are at higher risk for developing thyroid disease, which causes signs like increased activity, loud vocalizing, weight loss and voracious appetite. Even though her physical examination was unremarkable, it may be prudent to perform blood work to rule out this common metabolic disease before proceeding with behavior modification. If the underlying cause of her changes is thyroid disease, her signs won’t resolve until it’s treated.
If her thyroid level comes back as normal, it becomes very likely that her behavior is related to an aging brain. The formal diagnosis is cognitive dysfunction syndrome and the progression is similar to Alzheimer’s in people. Many pet owners report alterations in sleep-wake cycles and restless or repetitive behavior. The precise cause can be difficult to identify.
There are some natural ways to promote more restful nights. Calming herbs like valerian and skullcap can calm pets. A favorite is Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend. Given an hour or so before bed, it helps soothe dogs and cats and promote sleep.
Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, can also be given in the evening to encourage winding down. Gentle massage and petting might also help to calm her.
Finally, it’s always beneficial to engage in play and other stimulating activities during the day. This will ensure she expends energy during appropriate hours — and interaction with you will also help to keep her brain invigorated and healthy.
— Stephanie Sivula
Practice manager and
Dancing Paws Animal
Wellness Center, Richfield
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.