When an older cat suddenly meows nonstop, it's time to visit the vet

Q: I have an old Siamese cat named Ming who suddenly started meowing nonstop, especially at night. She’s always been vocal (she’s a Siamese) but this is crazy! We can’t get any sleep and I’m worried she’s in some kind of distress.

A: Time to head to your veterinarian’s place. Whenever I see senior patients who suddenly want to have long conversations with their owners (seemingly about nothing in particular) I feel pretty certain they’re telling somebody something. A medical reason is likely in these scenarios.

Here’s what I tend to think about when faced with these talkers:

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Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami.

  • Hyperthyroidism: An overactive thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, which can interfere with various organs, including the brain. It makes cats hungry, for one, which means she may be constantly begging for food. It can also lead to a dazed mental state, which some cats interpret as a reason to meow for no particular reason. Thyroid testing is very simple.

  • Hypertension: Yes, cats get high blood pressure, too. Kidney disease and thyroid disease are the most common causes of this issue. High blood pressure can lead to changes in the brain that might cause the vocalization behavior you’re observing. Your veterinarian can take a blood pressure reading to rule this out.

  • Cognitive dysfunction syndrome: Incessant meowing is also possible because of cognitive dysfunction (AKA, dementia). Pacing, vocalizing, starring at walls and otherwise acting a bit lost are all part of this gradual process. If it happens more at night, this possibility is even more likely. It’s hard to definitively diagnose, though.

  • Pain: It’s really hard to identify pain in cats since most cats don’t carry on like we humans do when they’re uncomfortable. Most choose to hide their discomfort as a survival mechanism. Older cats, especially those who suffer from any dementia, may lose this ability. Pain, therefore, is always a possibility in cases like Ming’s.

  • Brain tumors: These bad tumors are always a scary prospect. They can lead to seizures and collapse, but all kinds of sudden abnormal behavior are suspect, too. Since older cats are more likely to suffer these, we always consider them in cases like these. Diagnosis of brain tumors, however, can be an expensive prospect since MRIs and CT scans are pricey (though less so than they once were).

To summarize: See your veterinarian! Most talkers like Ming are highly treatable and, as such, need not suffer … or interfere with your sleep.

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is Send questions to