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21 year old cat - behaviour problems - howling too much

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi:

I have a 21 year old cat - she's a short-hair, tabby. For the past couple years or so (this has been gradually building up), her personality has changed and she has developed some bad behaviours.

She does go for regular checkups at the vet and we have mentioned the problems to her doctor. The doctor (who is a specialist in cats) said that everything seems ok for a cat her age - she has kidney problems, but we give her sub-q fluids for that. She also has slightly high blood pressure (she takes meds for that too), but otherwise everything is fine. The vet suspected that she has hyperthyroidism, but that is not the case - her thyroid is normal.

She has become extremely dependent on us and she gets extremely upset when she's alone (she used to be very independent). She likes to stay mainly in the den, and as soon as anyone sits down on the couch, she tries to sit on their lap and begs them to scratch her head. This is fine some of the time, but she insists on sitting on someone's lap and getting her head scratched 24-7! If she has been sitting on my lap, and I take her off, she keeps trying over and over and over again to come back onto my lap or to get my attention - I'm afraid she will hurt herself.

We did solve the problem temporarily by getting her an electric blanket, but she has gotten tired of that after a few months and resumed her bad behaviour.

The problem also lessens in the summer time when the weather is better because she likes to suntan.

The worst problem, though, is the howling. She screams extremely loud at random times, and especially when she is alone. Her voice has become so annoying - it is extremely loud and growly. Sometimes, she just sits and screams - staring off into space - until someone tells her to shut up - then she seems to act surprised that someone is talking to her and stops meowing, but then starts up again at another random time.

She also does not sleep very much (compared to her previous routine) and frequently runs up and down the stairs asking for attention.

Also, nearly three years ago, she suffered a pretty major stroke. She was unable to walk - her hind legs were very weak, and when we took her to the vet that same day, the vet told us that she was blind.

We took her home at that time, moved her bed from the armchair to the ground, and expected her to die soon. However, she recovered on her own within a week. At first, she dragged herself to her food bowl and around the room using her front paws, within a couple days she regained motion in her hind legs, and then she just recovered. Maybe she invented her own physical therapy or something.

I think that her personality change has something to do with the stroke - I don't think that she completely recovered her eyesight - but this behaviour has been a gradual development - there was no sudden change after the stroke.

Can anybody suggest anything? I expect that I won't have as much trouble over the summer because she will be busy suntanning, but I think the problem will get worse again in the fall.

Thanks!
post #2 of 19
I don't really have any suggestions to offer, but her need to be close to someone, touched, and the meowing sounds almost like kitten behavior. Some elderly people do return to childlike behavior, maybe that's the cat version of it.

Good luck with your sweety
post #3 of 19
I don't really have any good advice to give.. but I wanted to say having a cat 21 years young must mean you're doing something very good! You must be a wonderful cat- parent to have!

I hope your sweetie and you come to an agreement
post #4 of 19
At 21 she is probably hard of hearing, she may not even realize she is howling like she is. At that age you can't really get mad or annoyed at them I mean, cats don't generally live that long you know? At least don't show them that you are mad or annoyed at them

Congradulations on having such an old kitty!
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jen View Post
At 21 she is probably hard of hearing, she may not even realize she is howling like she is. At that age you can't really get mad or annoyed at them I mean, cats don't generally live that long you know? At least don't show them that you are mad or annoyed at them

Congradulations on having such an old kitty!
She could also be suffering from dementia which is not unheard of in older cats. The Yowling could be because she gets confused or forgets where she is for a few moments.

Some Symptoms of Feline Dementia can include: Sleep pattern changes where the cat tends to be up more at night, Pacing the halls as if restless. appearing lost or confused. Yowling at odd times of the day/night. Decreased desire for contact with humans, etc.

There may be a drug that is available now for cats. According the Purina site there is definitely a drug available for dogs, but it wasn't approved for cats at the time the article was written.

I think the best thing you can do is keep her as comfortable as possible and give her as much as you can. Talk to her a lot and try to keep her engaged with playtime. If it is Dementia, these things can help slow the process. Feliway might help calm her when she is feeling lost or confused as well.

I would not categorize it as bad behavior though. It's just a product of getting older. Supposedly scientists have found links to feline dementia and Alzheimer's in human patients. As time goes by other symptoms might start showing themselves as well since it is a very gradual process, not all symptoms will come about at once.

Some Info:

http://www.consciouschoice.com/2006/...entia0608.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6212080.stm

http://catchow.com/catcarecenter_phy...mbinedID=21635
post #6 of 19
Keep her warm and don't think of her as having behaviour problems, think of her as having survived a long life and still going strong (if a little loopy :-).
post #7 of 19
Firstly - 21 years old????????? You must awesome furparents if she's lived that long - she a lucky girl to have you.

Secondly, I have to agree with the others here. She's an old girl - maybe she understands her time has almost come and she is trying to get as much love as she can. Cats have instincts about these things, they really do. When she starts leaving you alone and going off by herrself I would be starting to get ready to say goodbye.

I think the point made above about the yowling is excellent. She is an elderly, elderly cat. She is probably tired and a bit confused and therefore a bit frightened. Cats only learned to vocalise as a form of communication with humans - with each other they rely almost entirely on scent and body language. Vocalising like you describe would indicate (to me) stress. She may be showing some signs of feline dementia, and the volume - well, it makes sense that she might be going deaf. She could also have some pain that you just don't know about and can't diagnose. She's a very old girl.

I wouldn't see it as bad behaviour. She's not being naughty - she's yowling, yes, but there must be a reason for that even if we can't fathom what it may be. And the cuddling? Well, again - she's probably confused and insecure, and trying to be reassured. Spme simple, mild sedative medication may help her immensely. But just be aware - sedatives can sometimes have opposite the desired effect in cats, and she is at an age where you need to be extra careful of these things.

I think that you will just have to do your best to make her feel as loved, comfortable and cherished as possible, because at this age she doesn't have much time left, and you don't want your memories of her being tarnished by frustration.

I would love to see a photo of her (I would love to meet her!) because she sounds like a sweet little muffin. Best of luck to you.
post #8 of 19
She sounds to me like she's almost totally deaf and if she's having problems with eyesighte too - the howling/loud yelling is her trying to find you. The deaf kitten we had used to scream at the top of the steps till she saw you.

If she is deaf, she can't hear you or herself. Has her hearing been checked lately?

At 21 she's at the end of her time and things will probably start getting worse as she declines.
post #9 of 19
Hi mur, welcome to TCS.

If this cat were mine, I would be treating her like I would treat a very much loved dear old Great Grandmother. I would do everything I could to keep her comfortable and happy. That doesn't mean she won't get on your nerves sometimes but if you understand she is probably almost completely deaf and blind, she may have arthritis and a bit of dementia, you'll understand why she does the things she does.

Good luck with her, she sounds like a grand old girl.
post #10 of 19
She sounds a lot like my parents' 19-year-old cat, PJ. PJ is hard of hearing (not completely deaf, but pretty darned close at this point) and yowls until she can hear herself. She mostly does this at night, when people are trying to sleep. We suspect that this is partly due to the fact that she gets shut out of my parents' bedroom at night: she has a bad tendency to throw up on the carpets, so she's shut out of the carpeted rooms when my folks aren't able to keep an eye on her. Since she's become a lot needier in her old age, she doesn't like being kept away from my parents, and so she cries because she wants their attention.

PJ also has a heart murmur, thyroid problems, and can only eat in very small amounts (or else she throws up). My parents coddle her very, very much, because, well, she's their baby (one of their babies, anyway! ) and because she's ancient. I think one of the reasons my father opted for early retirement is so that he can stay home and babysit the cat!

I agree with the poster who said you should treat your cat the way you would a great-(great-)grandmother. 21 is very old for a cat, and certain accommodations have to be met.
post #11 of 19
Hi mur -

Congratulations on having your baby all these years!

I had an elderly cat (lived to 22) that had many of the same symptoms.
We didnt know for sure what caused what with her behavior; we just adjusted as needed.

She did the howling too; it was when she was alone in a room but would quiet down if she spotted us. We knew for sure she was deaf and thought perhaps that or her hyperthyroid caused the yowling. It was something she had never done. (the upside to the deafness: We could actually vacuum her to get her loose hairs ) My aunt's cat is blind and yowls when she gets "lost" on her way to find them. My aunt goes to her and carries her in to her bedroom when she's lost.

She had a small stroke as well, we guess, and she recovered about 80% within an hour. SHe lived maybe 2-3 years after that.

She also got very needy. We thought it was kind of funny; she had snubbed us often before, as cats will do. We figured she got old and didnt care about keeping up cat appearances any longer! She didnt have the pride she once did!

Our commitment was to care for her FOR LIFE, which we did, no matter the complications. We cared for her to the best of our ability until it was time for her to go. We knew time was ticking down and let her get away with stuff that would have been off limits in the past. (sniffle...now I'm missing my sweet baby)

Quote:
PJ also has a heart murmur, thyroid problems, and can only eat in very small amounts (or else she throws up).
Same here!

For the poster who wrote regarding cat demenia - thank you! Never heard of that before! The vet never even mentioned it either.
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kumbulu View Post
Hi mur, welcome to TCS.

If this cat were mine, I would be treating her like I would treat a very much loved dear old Great Grandmother. I would do everything I could to keep her comfortable and happy. That doesn't mean she won't get on your nerves sometimes but if you understand she is probably almost completely deaf and blind, she may have arthritis and a bit of dementia, you'll understand why she does the things she does.

Good luck with her, she sounds like a grand old girl.
Lots of good advice in this thread, but I think Tania said it best. My RB old lady Shasta lived to 21, and your description sounds a lot like her. Just love her on her terms and make allowances, and treasure every moment you have.
post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi - Thanks for the replies.

Yah - I think it may be dementia - her personality has changed a lot. She used to be very independent, and when she was a kitten (I'm actually not much older than she is, so I can't actually remember that much about when she was a kitten), she was very aggressive and ambitious - she dominated all the other cats on the block in her prime!!

So far she seems to be doing well - knock on wood - she is very active and eats quite a lot. We have to give her homemade food because she is allergic to many commercial cat food brands.

I will check out those medications you recommended - thanks for those recs.

I'm very sure that she cannot see very well and that she didn't fully recover her eyesight after the stroke. She can see - I'm sure of that, because when I move my hand in a scratching motion, even though she is on the other side of the room, she will come to me because she wants me to scratch her head.

However, she doesn't show any interest in looking out the window anymore, and she doesn't go outside by herself anymore - other than the deck, which is closed in - she goes there to suntan - I think it's because she is worried that she cannot handle it. Also she went out in the backyard last summer with my brother and my mom, and the next door neighbour's cat came into the yard. Even though the other cat was only a couple metres in front of her, she didn't see the cat. In the past she would have gotten very mad and chased the cat out of the yard. I think the other cat was pretty confused!

I'm pretty sure, though, that she can hear - I'm not sure how well - maybe she's lost some of that too - but she seems to be able to hear even soft sounds.

Here are two pictures of her:

This first one is from 1997 or 1998:

http://www.ratemykitten.com/pictures/000000917/77686/

This next one is from 2003 (she was 17 then) - my brother was fooling around with a Santa hat and she was pretty mad!

http://www.ratemykitten.com/pictures/000000936/114594/

She looks quite different because she lost a lot of weight when we went on vacation and left her in a kennel that she didn't like in 1999. She was quite overweight before.

I'm at work right now, but I'll upload a more recent picture when I get home.
post #14 of 19
Ohhhhhh look at her darling face! And those whiskers.... they're so long!

I wonder if, like a person's ears, they just keep growing the older you get?
post #15 of 19
Hi mur, I just wanted to let you know we feel your pain. My parents had been complaining about Patches, who's 18. I slept in her room when I stayed over. I actually saw her get up from the bed, walk to the desk, and yowl to wake the dead. She then turned around, walked back to me, and yowled again. I picked her up and put her back on the bed, and she curled up and went to sleep. To make it more odd, she can get on the bed by herself. There's even steps so as not to iritate her arthritis.

Patches is also semi-feral and has become MUCH more loving. She never slept on laps until she was 12, and she was an "equal-opprotunity hater". Actually, you kitty's old personality sounds VERY much like Patches.

We've chalked it up as dementia, possibly the beginnings of Alzheimers. We also have a family member with Alzheimers so have been learning about it. The similiarity between our cat's behavior and our family member's is uncanny, even down to the personality change. As pointed out, this is probably a similar disease.

My parents were going to try Feliway. Stress can cause animals to be anxious, and nighttime is always worse somehow. The hope is that she will be less stressed and the symptoms will lessen. I'll PM you to let you know how it goes.
post #16 of 19
My 19 year old cat is having the same set of behaviour.

Tried Feliway but it did not help.

Guess this comes with age. So giving her lots of TLC now.
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
Yeah I guess so - thanks for the replies. I'm going to try Feliway and see if it has any affect. Otherwise, yeah, I guess we'll just have to live with it!
post #18 of 19
Bachs rescue remedy helps with my nearly 19 yr old
post #19 of 19
Congrats on getting her to the age of 21!! It could be something like dementia, or it could be related to her hearing and sight. When was the last time she had a vet check? My friend had a 20yo who was howling a lot, she thought it was his thyroid until she took him to the vets and it turned out he had very high blood pressure, so that might be worth looking into - it doesn't take long to do, one of mine had his checked and we were sorted within 15 mins and it wasn't expensive either.
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