Older Cat Behaviour. Howling, Yowling & Meows. What do they Mean

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Throughout their lives, our feline friends go through various phases and this can be reflected in their behavior. Think of the playful nature of a kitten which quickly turns into the need for sleep or the spraying related to boys who are marking their territory.

As a result of this, over time, cat parents may begin to notice new and often confusing behaviors from their older pets. Quite often, this can be in the form of communication. Older cat behavior may be displayed in various yowls, trills, and chatters – all of which could be your beloved puss trying to tell you something.

In this article, we are going to be looking at how you can expect your cat’s behavior to change as he gets older and what his different communications might mean.


Understanding How Cats Communicate


Of course, unlike their humans, cats do not have the vocal ability to communicate their needs and feelings in such an expressive way and as such, will use a variety of noises to let humans and other animals know what’s on their mind.

There have been a variety of studies conducted on feline language and behavior and it may come as a surprise to learn that how your cat communicates with you is something she has developed for you, and you alone. If you observe the way she interacts with other animals, this will likely be extremely different. One of the best ways to understand what your cat is saying, and to get to know her better is by listening to her. Over time, you will begin to learn what the different sounds mean, and when you couple these with her other behaviors, things may become surprisingly clear.

One of the most obvious communications of cats of any age is their attempts at getting noticed when it is getting close to dinner time. Most cat owners will be familiar with the constant meowing of their kitty, which is often coupled with the cat rubbing up against your leg or sitting at their bowl. It’s blindingly obvious what she is asking for.

However, when it comes to other sounds, cat owners may not be as familiar and it is important to understand what your older cat is trying to tell you. So, let’s take a look at the various noises you might hear from an older cat and what they might mean.


Yowling in an older cat


Hearing a yowling noise from your cat will alert your senses as this can be quite a desperate sound that can cause owners to wonder if their cat is being attacked.

For older cats, yowling occurs most often during the night – this can be disruptive to your sleep and extremely frustrating if you aren’t aware of how to stop it. In the main, your moggy will be yowling because of a health condition.

Many older cats struggle with their sight and hearing and this can be distressing for the animal, especially once the lights go out. However, much like a human child, reassuring your pet with aids can be beneficial. One of the easiest things you can do is to install a night light in the area where your cat sleeps. If their vision is already deteriorating, the dark of night can seem impossible to navigate, but giving your kitty a little extra light can often solve the problem.

However, the health problem may not always be as simple to treat and in some cases, yowling can be a result of your pet being in pain. Since they can’t tell you how they are feeling, their yowling is the only way to let you know. The reason that this occurs mostly during the night is that your cat will have nothing to distract him from the pain or discomfort he is experiencing. You might compare this to when humans are ill and the nights can often be the most pressing.

Taking your puss to the vets and receiving a diagnosis and treatment can quite often be the answer to your problems.

Furthermore, as cats get older, they may become more insistent and in some cases, may start yowling out of hunger. While this isn’t as common, it is worth considering and if you have noticed that your cat’s appetite appears far more demanding, you might try switching to a higher protein food to keep his tummy full for longer.

Finally, a yowling cat could be a cat who is trapped somewhere. This could be particularly applicable for older cats who have become disoriented and may frequently get lost, even within the home.



Meowing in older cats


Meowing is the most common noise that humans associate with cats and more often than not, we see it as an everyday sound. Some cats will even meow repeatedly when their owners return home. We often expect dogs to become excited at their owner’s return but this behavior isn’t as closely associated with felines – but it does happen. However, there are times when your older cat may begin to excessively meow and this could be a cause for concern.

Of course, the most common reasons that a cat might meow are to attract his owner’s attention in order to get what he wants – food, playtime, cuddles or to be let in the house. But in some elderly cats, meowing can be a sign of mental confusion. Much like humans, cats can suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease, and this can be distressing for doting pet parents. If you suspect that your older cat may be becoming disorientated and confused, you should book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.

There are various treatments that can be used to help older cats through the later stages of life and any health problems that may come along with that. For the most part, doing this will likely reduce the amount of meowing that your cat does.


Purring. Are they happy?

When most people think of a purring cat, they will instantly assume that this means that the cat is content and perhaps enjoying some much-needed attention from their owner. In the main, this is true, and purring is your cat’s way of letting you know that he is happy.

The purring sound is quite different from many of the other noises that a cat makes, in that it is produced in a vastly different way. Whilst meowing and yowling are very vocal noises that could be easily replicated by a human – if they had the urge, purring is done further down in the throat. A cat purrs by breathing air in and at the same time uses his muscles to make the vocal cords vibrate, these actions paired together cause that vibrating purr that is so appealing to humans.

But it is important to remember that as cats get older, their purr might mean something more than feeling happy and relaxed. For more senior animals this could be a sign of illness. Whilst cats do use a purr when they are content, they may also use it as a form of comfort if they are in pain.

A lot of cat owners will mistake continual purring for something far more positive than it is, so it is important to see your vet if you notice your cat is purring more frequently than usual. You might also pay attention to when the cat is purring. If it happens when they are getting some fuss from you, this is likely normal, but if they are doing it at obscure times, it could be a sign of discomfort.

There has even been evidence to suggest that in cases where the cat needs help, he will alter his purr slightly to attract his human. This type of purr is seen to be more urgent and can have a cognitive effect on humans in a similar way to that of a crying baby.


Trilling. What does it mean?


Cats trill throughout their lives, many times it will be a sign of happiness, much like the purr. You will potentially notice that your cat trills when you pet her. Additionally, a lot of kitties will trill when their owners return home and this demonstrates their happiness and excitement to see you.

Furthermore, cats will use trilling as a way of communicating among themselves. If you are the proud parent of multiple moggies, you will have likely noticed that they ‘talk‘ to each other using a series of trills.

In the main, if your cat trills, it can be seen as positive communication. That being said, as cats get older and health conditions become more prevalent, trilling could indicate that your puss is suffering and wants your help. For older cats who are in pain or otherwise ill, it is likely that their trilling will increase and this won’t be in conjunction with the usually pleasurable triggers for trilling.

In this instance, it is important to determine what the cause of the trilling is and address the issue as soon as possible. Of course, the best way to do this is to visit your vet.


Chattering. What is this noise?


Much like many of the other sounds that cats make throughout their lives, chattering is usually very normal. For the most part, a cat will chatter as a predatory reaction. You may notice your cat chattering when she sees a bird or even a rodent that she wants to chase. This might happen even more intensely if she cannot get to the prey – for example, if she is watching it through a window.

However, as your cat ages, she may begin making What Do Cat Meows Mean? Learn What Your Kitty Is Trying to Tell Youchattering noises to show that she is scared, annoyed, or in pain. There are some experts that suggest that chattering is similar to how humans will use swearing, to express displeasure or anger.

One of the easiest ways to tell if your older cats’ behavior is linked to an ailment is to look at whether the chattering occurs on its own or if it is coupled with dribbling or salivating. If it is, this could be a sign of something much more sinister and it is important to have your kitty checked over at the earliest opportunity.


Other Older Cat Behaviours That Are Concerning


Cats are complex creatures that need a lot of attention and this is even more true as they age. If you have noticed that your cat is beginning to exhibit strange behaviors that are completely out of character, you will be understandably worried. Below are some other older cat behaviors that might need a little extra attention.

  • Many older cats may forget things that they once had no issue with. This might include forgetting where their food bowl and litter tray is.
  • They may begin to react in an aggressive manner. This is owing to their increased anxiety and fear and is particularly problematic in cats with cognitive deterioration.
  • Senior cats can often become lost as a result of increasing disorientation.
  • As you cat ages, he may decide that he doesn’t want as much physical affection from his owners. This may be down to feeling in pain. However, some cats may react in the opposite way and become a lot more clingy.
  • Grooming may become less important to the cat.



It can be difficult as a cat owner, to watch your beloved pet getting older and often struggling with decreased health but understanding how your cat communicates her concerns can go a long way in helping her through old age.

For the most part, older cats will vocalize in ways that tell their owners they need help and attention and this should never be ignored.

If your older cat has begun displaying unusual behaviors or communicating in a different way, it is important to have her checked out by your vet. More often than not, conditions can be treated to make the cat more comfortable and the home more peaceful.


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