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Cat howls at night time.

Species: Cat
Breed: domestic long hair (
Age: 11-15 years
Hi - Rusty is almost 15 yrs. and meows and howls at night. Basically, he throws a kitty tantrum every night! He wakes up around 3 a.m. and howls until I get up to be with him. He eats, drinks, pees, poops and plays regularly. He can be a very playful, active, normal kitty as long as I initiate. He is drinking a little more than used to and in turn pees/poops more (I figure due to additional hard food to try and quiet him during the night). The only thing different in the past several months is that he recently licked the hair off his belly - I think its starting to come back now.

I believe his howling at night is behaviour related.

Because .... two years ago I separated from my husband and Rusty came with me to a small apartment from a big house where he had full roam. Then a year and a half ago I started seeing someone and he moved in with me and Rusty. (he loves Rusty but Rusty only tolerates his efforts to be friendly). (Rusty started excessive grooming and howling at night) Last September I alone moved into my Mom's house for two month's while looking for another, larger, apartment (Rusty still over grooming but howling stopped). I lost my full time job in November so I am home most of the time right now. Got the new apartment and we all moved in Dec 1st. While I was living by myself Rusty would sleep with me at the bottom of my bed (quietly). Now he won't stay on the bed (quietly) unless I am the only one in it.

I have tried natural calming spray, lights, radio, feeding, ignoring him, and now I have him closed into the kitchen for the night with his litter box and a bed which he does sleep in ... with a child safety gate. I try to "put him to bed" a half hour before we turn off the tv and go to bed ... so he doesn't think we are dumping him in the kitchen and desserting him. Rusty is afraid of people (actually noises too - always has been) and gets very scared. A trip to the vet is devastating. He hides when the door bell rings or if someone is visiting. He will rub up against my boyfriend (allows petting), who does feed him and play with him and Rusty finally would come to my mom and rub on her and get petted by her cause she would feed him and check on him while I was either at work or out while we were staying at her house.

The bottom line is this: Rusty makes so much noise, crying and howling, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. that I am going to get evicted for disturbing the peace, my boyfriend is going to break up with me because he thinks I care more about the cat than him, along with the fact that he is going to work exhausted cause he can't sleep through the noise, and when I start working again, I need eight hours sleep each night to keep my own health problems in check. I am at my wit's end. Is there a medication (from the vet) or something else I can try. I swear he is not in pain ! During the day he will do rolly polly on the floor at my feet, we play catch with a bread tie (his favorite game). He does sleep a little better if I keep him VERY active for a while during the day, otherwise he will SLEEP (quietely) most of the day.

I am going to lose my mind (along with everything else) if I can't put a stop to this. Since I am out of work, I can't afford to go to the vet and have him run tests, etc. etc. while on a fishing expedition for a medical reason. The only thing I even gave thought to was Hyperthyroid, but too much doesn't fit. I really think it's behavioral.

Do they make a muzzle for cats?

Very anxious for your thoughts ....


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi there Doris...thanks for the detailed question! I'm sorry that you are having this frustrating problem.

There are a few things that can cause an older cat to have this type of behavior. It certainly can be because of hyperthyroidism. Cats who are hyperthyroid will often have an increase in blood pressure, especially at night time. It is believed that the increase in blood pressure causes a cat to have a headache and this is why they are crying.

If he is hyperthyroid, most cats are treated quite easily with a medication that is taken once or twice daily.

I have also seen some cats as they get older get something called cognitive dysfunction. This is similar to senility in humans. While there is no cure for this condition there are things we can do to help reduce the symptoms. I will often prescribe a medication called clomicalm or another one that sometimes works in amitryptilline. Amitryptilline will likely also help with the hair loss which is often caused by overgrooming due to stress.

The bad news is that in order to get a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism or to get meds for cognitive dysfunction you will need to see a vet. In my practice an exam plus bloodwork would cost about $160.

A few other things that you could try include leaving a light on, especially where his litter box is. (Some cats as they get older can't see well in the dark). You can also leave treats out for him. Additionally, you can try leaving a radio on for him.

However, ultimately he will probably need a vet visit.

I hope he does ok!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

In addition to $160 the cat would have to have a current rabies and distemper vaccine too? or is that something that varies from one vet to another? I am just afraid of spending $250 and ending up with nothing more than a big bill and the cat that doesn't sleep at night.

I have tried all those things you suggested to no avail, but I will try again now that he is in a confined space at night.

Thank you soo much for your thoughts. (Boy, you are quick once you finally receive the question ... lol)


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome Doris.

He really shouldn't require vaccinations in order to be seen. I have never made that a requirement for an animal to see me.

If you do go, explain to the vet that you are on a tight budget and you only want what is absolutely necessary to be done.

If it turns out to be thyroid then they can start the appropriate medicine. However, if the bloodwork is normal then you could ask if they could prescribe an anxiety medicine.

Hope that helps!

Dr. Marie

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.