Howling at the moon: Petplan pet insurance takes a look at chatty cats

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Oct 05 2011

Do you have a talkative cat? I'm not asking if your cat actually speaks to you (although I know many pet parents who swear they do!), but some cats seem to be talkers (or meowers), while others prefer to give their owners the silent treatment. Whether or not your cat is a talker may be due in part to genetics. Siamese cats, for example, are notorious for their voices. But often times, talking is just part of the personality of the cat.

Personally, I think it’s enjoyable to come home at the end of the day to have my cat greet me with meows and chirps, as if she’s filling me in on what happened while I was gone. Less adorable, however, is the howling she sometimes does at night when I am trying to sleep. Maybe you’ve had this experience, too. Just as you start to fall asleep, your cat starts howling like she’s in pain. You go check, and she’s sitting there looking at you without a care in the world. As we all know, it’s a cat’s world--we just live in it.

But night howling may actually be a signal of illness, especially in an older cat. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can occur in our pets just as it can in ourselves. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” in humans, and the same applies in our pets, especially because they cannot tell us that they are feeling poorly. High blood pressure can occur in cats with no underlying cause, but more often high blood pressure is secondary to an underlying disease process, such as:

  • Chronic kidney failure, common in older cats, can lead to high blood pressure. Generally, other signs, such as drinking a lot of water and increased urine volume are evident before signs of high blood pressure.
  • Heart conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, can cause high blood pressure.

Chronic hypertension is thought to be uncomfortable, which is why your kitty may be howling at night.

Another disease process classic for a cat who howls at night is hyperthyroidism. Increased thyroid hormone production ramps up your kitty’s metabolism, and the result is a cat who loses weight despite a ravenous appetite. These cats may keep their owners up with their incessant howling for food all night long.

Maybe your cat misses you at night, or maybe she’s found some prey (real or imaginary) and wants to tell you about it. Who knows what goes through your cat’s mind at three in the morning. But if your cat’s nocturnal conversations are persistent, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian, especially if your cat is over seven years old. Your cat may actually be trying to tell you something important about her health. Help her out!