Cat Displays Strange Litterbox Behavior and Yowls Incessantly

CatChannel veterinary expert, Arnold Plotnick, DVM, believes several factors may be at play.

Q: I have a 16-year-old neutered female seal point Siamese. She was always a vocal cat, but about six months ago she became more vocal than normal. She’s taken to going in the litter box, where she howls.

Sometimes, she just goes through a routine that includes sniffing and digging a choice spot, but she doesn’t relieve herself. She just jumps out after a minute or so, only to jump back in a few minutes later to do the same thing. I’ve seen her defecate and urinate with no problems, except for yowling beforehand.

Since she was about 5 years old, she’s had an anal gland problem, which my veterinarian relieves two to three times a year, and which was most recently done about five months ago. She was examined, weighed, etc., and given a good bill of health. Yet, it bothers me.

She roams around my apartment, sometimes all day, like she’s anxious. These yowling expeditions are really starting to get on my nerves. I also have a neutered 10-year-old blue point male Siamese cat. Sometimes when she goes off, it seems like she’s trying to get his attention, which usually ends up with him sleeping with her somewhere.

She also craves being brushed. Sometimes she’ll only keep quiet when I brush her. I can understand her tactics for attention, but what really bothers me is her litterbox conduct.  I’ve discussed this with my vet to no avail. I would appreciate whatever recommendation you can offer me.

A: There may be several things going on here simultaneously. First, let’s address the litterbox behavior. Frequent trips to the litterbox where seemingly little or no urine is produced can be a sign of lower urinary tract disease. The yowling in the litterbox may be a sign of pain or discomfort associated with the urinary tract. Older female cats are especially prone to bacterial urinary tract infections, and this should be evaluated by your veterinarian. A urinalysis, urine culture, and possibly an X-ray, should be performed. 

The yowling may be harder to interpret.  It certainly may be a ploy for attention, and it seems to be working.  She yowls. You brush her, and she quiets down. It sounds like she has you wrapped around her little paw.

The nonstop roaming and restlessness, combined with the increased vocalization, however, makes me wonder if your cat might have hyperthyroidism. This is a common glandular disorder that only affects older cats. There are many clinical signs associated with hyperthyroidism, with some signs (weight loss and increased appetite) being more common than others. Restlessness, hyperactivity and increased vocalization are well-documented clinical signs of hyperthyroidism, and I would have this evaluated by your veterinarian. Diagnosis is usually achieved by a simple blood test. The disorder is completely treatable. 

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Behavior and Training · Cats