What is Excessive Vocalization?
Your veterinarian may refer to your cat's excessive meowing, groaning, howling, hissing or screeching as excessive feline vocalization. Generally, this is a symptom of a disease or condition, rather than a condition in and of itself.
Excessive vocalization in cats is, put simply, a cat meowing more often than normal. As you can imagine, whether a cat is vocalizing--that is, meowing, growling, howling, screeching--excessively depends on her normal behavior. Some cats are simply more vocal than others. If you notice a sudden increase in frequency, degree, volume, or type of vocalization, it may be an indication of a more serious condition. Since excessive vocalization can be an expression of pain and discomfort or a symptom in its own right, it is important to visit your veterinarian for a thorough examination. Only a veterinary professional can confirm whether your cat's excessive vocalization is of a physical or behavioral origin.
Symptoms of Excessive Vocalization in Cats
The symptoms of excessive vocalization in cats are relatively straightforward. Seek veterinary attention for your cat if she exhibits any of the following:
- An increase in the frequency of meowing and yowling
- An increase in the volume or change in the character of meowing or yowling
- Continual vocalizations at night
It is important to use your cat's previous level of vocalization as a meter stick against which to measure vocalization. A cat who has always been vocal will likely remain that way. There is only cause for concern if your cat has recently become vocal compared to previous behavior.
Causes of Excessive Vocalization in Cats
There are many reasons a cat may change his or her vocalization habits. The causes can be related to physical pain, discomfort, or disease as well as behavioral or environmental changes. Some of the most common causes of excessive vocalization in cats are as follows:
Just like humans, cats express their discomfort when they are sick. Vocalizations can be expressions of pain, hunger or thirst. Discomfort associated with chronic disease may also cause excessive vocalizations. Chronic kidney disease or diabetes, for example, may cause excessive thirst, which in turn causes a cat to meow for water frequently.
Middle or Advanced Age
It is common for cats to become more vocal as they age. Vision, hearing and other senses may be dulled, leading to fearful or aggressive behaviors. Physical discomfort and chronic disease may cause discomfort. Senility may contribute to excessive vocalization in senior cats.
Anxiety may cause cats to meow out of fear or aggression. Separation anxiety, situational distress or conflict can cause an otherwise quiet cat to become vocal.
Mating or Territorial Behavior
Cats who are in heat or are fearful of encroachments on their territory may yowl, growl or otherwise vocalize instinctively. Your veterinarian can recognize whether your cat's vocalization is specific to any of these contexts.
Finally, many cats vocalize to catch the attention of their families. This may be especially true of a cat who is hungry. If you often reward a meowing cat with cuddles, petting or treats, she may be conditioned to vocalize for attention. It is still important to consult a veterinarian to eliminate the possibility that your cat's behavior is the result of an underlying condition, especially if behavior has changed suddenly.
It should also be noted that certain cat breeds, such as Siamese cats, are more vocal than others. This behavior would likely be exhibited throughout your cat's life.
Diagnosis of Excessive Vocalization in Cats
To discover the underlying cause of your cat's excessive vocalization, the veterinarian will likely begin by asking questions regarding any recent changes in your cat's environment or other behaviors.
Even if the cause of your cat's excessive vocalizations is likely behavioral or environmental, your veterinarian may order biochemical tests to rule out any acute or chronic conditions. Blood and urine samples may be collected to rule out hormonal imbalances, electrolyte disturbances, acute infections or chronic disease. A physical exam will also be performed to rule out physical, localized pain (e.g., pain caused by a broken bone).
If no environmental or physical cause can be determined, your veterinarian may refer your cat to a behavioral specialist for further testing.
Treatment of Excessive Vocalization in Cats
The course of treatment recommended for or administered to your cat will depend completely on the cause of her excessive vocalization. If it is determined that excessive vocalization is symptomatic of a physical condition, treatment might entail drugs, intravenous fluids, surgery or other therapies.
If your cat's excessive vocalization is caused by environmental or behavioral changes, a veterinary professional may recommend interventions in the home. More frequent feedings, for example, may prevent a cat's vocalizing when she is hungry.
Recovery of Excessive Vocalization in Cats
No matter the cause of your cat's excessive vocalization, follow-up appointments with your veterinary care provider will be required. If the cause is physical, follow-up appointments ensure your cat is fully recovered. If the cause was determined to be behavioral or environmental, helpful information may surface at a follow-up appointment.
The prognosis of a cat who is exhibiting excessive vocalization will depend on the cause. Often, lifestyle and behavioral interventions will resolve excessive vocalization of environmental origin. Excess vocalization as an expression of pain or discomfort, on the other hand, might not be resolved until the underlying cause is adequately addressed. Stay in regular contact with your veterinarian to receive updates on your cat's prognosis and recovery timeline.