DEAR JOAN: I’m hoping you might help me understand what my cat is feeling or saying.
I have an 18-year-old female, spayed, doll-face Persian cat named Kelsey. I raised her and her sister, Kiley, since birth. Her sister passed away in 2014 and ever since that time, Kelsey has developed a penchant for screaming at her water bowl before drinking.
Any time she goes to drink water, she spends a minute or two, just sitting there screaming and staring at her water bowl. Because this started happening about a month or two after Kiley’s death, I attributed the screaming to her mourning for her sister, but it has been going on for four years now.
Her vet says there is nothing medically or physically wrong with her to cause this behavior.
Debbie Collins, Bay Area
DEAR DEBBIE: This might surprise you, but when researching your question, I found dozens of stories from people about their cats doing the exact same thing. Unfortunately, no one had a definitive answer as to what was causing the behavior.
The two things all the cases had in common was that all of the yowling cats were older, and the screaming had been going on for years. I found one case where it started after the death of a sibling, but none of the others did.
Although we don’t have answers, we do have some theories. One is that the cats are diabetic, suffering from kidney disease, or have a broken or infected tooth, which could make drinking water painful. As you’ve had the vet give Kelsey a full exam and found no problems, that one isn’t likely. Plus, after four years, you’d being seeing a progression of symptoms that would make it apparent Kelsey has some health issues.
An intriguing theory, proffered by a vet, is that the cat is the victim of static electricity. The combination of a synthetic fiber carpet or mat, a metal bowl and the water creates a static zap. Cats’ whiskers are so sensitive, Kelsey could be sensing the charge before it is released. The yowling might be a way of discharging the static.
If you have a rug and metal bowl, it might be worth putting down a rubber mat and switching to a ceramic bowl to see if that makes a difference.
I think the most likely explanation is that Kelsey is suffering from kitty dementia. She may have been mourning her sister when she first start yowling, but has continued because of the dementia.
Sophie Weber, 13, of Moraga, has a big passion for animals. Dogs are her favorite (she has a border collie mix named Cheddar), but she loves cats, too, and pretty much all pets.
She thinks animals need more recognition and support, which is why for the past year and a half, Sophie — with dad and dog in tow — has canvassed her neighborhood, collecting money for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek.
Last week, Sophie delivered the fruits of her labor, surprising ARF’s executive director Elaine Bicker with $1,700 for the rescue group. In return, ARF gave her a few thank you gifts and told her they could use her full-time as a fund raiser, when she’s a bit older, of course.