Why is my cat yowling at night?

Is your cat yowling until the wee hours of the morning? Take a look at a few possible reasons for this annoying behavior, and what you can do to fix it.

Cats have their own ways of communicating – and unfortunately, this can include loud meowing or “yowling”. This type of excessive vocalization often occurs at night, and may be a signal that something is wrong with your feline companion. Taking steps to understand why she’s yowling is the best way to thwart this unwanted behavior.

Possible explanations for excessive yowling

There are several reasons why cats meow and yowl at night. It can be a sign of hunger, thirst, fear, loneliness, or even a serious health problem. Scientists believe that cats’ meows and yowls are manipulative – a way to get them what they want. According to Nicholas Dodman of the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, cats can even learn what noises effectively get them what they want from their caretakers. In most cases, they become more talkative when they receive regular responses to their meows. This isn’t always a bad thing, of course. But yowling at night is usually a sign that something is wrong.

Cats are active at night

Cats are crepuscular creatures, which means they’re usually more active at sunrise and sunset. In the wild, this is prime hunting time – so it’s instinctual for felines to be on high alert during these times, especially when they’re young. If you find that your cat is yowling right after you go to bed, or just before dawn, this could be why. Over time as your cat matures, she will likely adapt to your schedule, meaning less yowling.

Boredom might be a factor

Some cats start yowling at night because they are bored or have not exercised enough during the day. Try engaging your cat in more active play to ensure her mind stays active and she’s more tired at bedtime.  Doing this will also help rule out attention-seeking behavior – the more quality time you spend with your whiskered friend, the less likely she’ll be to vie for your attention after dark.

Could it be a health issue?

If your cat’s nighttime yowling persists, or gets worse, contact your vet. He or she will do an examination to rule out a health issue that might be causing her to yowl, such as arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, and sensory deficits.

If your cat is a senior, she’s more apt to get disoriented at night when the house is quiet. A disease known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is related to the impact of aging on cats’ minds, and yowling might be a sign that your cat is suffering from this disease.

Train your cat to be less vocal

If you want to train your cat to yowl less, the first step is to find the root cause of the yowling. Start making note of your cat’s yowling patterns – does she seem to yowl more when she’s been less active, or when you’ve spent less time with her throughout the day?

Here are a few suggestions to help you stop her from yowling:

  • Some cats are attention seekers. If you’ve ruled out all other possibilities and suspect that your cat is yowling just to get your attention, make it clear that you will only pay attention to her when she’s quiet. Don’t yell at your cat or show her affection when she starts to yowl – check to make sure she has food and water, and then wait until she’s quiet. Give her praise when the yowling stops, then repeat this pattern over and over until she catches on.
  • If you think your cat yowls more when she suffers from loneliness, hire a pet sitter to be with her for a few hours during the day when you’re out of the house.
  • Some cats yowl more when they want more food (even if they aren’t hungry). Give her regular meals, and avoid feeding her when she cries. Eventually, she’ll learn that she only gets fed at specific times. If the yowling persists, ask your vet about a food and/or supplement – such as fiber or omega-3 fatty acids – that will help her feel more full.
  • If you have a male cat that meows excessively, he may smell a neighborhood female cat in heat. Consider getting him neutered if the yowling persists.

What not to do

Never ignore your cat’s cries. It could be that she’s in pain, stuck in a cupboard, or that her water container is empty. Be sure all her needs are met before you assume she’s just yowling for attention.

Never punish your cat for yowling. This will only serve to instill fear in her, which can make matters worse. Instead, use positive reinforcement to train the behavior out of her.