Night Calling: Why Do Cats Meow at Night?


By Ruthie Bently

The daytime noises have faded away, you’ve finished watching the news or the late show and finally gotten to sleep, and then your cat begins to howl. Because cats are nocturnal by nature, this is when they are most active. Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night by your cat meowing? This is known as night vocalization, nighttime calling or night calling, and there are different reasons that our cats do it.

All cats use vocalization from time to time. They vocalize to connect to each other and to us as well. A mother cat will use it to call her kittens. A cat vocalizes to tell their owner they want food, water, to go out or that their litter box needs to be cleaned. Cats will even use it to let each other know where they are during a game of hide and seek. If a female is in season or there is a territory dispute, two males will use vocalization to warn each other before they square off for a fight, though this is known as caterwauling. Your cat may be disturbed by something they can hear or see outside. It may be as simple as your cat wanting your companionship and they meow to get you to pay attention to them.

There are many other reasons cats may call during the night, though. It could be due to insecurity, CDS (cognitive dysfunction syndrome) or they may be in physical distress. A newly adopted kitten, alone at night for the first time, may use night calling. It isn’t used to being away from its mother or litter mates, and might be a bit insecure being in your household.

Night calling can also happen if you’ve adopted an older cat from a shelter that is used to being with other cats. A cat may go looking for a housemate that is no longer there and call them, trying to locate them. Senior cats will vocalize if they are hard of hearing or going deaf; if they can’t hear themselves they will meow loudly (like a person who has trouble hearing) to make sure you hear them. Sometimes it can be a bit more serious than this. Cat-AnimatedYour cat may have wandered into a closet, a bedroom or an appliance, gotten shut inside and need your assistance to be released.

If you have a night calling cat, there are several things you can do to make life easier for all concerned. If they have a favorite toy, play a rousing game of fetch before you go to bed to help tire them out. A radio tuned to a station that plays easy listening or classical music can help soothe a lonely kitten or an older cat in the middle of the night. If this doesn’t work, getting a baby monitor might. Put one receiver near the cat’s bed and the other in your bedroom. When the cat wakes up you can reassure them through the monitor and help them settle back in.

A cat suffering from CDS may awaken and be disoriented; a night light or two around the house will help them reorient themselves in their surroundings and help them maneuver through the house easier. Moving your cat’s bed into your bedroom can help too. If they wake up and are disoriented you can reach down and reassure them with a quick pet. Putting a small blanket or towel in your cat’s bed that they can nestle into will make them more comfortable. If your house is a little chilly, a heated sleeping pad made for pets might also help.

My cats meow to me all the time and I answer them. Usually it is something as simple as a water dish that isn’t full enough for them or that they want to eat, and sometimes they just want to play. Thankfully, most of these conversations take place during the day. For those rare times when they do engage in night calling, I try to distract them with a catnip toy. While catnip does help to make my cats sleepy after they play with it, it can have the opposite effect on some cats.

The reason for your cat’s night calling may not be apparent at first, so you might want to schedule a checkup with their vet. If there is no medical reason for the night calling, try not to give in every time they do it. If they find out that you will come running every time they call out, they will keep doing it. By assessing the situation and dealing with it early, you can all get a good night’s sleep.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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25 thoughts on “Night Calling: Why Do Cats Meow at Night?

  1. I have a 2 year old tabby who has been with me since she was born. When she first came to live with me she cried for her mommy, but eventually she adopted me as her parent and would come crying to me if something scared her or she felt lonely. Eventually she got over that, but a few weeks ago, she escaped our apartment and spent 3 weeks outside. Now that she is back, she has spent the past 2-3 nights calling around the house for me. She won’t do it during the day, but when she wakes at night and I’m not around she cries all through the house for me. I think I will need to invest in some catnip toys, because my fiance does not want to share the bedroom with her every single night. This article was definitely helpful in helping me understand what is going on with her.

  2. My cat is 21 years old and screams all day and all night. She has food and water available 24/7, so that's not the problem. She also has light 24/7, so that also is not the problem. I am so sleep deprived, I am becoming afraid to drive. My father keeps saying, don't take her to the vet, leave her alone. I think he knows the vet will recommend putting her down. My Mom passed away about 24 months ago, my dog died at age 6 of a gastrointestinal problem that the vet thought she had conquered. The day I thought I was bringing him home, I got the call he had gone into cardiac arrest. That was last May. I think his thought process is that I can't go through another death. I need to know, is this dementia or something more? I don't want to drag her out of her environment to a vet's office for them to tell me she is declining mentally. If she is suffering, I will do it in a heartbeat.

  3. I have a question about my 2 cats and a quick response for the last person, I just moved from an upstairs apt and I also worried about my 2 cats playing, they were loud and knocked things down etc at night mostly! I then didn’t worry anymore because in my lease I was entitled to have them, and the Landlord and tenants have to accept what comes with pets and living downstairs, it’s the same idea as having a crying baby, it’s no one’s fault, it just is. My question is, why does my one cat cry randomly? Food, litter, water, not a problem, she has a friend Kitty, I have 2, we just moved to a house, so I leave the front door open with only the security gate closed, she can look out, she gets attention, she’s not sick, she just had a vet check visit 3 weeks ago, help me!

  4. Both my cats take turns howling at night. It seems never to be quiet at night anymore. I wake up numerous times,Food , water,litter box are not the issue.Does anyone have any clues or is this natural behaviour. What I am confused about is the fact I have had cats all my life and I dont recall this ever being a issue. I did have a cat that passed away four monthes ago was wondering if that was a reason. They were never close with the cat that passed. Im really confused, although I am woken up during the night my main concern is my tenant downstairs. When my cats play at night you would think there was a elephant in the house.Its funny they go places they would never go when im awake.

  5. Hi! Thanks for explaining this to my Moms. My Moms has us living in 2 places and in the city I wake her up at 3 am and begin to howl. I prefer living in country and when we’re there I let her sleep through the night. I really yowl to tell her to take me back home to the countryside…

  6. I just got a cat two days ago. He was a stray cat. He’s really cuddley and he’s finally starting to play with toys that I got him. he loves to be pet and held. He will purr up a storm. The thing is getting him. He’s so scared of everything. He would go ob my bed and run to the corner. But once i get him hes purring. But if he goes on the floor and i try to get him. He runs away scared. I have to almost corner him because he just runs. Only when I finally catch him and have him in my arms is when he’s purring and nice.
    Any help/advice please???? Email me in case I cant get to this blog again please.
    Crissykat95@yahoo.com.
    Any advice would be great, I really want to find ways to not have to Chase and scare him whenever I go to get him.

  7. I just adopted a cat and she’s 4 years old. She won’t stop meowing and howling at night. Do you think it would help if she had a “Favorite toy”?

  8. Excellent article, thankyou so much, my “Boss” kitty-poo, wss a stray her whole life, this explains alot, it’s nice to know that what I thought was true in herself (as much as I can feel)nocturnally, is shared by other loving feline parents :)

  9. My cat tigger loves to be outside at nite. But I’ve been bringing her in for safety. Id rather her wake me up at 4am to go outside then for her to be outside all nite. I love so much that I am trying to actually comprise with her….lol

  10. Did that first person really comment in the first person as a cat? What the hell is going on? Why would they do that?

  11. Cats howl when they want to play too. Sometimes they like to play at night. Often if I play with my cats when they start yowling they will quit and play. Ten minutes later they are tire and quiet for hours. Cats get bored too.

  12. My cat sings in the middle of the night, always with a toy in her mouth, she has for years. In my parent’s house, she used to do it in the hallway outside our bedrooms, and at my apartment she does it in the hallway outside the bedrooms of my roommate and I as well. I prefer to think that it’s just sort of her night-time song, she doesn’t seem particularly distressed, and her sister, my other cat, takes no notice of it. Just a sort of call to the night.

    1. I had to chuckle at this blog and then I saw your comment. My cat she is now 12, there is a particular feather toy she likes to carry around at night and sing as well. She always have done this since she was a kitten. Gotta luv it.

    2. Omg….my uncles 17 year old cat that we adopted when he passed would also meow with the toy in her mouth. She would do it only at night and with this particular toy. I miss her.

  13. I have 4 cats and the Siamese mix is the night howler. I’ve been ignoring her but really want to coddle her. She had a litter of kittens before I got her and I wonder if she’s looking for her babies.

  14. Hi Monztasmash,

    If you have the same cats that visit your yard each night; it’s most likely because that’s part of their territory. Outside cats make their rounds to find food and one or more may have an area in your yard where they find shelter. They only reason other cats would be interested in your cats would be if they are unaltered males or unaltered females.

    Linda

  15. Hi all. My issue is not my cats but other cats after I have called mine in for the night. We have a string of different cats that come to visit our yard and this doesn’t seem to phaze my social butterflies. Is it then because the other cats are looking for my two to ‘chat’?

  16. i find that my kitties night chatter when they are looking for me. rather SONAR-like. so i answer back, they come running to bed for sleepytime. sometimes i think they just dont get why we get up and leave them, just a wee bit of reassurance is always good :)

  17. I have 2 siamese cats which are sisters, one of which is very vocal and will talk to me all the time she taps me on the arm or leg when I don’t answer her. She will call her sister sometimes at night. The other one is very quite and will jump up on me when she wants something.

  18. I am lucky that most of the time my cats don’t meow at night except maybe to tell me that they have to go outside. But that is a great article with lots of good information. My cats do talk to me all the time though. We have wonderful long conversations.

  19. Your blog is certainly informational. My sister cat is really vocal and loud at times. Her purrs are loud also. Thankfully she stopped meowing at night, just in the morning to get Mom up for food. Mom likes to talk to us and we meow back. Thank you for stopping by our blog.

    Casper

    1. Excellent article: My cat big boy has this deep soul searching cry that goes right through my gut waking me at all hours of the night. Lately, I’ve been getting very angry with him so I through things and water at him. He runs but that doesn’t stop his vocalization. I think the problem is he is hungry. You see I have two cats, Big Boy likes to nibble at his fool but my other cat waits till he leaves and finishes the food. So when Big Boy returns for another nibble there is no food left. Please advise = Sleepless in Lake Park

    2. If you think Big Boy is meowing at night because he is hungry, I would change the feeding routine. Instead of leaving kibble out for him, which gets eaten by the other cat, you can feed them both FELIDAE canned food at regular meal times in the morning and evening. Stand by until Big Boy is done, to prevent the other cat from gulping his food and “helping” Big Boy. Put whatever he doesn’t eat back in the fridge (covered) and put it back down for his next meal, adding to it as necessary. He will soon learn that instead of nibbling at his food, this is his daily ration and he should eat it all.

    3. My cat in driving me insane!!!!! I recently moved and nearly every night she meows so very load that it wakes me. I really don’t know what to do as I make sure her water and food is right for the night and she is definitely not in any kind of distress.

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