My cat meows at night: why and what to do?

Cat meows at night

Sleepless nights because of the cat meowing? Presumably every cat owner has experienced this. But what should we do if our cat robs us of sleep every night with its meowing? Why do many cats meow particularly at night and what helps combat nightly cat woes?

Let's start with the bad news: cats are active at night. So it's no surprise that they demand our attention with loud meowing particularly at night when they are most lively. Don't worry though, because even cat owners can enjoy quiet nights. The good news is that cats can learn to behave calmly at night. However, it's important to initially recognise the causes of nightly cat woes.

Why do cats meow at night?

As is often the case, there isn't any one reason why cats meow at night. The reasons behind nocturnal meowing are as diverse as our cats themselves. Whilst some are peacefully dosing and dreaming about the events of the day, others are restlessly trudging around the home, scratching at doors and meowing in a heartbreaking manner. Of course there are also felines that are simply motormouths by nature and raise their voice more often than other breeds, such as Siamese cats.

In principle, cats wish to communicate something to us by meowing. They do not do so because they simply like meowing or intend to disturb our sleep. For cats, meowing is a proven way of communicating with us humans. Whilst adult cats primarily communicate with each other via body language, meowing is reserved for dialogue between humans and cats. Cats soon learn that their owner is often rather slow when picking up physical signals and therefore choose sound to draw attention to themselves – similar to us humans with speech.

The most common causes of nocturnal cat woes

Unfortunately us humans don't always understand meowing and simply don't know exactly what our cat wants to communicate to us. Sometimes it requires a lot of empathy, patience and a good amount of detective work to find out the reasons behind the meowing, since every cat is different. Despite individual tendencies, habits, experiences and needs, one of the following causes are often behind meowing at night:

  • Boredom
  • Hunger
  • Loneliness
  • Stress and uncertainty
  • Habit
  • Illness or pain
  • Hormonal fluctuations

How do I teach my cat to stay quiet at night?

Just as with the question of “why”, there is no one-size-fits-all answer that applies to all cats with the question of why either. The reasons behind meowing at night are just as diverse as the means to prevent this late-night disruption. If you suspect one of the previously mentioned causes could apply to your cat, you've already managed the first step and can now try to take suitable countermeasures. Read in the following tips what these could be:

Cat hiding in a basket miaowing
  • Tips if cats meow due to boredom

Whilst your cat doses snugly on your sofa throughout the day, does it suddenly get into top form in the evening and at night and demand a schedule?

This isn't anything unusual in principle, since cats are by nature at their most active at this time. The good thing is that if you give your cat sufficient activity throughout the day, play together, let it roam around outside or keep it on the go with little hunting games, it will be ready to rest for a few hours at night. Simply try things out to see what game your cat can't get enough of. Be it a ball of wool, feather, ball, laser pointer, flat water bowl or another cat toy, there are hardly any limits to creativity when it comes to entertaining your cat. Just make sure that your cat is really worn out in the evening before going to sleep and enjoys your full attention.

If it still doesn't sleep despite this evening action, you can give it toys and possible activities for the night, such as drag boards or other intelligence toys it can entertain itself with alone whilst you continue to sleep away calmly.

  • Tips if cats meow due to hunger

Unlike us humans or dogs, which should eat just one or two main meals per day, cats are happiest always snacking on small portions, which also benefits their gastrointestinal system. If they haven't eaten again in the evening and are awake at night, it's of course understandable that they will ask for a small meal at night too and therefore meow loudly.

Nevertheless, you shouldn't jump straight out of bed in this case and fill the cat bowl, since your cat will then learn that meowing for food is successful and will presumably try it again and again.

Instead, you're better off feeding your cat once more just before you go to bed and put down another small portion for the night that it can eat itself if need be. Automatic feeders or a drag board filled with food can also be practical, because they make your cat full and entertain them for a while at the same time, allowing you to sleep peacefully.

  • Tips if cats meow due to loneliness

Some cats feel terribly lonely at night in particular when their caregiver is sleeping and they may not be allowed outside. Especially kittens, which are full of energy and extremely playful, don't like being alone at night whatsoever.

A second cat could be helpful in this respect, because unlike you, it is also active at night and therefore makes an excellent playmate. Whilst the two little cats race around your sofa or conquer the scratching tree together, you can sleep away peacefully in the room next door.

Even with older cats, the company of a second cat can be a good solution for nocturnal meowing. However, the requirement is that you plan well in advance how to bring the two cats together and proceed cautiously. Otherwise, a second cat entering your home could trigger a turf war, which would probably rob you of sleep one way or another.

  • Tips if cats meow because they are nervous, anxious or insecure

Cats are creatures of habit and are very sensitive when it comes to changes in their trusted environment. New furniture or even moving to a new home can deeply unsettle a cat. The unfamiliar surroundings, new smells and unusual noises make them anxious. A peaceful sleep is of course out of the question in these circumstances, so they start their loud lament instead.

Other events such as loud fireworks at New Year or even a new, unfamiliar smelling carpet can frighten cats with pronounced senses.

It's important that you take your cat's worries seriously without attending to it too much at night when it meows – after all, it can interpret this as a request to loudly demand your attention again during the next few nights. Instead, give your cat plenty of love and attention throughout the day in particular. Play with it, stroke its fur and let it have its nap on your lap. The door to your bedroom shouldn't be closed at night either. Maybe your cat can even sleep in your bed and find peace in that way? If you don't want this, you can also set up a cosy sleeping spot next to or under your bed or put up a cat hammock.

If your cat is still restless at night despite these measures, special plug-in fragrance diffusers can also help it relax. With some cats, it can even help to leave a quiet radio playing to distract them from unusual noises.

hand stroking a cat
  • Tips if cats meow due to habit

Of course there are also cats that meow at night simply because they are used to it. Especially if meowing achieves the desired effect, namely attracting your attention and ensuring that you deal with your cat, stroke or give it food.

In order to avoid meowing out of habit, it's best to ignore your cat at night, as difficult as this may be. Even if your cat still meows for a few more nights and stops you sleeping, it will notice at some point that meowing is pointless and will stop it.

Nevertheless, you should naturally take your cat's meowing seriously. Especially if your cat hasn't behaved in this way before, you should consider what could have triggered its nocturnal woe. Has there been an event that may have frightened your cat? Have you not been able to devote it much time recently? Or have you changed its feeding times? If stress, fear or boredom are behind your cat's nightly theatrics, the aforementioned tips may help you. If this isn't applicable, you should definitely arrange an appointment with the vet, because illnesses or pain can also lead to your cat suffering at night and therefore meowing to seek help.

  • Tips if cats meow due to sickness or pain

Many cats suffer in silence and conceal pain for as long as possible – this is in their nature, because wildcats, their ancestors, were never allowed to show weakness in order to survive. However, pain often becomes unbearable at night (this isn't too different with cats to with humans). This is compounded by darkness, silence, their human family not being present and lack of distraction, therefore many cats sometimes do not know to help themselves other than by meowing loudly.

Along with the previously mentioned psychological causes, you should always consider physical ailments affecting your cat as a possible factor. Pain in the inner organs, joints, high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism or renal insufficiency and cardiac disease can lead to unrest at night. Other possible age-related limitations such as the reduction of certain senses (deafness, blindness) can make cats so anxious that they don't meow. Hence, definitely get your cat examined by a vet, as only this way can you rule out illness as a cause.

  • Tips if cats meow due to hormonal factors

Hormones simply run wild from time to time, especially with cats that have been castrated or sterilised. At around six months of age, female kittens start puberty and go into heat for the first time. They are then ready for mating and demonstrate this by running around restlessly, rubbing their head against objects rolling on the floor, spraying more often, holding their tail high and meowing, hissing and cooing more often. Even cats that used to be calm at night suddenly meow loudly when they are in heat. At the same time, female cats in puberty give off a scent that males can smell from far away thanks to their strong sense of smell. Hence, a male cat may suddenly become insufferable because a female in the neighbourhood is in heat. It will then focus everything on reaching the female in the neighbourhood and will make its displeasure about the closed door known throughout the night by meowing loudly.

The most effective remedy for this sexually motivated behaviour is definitely castration or sterilisation. Castrated males are usually calmer and lose interest in cats ready for mating. The danger of female cats being permanently heat is also warded off through sterilisation.

If you wish to castrate or sterilise your cat, you should discuss the procedure thoroughly with a vet. They will give you in-depth advice on the right timing, benefits and possible side effects.

Do I have to take my cat to the vet because it meows at night?

Although nocturnal meowing has psychological causes with most cats, meaning boredom, lack of stimulation or loneliness, physical complaints can't be ruled out as a trigger. If your cat's behaviour suddenly changes, you should first get it examined by a vet. Perhaps your cat really is ill and needs medication or a special food. And if the vet gives your cat a clean bill of health, you will sleep easier with this information alone and you will be able to try out the previously mentioned measures to combat psychologically-triggered meowing more calmly and patiently.

However, if all this doesn't help and your cat's nocturnal woe simply won't end, you shouldn't hesitate in seeking professional help from an experienced feline psychologist. After all, you're not the only one suffering from a lack of sleep. Presumably your cat will also feel unwell and will wish to express with a loud meow a need that you should get to the bottom of.

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