Meowing is a normal means of communication for cats, but interestingly, it is usually only used for cat-kitten or cat-human communication. Adult cats do not tend to meow at one another!
Cats have evolved to understand they can communicate with us via their meows and may use them for anything from saying hello to asking for something to letting us know something is wrong!
However, when they wake us up at night-time with a meow, this becomes less desirable. This article will consider some of the reasons why your cat meows at night.
Normal Cat Sleeping Habits
In the wild, cats have to hunt regularly for their small prey. They will then rest between these hunting episodes. A cat’s natural activity levels tend to orbit around their prey species.
Their prey tends to either be nocturnal (so active overnight) or crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk), so it is normal for your cat to be more active during these periods and catch up on their naps during the day. Not all domestic cats will behave this way, but many do, which is why your cat’s 3am zoomies aren’t all that surprising!
Also Read: How Do Cats Hunt?
Why Does My Cat Meow Overnight?
Your cat may vocalize or meow overnight for many different reasons. This list is not exhaustive, but it covers the main reasons you may be woken up in the early hours to a less than welcome feline serenade!
It’s a familiar scene for many cat owners, being woken up with the dawn chorus by your feline friend begging for food. The instincts for cats is to eat little and often, different from the set mealtimes our cats are used to!
Consider using an automated feeder to provide your kitty with small meals spread through the day (including overnight!) to rule out hunger as a source of your midnight wake-up calls!
Also Read: The 7 Best Automatic Cat Feeders
It is normal cat behavior to be awake early in the morning. Cats often can feel quite playful at this time, and most cat owners will have experienced the joys of 3am zoomies at some point. Providing your cat with plenty of play sessions with toys during the day will help to burn off some excess energy.
Also Read: 11 Tips To Train Your Cat To Sleep All Night
3. Needing The Toilet
Some cats will meow or cry when they need the toilet. Especially if their cat flap isn’t working or their litter tray is dirty. Cats are generally very clean and have preferred toileting places. If the “facilities” aren’t up to scratch, your cat might cry.
If your cat has toileting issues, this may also lead to crying and should prompt a trip to the vet. If your male cat is crying and straining to pass urine, this is a medical emergency, and he should be seen at the veterinary clinic immediately. Obstructions of the bladder, sadly, can quickly lead to death.
4. Companionship Or Affection
Your cat may be meowing at you simply because she wants some affection or to be pet by you.
5. Looking For A Partner
A female cat who has not been spayed may make a loud yowling sound at night because she is in season. This means she is ready to mate and is calling for a partner. She should be kept inside to avoid unwanted matings during her cycle.
Having her spayed will stop this behavior; discussing with your veterinarian can guide you in this decision. Male cats who haven’t been neutered may also periodically call if they can smell or see female cats.
6. Separation Anxiety
We tend to think of separation anxiety as more of a dog problem. However, many cats are used to having their humans around all the time during the day with the increase in working from home. This can mean they are anxious about being away from you at night, and this loneliness may lead to them meowing or waking you.
7. Medical Issues
If your cat has started meowing out of the blue overnight, it may reflect many illnesses. Below are a few medical conditions that can lead to increased vocalization. This list is not exhaustive, so the best way to check if something is wrong with your cat is to make an appointment to speak to your local veterinarian.
8. Thyroid Disease
A condition commonly seen in middle-aged to older cats is something called hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid. It is a condition where the thyroid glands, small glands that usually sit on either side of the windpipe, begin to produce too much thyroid hormone.
This is generally because the gland itself starts to grow in size. Thyroid hormone is responsible for regulating your cat’s metabolism. Too much thyroid hormone can lead to weight loss, increased appetite, and heart problems, amongst many other signs.
Another common symptom of hyperthyroidism is a change in your cat’s behavior. Cats might become more skittish than usual or vocalize more, and this vocalization can be during the night. If you are worried your cat might suffer from hyperthyroidism, then speak to your veterinarian, who will recommend some investigations, including blood testing and potential imaging studies.
Also Read: Best Cat Food For Hyperthyroidism
9. Blood Pressure Issues
High blood pressure is relatively common in older cats. Sometimes cats with high blood pressure will cry or yowl, usually due to the effects of high blood pressure on the brain. Cats with high blood pressure may have vision problems or go blind and risk problems with their kidneys.
It is always a good idea to ask your veterinarian to check your older kitty’s blood pressure during their routine wellness checks. There are medications available to reduce high blood pressure.
10. Kidney Disease
Kidney disease is sadly a common ailment of elderly cats. It can make your kitty feel unwell, which may lead to vocalization but also is associated with elevated blood pressure (see above), which may cause your cat to yowl.
Kidney disease has a variety of symptoms, including weight loss, loss of appetite, increased thirst, and increased urination. If you are worried your feline friend has kidney problems, then make an appointment with your local veterinarian for a check-up and blood tests. Ensure your cat’s blood pressure is measured as part of this consultation.
11. Brain Disease
When it comes to a change in behavior, including being more vocal, a significant differential on any veterinarian’s list will be a problem in your cat’s brain, such as infection or cancer. In elderly cats, it is also possible to develop a degree of age-associated brain degeneration, called cognitive dysfunction syndrome, making them appear confused or senile.
This can be exacerbated if your cat goes blind or deaf. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your cat and, if appropriate, recommend some extra tests if they suspect your feline friend has a problem with their brain.
How Do I Make My Cat Stop Meowing At Night?
Sometimes it can be very tricky to work out why your cat is meowing overnight in the first place, and to be able to stop it, the” why?” is very important!
An excellent place to start is a thorough checkup with your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons for the behavior. Once your kitty has a clean bill of health, the next step is to try providing additional resources such as extra litter trays, trialing pheromone diffusers, and considering automatic feeders to give your kitty a snack overnight.
If you find these measures aren’t helping, your veterinarian can advise you on licensed veterinary behavioral specialists who can work with you to resolve or reduce the behavior.
Never scold or punish your kitty for meowing, as this will not help and will lead to other behavioral problems.
Also Read: How To Teach Your Cat “No”
The fact that cats have learned to communicate with us via their meows is genuinely amazing; however, it is not always desirable in the middle of the night.
Remember, your cat is trying to tell you something, and it is essential to understand what that is to be able to address the behavior. A great place to start is a thorough medical checkup with your veterinarian, who can guide you to a licensed behaviorist to help if needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should you ignore a cat's meow at night?
If your cat has started meowing at night, however difficult, it is best not to ignore it. It is essential to establish why your cat is meowing and, importantly, to rule out medical issues. If your cat's nighttime meowing is causing significant problems at home, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a licensed behaviorist who can help reduce or eliminate the behavior.
Why does my cat walk around the house meowing?
A cat may meow for many reasons, including saying hello, expressing a need, or behavioral or even medical problems. If your cat has had a sudden behavior change, it is crucial to speak to your veterinarian as it can be a sign of a medical issue.
Why is my cat waking me up at 3am?
Your cat may wake you with the dawn chorus for many reasons, including hunger, a need for companionship or play, or even medical or behavioral issues. More often than not, however, this is just a normal part of cat behavior! It stems from the fact that cats are naturally more active at dawn and dusk.
Should you let your cat sleep with you?
The answer to this question comes down to personal preference! Generally speaking, if you are a healthy adult, your cat sharing your bed is unlikely to be harmful. However, not everyone wants their cat in bed, no matter how much they love them, and that's OK too!
It would be advisable to avoid allowing your cat to sleep in a bed if you suffer from a suppressed immune system that may make you more susceptible to infection, if your cat has any signs of infection or if you are very unwell yourself. Allowing your cat to sleep with babies or young children is never advisable due to the risk of accidental suffocation.
Seksel. K (2013) Separation Anxiety in Dogs and Cats with Reference to Homeostasis. Veterinary Behaviour Chapter Proceedings pp22-26. Available at https://vetbehaviourteam.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2013ScienceWeekProceedings_vp.pdf#page=28 Retrieved July 19th 2022
Sordo. L and Gunn-Moore. D (2021) Cognitive Dysfunction in Cats: Update on Neuropathological and Behavioural Changes Plus Clinical Management. Veterinary Record. 188:1 e2 DOI https://doi.org/10.1002/vetr.3 Retrieved July 19th 2022.