There’s a reason we call that shrill howling or wailing “caterwauling.”
Caterwauling is the incessant meowing or yowling sound some cats make all night, when you’re trying to sleep.
Why is this happening?
First, we need to talk about feline sleep patterns.
Cats are a crepuscular species, meaning they are naturally most active at dawn and dusk and they sleep in the middle of the day and night.
Younger cats, in particular, tend to be more active at night because their feline instincts alert them that the darkest hours are the perfect time to go hunting.
Humans, on the other hand, are diurnal. We do most of our activities during daylight hours and sleep at night.
Mix crepusculars with diurnals and you have a mismatch of sleep patterns. At the exact time you’re ready to nod off, your kitty is feeling wide awake and eager to “talk.”
In this article, we’ll look at ten common causes of nighttime meowing, and suggest what you can do to reduce the racket.
10 causes of kitty insomnia
1. Boredom. Excessive nighttime vocalizing is often a sign of a bored cat. If you’re away from home all day, your indoor cat(s) may lounge and nap most of the day, decreasing their need for sleep at night. Lack of exercise and play makes them more likely to engage in attention-seeking behavior when you’re trying to sleep.
One way to counter this is to increase kitty’s exercise and mental stimulation during the day, and to spend quality one-on-one time together in the evening.
This article on our blog suggests five fun (and funny) ways to help your senior cat exercise.
2. Hunger or Thirst. Remember the “Dagwood sandwich?” The comic strip character, Dagwood Bumstead, is famous for sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night to whip up enormous, multi-layered sandwiches.
Nocturnal meowing may be a sign that your cat is ravenous and wants you to create the kitty version of a Dagwood sandwich to satisfy their craving.
One way around this is to feed your cat later in the evening, just before bedtime. Be sure to fill kitty’s water bowl then, too.
3. Anxiety. If you welcome a new kitten, dog, or baby into your family, your cat may be confused about what’s happening, making them more prone to nighttime noise-making.
This article on our blog includes five helpful tips for introducing a new kitten to your resident cat.
4. Desire to mate. Cats become sexually mature around 4 months of age. Cats in heat have a distinctive mating call, which cat parents often mistake for a cry of pain.
If kitty hasn’t been spayed or neutered, they may yowl or cry in an attempt to warn competitors away from their chosen mate.
5. Aging. Many humans age 60 and up complain they have trouble sleeping. That’s because melatonin (aka, the “sleep hormone”) production declines over time, by as much as 80% by age 60.
As cats age, they, too, experience health issues that can cause insomnia.
Those may include:
6. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) which revs a cat’s metabolism, making them anxious and ravenous.
This article on our blog overviews the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for hyperthyroidism.
7. Hypertension (high blood pressure).
This article on our blog will acquaint you with some of the symptoms of high blood pressure.
8. Kidney disease – Cats who are unable to filter waste from their body may experience painful conditions that cause them to cry.
9. Pain. In addition to kidney disease, other pain-related causes of nighttime crying include arthritis, dental disease, or headaches caused by high blood pressure.
10. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) – As cats age, their cognitive function and night vision can deteriorate, causing feelings of insecurity, confusion, vulnerability, and disorientation. One way to help your cat feel less fearful and more confident is to place nightlights around your home.
How to improve your cat’s sleep habits
If nighttime yowling persists, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. We will conduct a thorough physical exam, blood pressure screening, and routine lab tests, which will help us diagnose the underlying cause.
Fortunately, we can often improve a kitty’s sleep habits by addressing the condition that’s causing the problem and suggesting simple lifestyle changes that will allow everyone to get a better night’s sleep.
Related articles on our blog:
- Senior Cat Q&A with Dr. Laura Monahan
- 5 Fun (and Funny) Ways to Help Your Senior Cat Exercise
- 5 Steps to Introducing a New Kitten to Your Resident Cat
- Hyperthyroidism in Cats: Like Pushing the Pedal to the Metal
- High Blood Pressure in Pets: A Silent Killer
- Tips for Working from Home with Your Cat or Dog
- Cat Adventuring – Why Should Dogs Have All the Fun?