Image Credit: Ian Wilson
Are you finding yourself awake in the middle of the night because your cat is serenading you with the songs of her people? Excessive meowing at night is a common problem, especially in older cats. Understanding why she meows will help you find ways to get some peace and quiet at night.
Why do cats meow?
Interestingly, cats only meow to communicate with humans. Kittens will meow to let their mother know they need something (such as food or warmth) but when they grow up they will only meow at their human staff (psst… that’s you!).
Here are some of the most common reasons for meowing:
- Seeking attention. Your cat may want to be petted, played with, or even just talked to. If your cat is alone for long periods during the day, she may be trying to make up for it at night.
- To ask for food.
- To get a door to open. She may want to go outside or to another part of the house that is closed off to her.
- A senior cat may be meowing because she is confused or disoriented.
- To find a mate. If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, they will yowl for several days as they want to breed.
- Because she is ill or injured.
- Your cat may be stressed. Big changes such as a new pet, a new baby, or moving house may be stressing her.
- Out of habit. Your cat has learned that you respond to vocalizations. She has trained you well and has no incentive to stop.
Why are some cats so active at night?
Your cat’s ancestors were mostly nocturnal and most active during the night. Although domestication has changed the biorhythms of modern house cats, they can still be more active than us humans during the night.
12 tips to help you sleep!
- Take your cat to the vet for a thorough check-up. There are a number of health issues that may cause your cat to be more hungry, thirsty, or uncomfortable, which may be the cause of her excessive meowing. For elderly cats with confusion or sensory problems, medications may alleviate the complaints and thus the meowing.
- An elderly cat may also benefit from a night light as her eyes may no longer work as well and she suddenly finds herself disoriented at night.
- If you’re sure your cat is not injured or ill, do not get get out of bed to give your cat attention. By interacting with the meowing cat – even when you yell at her, you reward her for the behavior and she’ll continue to do it. Be persistent and don’t give in, especially if the behavior gets worse at first.
- In the evenings, schedule play sessions with your cat. Give your cat a bit of a workout to make her nice and tired.
- An indoor cat may also be bored. Enrich her life with exploratory toys (such as boxes or play tunnels), cat videos or short outside walks on a harness. Check the internet or your local library to find more ideas to keep your cat entertained. If your cat is active during the day, it is more likely that she’ll sleep during the night.
- If your cat is meowing for food, you need to change this behavior by only feeding at certain times so she learns there is no point in meowing at other times. If you can’t feed her at the same time every day, consider buying an automatic cat feeder that can time the feed for you. Cats also tend to sleep after a big meal so it is a good idea to schedule her main feeding time in the evening.
- Make sure your cat has access to fresh water at all times. Cats do get thirsty at times and may be meowing to alert you to this fact.
- Ensure your cat has access to fresh litter at all times.
- If your cat is meowing at you to open a door, consider installing a cat door.
- When cats want to breed they’ll yowl quite a bit for four to ten days. Consider neutering or spaying your cat.
- If your cat is stressed due to major changes in the household, try to help her adjust to the changes and give her some extra attention. Try to stick to your normal routine to make her feel secure.
- If your cat tries to play with you during the night and wakes you up, you may need to shut her out of the bedroom. If the cat scratches at the door, discourage her by putting something there she doesn’t want to step on, such as double sided sticky tape, aluminium foil, or a similar product from the pet store. You can also set “booby traps” in the form of loud appliances (radio, blender or vacuum cleaner) with a remote switch (check your electronics store). When your cat meows at the door, turn on the appliance and the noise will startle her and hopefully teach her not to display this behavior again.