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What Can I Do About That Crying Cat?

by Guest Contributor
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Not sure what to do when you hear a crying cat? First, stay calm. Unlike those silly superstitions, a crying cat in the night does not signify bad luck.

Cats will cry for many different reasons. It could just be the cat wanting its owner’s attention, or it could be a genuine call for help. Just as you would do for a crying toddler, you owe it to yourself and your cat to check it out.

Once you have done your due diligence, you need to know what to do when you hear a catcall at night.

Causes of a Crying Cat at Night

What causes a cat to wail at night?

According to Daily Paws, “Cats have specific body language, and if you watch (and listen!) closely, you’ll learn a lot about their moods, emotions, and desires.”

Knowing WHY your cat is crying will help you know WHAT you need to do next.

Here are some of the most common reasons for cat yowling at night.

A cat rests its head on the table looking into space

Mating Call

First, and not to get too personal, but is your cat spayed or neutered? If you answered no, then mating is a likely cause for the caterwauling (literally, cat-wailing) you are hearing.

The mating call of a female cat in heat is usually a high-pitched sound closely akin to a banshee’s scream. According to Cuteness.com, “A cat in estrus (heat) has a desire to mate and will begin calling and yowling incessantly to let available male cats know that she is ready to mate. She will also meow to be let out so she can find a mate in the area.”

Other symptoms of a female cat in heat include restlessness, clinginess, extra grooming, rolling on the floor, or spraying on furniture.

If your male cat is yowling at night, it may be in response to the calls of a female cat in heat. Yes, it would be a lot quieter if cats could text.

If two male cats are facing off in your backyard, the conversation can get pretty intense. When they stop talking, it can get pretty intense too. What causes them to do this? Like the French say, cherchez la femme (look for the woman).

The best way to solve this problem? Spay or neuter your cat!

All About Cats Veterinary Hospital states that Spaying a female cat, especially before the first heat, helps prevent uterine infections, uterine cancers, and breast cancer.” They also mention how “Neutering male cats eliminates the chances of testicular cancer and lowers the risk of prostate problems.”

Spaying and neutering your cat will not only give you a peaceful night’s sleep and prevent the possibility of the pitter-patter of little paws in the kitchen but also has major health benefits for your feline.

Aging Cat

Is your cat in its geriatric years? Another reason for a noisy cat may have to do with an aging brain.

This condition is called CDS, or Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome. It’s similar to dementia in people. Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons feline specialist Samantha Taylor told PetPlan.co that CDS is often associated with nocturnal yowling and changes to sleeping patterns. But other health issues, such as declining vision, may also be a factor in night-time noisiness.

Other symptoms of feline dementia include disorientation, irritability, excessive meowing, lack of grooming, and isolation.

Just as for dementia in people, there is no cure for a cat’s CDS. However, many cats diagnosed with CDS in its early stages can live 5-10 years after the diagnosis.

If you suspect your cat’s howling at night is due to CDS, a veterinarian can help the cat live more comfortably with their condition. They may suggest certain lifestyle changes, prescribe certain medications, and recommend altering their diet.

A crying orange kitten looks to its right

Loneliness or Attention

When was the last time you spent quality time with your cat? According to Milwaukee Paws Pet Care, “If you decide to bring a cat or kitten into your home, you should be prepared to spend at least 20 minutes a day giving your cat loving one-on-one attention.”

This may come as a surprise to some who believe cats are independent animals. While cats may be more solitary than dogs, they still love spending time with their humans petting them, cuddling with them, and playing with them.

Sometimes your cat might also be lonely and longing for another feline companion (this is often the case when it comes to kittens). If possible, you may want to consider opening your home to another cat so your feline can have a brother or sister to play with and keep them company.

Illness or Injury

Sometimes cats cry because they are sick or injured. Just because you cannot see any obvious sign of illness or injury does not mean it may not be the cause of your cat’s distress calls. That’s because cats are very good at hiding their illnesses from the outside world. They do this as a defense mechanism from possible prey.

According to Channel 3000.com, “Although cats can be good at hiding ailments, excessive meowing without any interest in food is a sufficient warning of an illness that needs attention.”

If you are unsure why your cat is crying through the night, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet.

Also look for other symptoms of illness or injury, such as lethargy, little interest in eating or drinking, depression, etc.

Sad kitten sits in a basket with other kittens

Dirty Litter Box

Cats are neat freaks and despise a dirty litter box. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your litter box, that incessant noise could be your cat reminding you that it’s past time for a “doo” over.

Even if you are someone who scoops their cat’s litter box daily, it may become dirty right before you go to sleep. Therefore, the best way to prevent your cat from crying over a dirty litter box is to scoop it right before bed.

While the cries of your cat could very well be caused by a dirty litter box, they may also signify a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, or bladder infection. That’s why it’s important to keep track of how often your cat uses the litter box.

Not to belabor the point, but it bears repeating, don’t hesitate to take them to the vet to rule anything out.

Nocturnal Energy

Cats are nocturnal animals, so they sleep most of the day and are active at night. Your cat will likely be the most energetic at night and may express that excess energy through vocalization.

You also may hear them running around with their feline siblings and playing with that toy they never seem to touch during the day.

While we can’t change the biological body clock of cats, the best way to deal with a noisy, hyper cat when you’re trying to go to sleep is to tire them out during the day and in the evening before you go to sleep.

Throw around their favorite mouse toy or make them chase that feather wand they love – anything that will get them to exert their energy and pass out by the end of the night.

A grey cat stares into the camera with a look a worry

Hungry or Thirsty

Sometimes a cat may be meowing at night because they are hungry or thirsty. This is another possible reason for the noise coming from those aforementioned stray cats.

Always be sure to provide your cat with fresh food and water. Never let them go without food or water for several hours at a time.

According to Dr. Francis Kallfelz at Cornell Feline Health Center, “From age six months to maturity, most cats will do well when fed two times a day.” For the adult cat, “feeding once or twice a day is appropriate in most cases,” Kallfelz said. He added that “senior cats, age seven and above, should maintain the same feeding regimen.”

Another good tip is to extend your cat’s dinner time to around 8:00 p.m. This may prevent your cat’s midnight snack attack which will leave them crying and begging to eat while you are asleep.

As for hungry stray cats, it is fine to feed them if you wish, but as long as you are okay with them returning to your house (likely with their feline friends and family).

According to MyPet.com, “If you feel safe, approach the cat slowly and speak in a soft voice. Hold out your hand and call it softly. Offer a can of tuna or cat food, a bowl of water and shelter, if possible. But don’t force it. If the cat is feral and puts up a fight, you risk being scratched or bitten.”

A grey cat wrapped in a knit scarf looks out the window

Adjusting to Change

Another common cause of caterwauling in the house is a reaction to change.

Have you moved into a new house? Have you rearranged your furniture? Did you feed the stray and now you have a new cat in the household? Did you take your cat to the vet that day? Did you get married and somebody is sleeping where the cat used to sleep?

Cats notoriously despise change. Even the simplest of changes can lead to stress, anxiety, and anger that causes them to vocally communicate their feelings.

Cat owners can feel helpless in this situation. After all, you can’t base every life decision on your pet’s preferences. You also can’t sit down with them for a heart-to-heart to rationally explain the situation.

All is not hopeless. There are a few strategies that can help comfort a stressed or anxious cat that is adjusting to a change.

If you have moved houses recently, try to provide your cat with items that are familiar to them, such as their favorite toys or cozy bed. If your cat likes a little ‘nip now and then, that might help take the sting out of the situation.

Some cat owners swear by a product called Feliway, which can be purchased on websites like Chewy or Amazon. This product comes in a diffuser or spray bottle and provides pheromones to cats, making them feel more tranquil in their new environment.

Boredom

Humans aren’t the only ones who get bored. Animals do too! A common reason for your cat’s frequent meowing could be that they are bored and want something to keep them entertained.

As stated before, you should keep your cat busy and active during the day and provide them with extra love and cuddles. To prevent your cat from becoming bored while you are sleeping, give them their favorite toys at night to keep them occupied.

Adopting another cat with a playful personality may also keep your cat entertained when you are not around.

A white kitten looks up

Breed of the Cat

Did you know that certain breeds of cats are more prone to meowing than other cats?

The Siamese cat is ranked the No. 1 most vocal of all the breeds. According to Animal Friends Pet Insurance, “Siamese cats have a distinctive vocalization that sounds like a human baby cry, among their large repertoire of other interesting cat sounds.”

Other cat breeds that tend to be vocal are oriental shorthairs, sphynx cats, the Japanese bobtail, Burmese cats, Bengals, Tonkinese cats, and the American bobtail cat.

If the breed of your cat is the reason for its chattiness, there isn’t much you can do. If a talkative cat bothers you that much, avoid adopting the breeds that are notoriously known for being the most chatty.

Helping a Crying Cat

There you have some of the most likely reasons for hearing a crying cat at night: mating, aging, illness, injury, boredom, change, hunger, thirst, dirty litter box, and the breed. Some of these causes have solutions and some don’t.

You now have a collection of tips to try the next time your cat starts crying. Once again, seek veterinary care if you are unsure of the cause of your cat’s complaints and to rule out any underlying concerns. A good rule of thumb is to know enough to know what you don’t know. In short, take advantage of the experts. They didn’t get those initials behind their name out of a Scrabble box.

If you liked this article, be sure to read more of our cat-related posts today and share them with your family and friends!