Our fluffballs are the loves of our lives but this doesn’t mean that we want to listen to them all night. Cats tend to chatter late at night and get even more insistent when their conversation is not returned. This can drive even the most confirmed cat lover crazy. Healthy housecats typically sleep up to sixteen hours a day — humans need only half of that, but we do need it and we don’t want it disturbed in the early morning hours! Do you want to find a way to sleep peacefully with your feline friends? Read on to learn why cats meow at night and what you can do to discourage it.
Cats meow primarily because their humans are dumb. Cats communicate with each other through chirps, nudges, and tail swishes. But their pet parents do not understand cat language, so cats must resort to meowing, which is the kitty equivalent of yelling. Certified cat behavior consultant and Cat Coach Marilyn Krieger confirms that “cats communicate to each other through body language, body positioning, scent marking, and facial expression, as well as through purrs, chirps, hisses and howls. Rarely do they meow around and to each other when people aren’t present. Meows are reserved for people—they communicate a cat’s state of mind and emotions. They also convey needs, such as wanting to be fed, petted, or let in or out.”
However, if your cat is yelling at you, there’s a good chance that she wants or needs something. Reasons why cats meow, especially at night, may include illness or injury, hunger, loneliness, stress, cognitive dysfunction, or a need to breed. Your cat’s litter box may be full or her food or water dish may be empty. She may be unable to get in or out of the room where she wants to be or doesn’t want to be at that moment. An increase in meowing can signify hypertension, which can be a result of kidney or heart disease. It can also indicate that your cat’s hearing is declining; she may meow more loudly if she can’t really hear herself.
You should never punish your cat for meowing. It won’t stop the meows; if anything, it will add to the animal’s stress and possibly her vocalization as well. First, you need to determine if the cat is meowing because she is in need of something. If the cat is in heat, spaying her will not solve the problem for that night but it will prevent future recurrences (as well as keep her healthier and happier overall). An intact male cat may be responding to female cats who are in heat and neutering will solve that problem as well.
If she is sick, hurting, or hungry, tend to those needs. However, if the cat and her environment are in otherwise good condition but she just seems to want attention, it’s up to you how you want to handle that. Rewarding kitty with pets for waking you up will teach her that meows get her what she wants. Don’t punish her for wanting love and attention; do encourage and reward quiet, peaceful behavior and soon enough she will learn that’s the way to go.
Maybe your cat has everything that she could need or want but still meows more than you think is necessary. It is possible that your kitty’s body clock could be slightly “off”. Despite the common wisdom that cats are nocturnal, they are actually most active at dusk and dawn. This means that your cat’s natural hunting time is between 3am and 5am – which is when you probably don’t want to hear her announcing that she has conquered her prey! You can try to reset that internal timer by playing with wand toys or other toys that simulate hunting right before your bedtime. It may take several days or even weeks to see success with this strategy.
You can also try to keep your cat awake more during the day so that she will sleep more and longer at night. Use a timed feeder or space feedings a few hours apart. If you use a feeder that incorporates a puzzle or challenge into the feeding routine, this will keep kitty even more alert and involved. The more she is awake during the day, the more she will sleep — and the less she will meow! — during the night. Hopefully, changing up your pet’s routine will help her adapt to your routine and schedule and you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep without an excess of cat chatter.
Of course your pets are part of your family and family sticks with family even when they’re loud and annoying. But if you really can’t tolerate late-night meows, keep in mind for the next time you add to your family that vocalization is often a breed-related characteristic. Amy Shojai, who has written many books on cats and cat behavior, classifies the most vocal breeds as Balinese, Color-Point Shorthair, Japanese Bobtail, Javanese, Oriental Longhair, Oriental Shorthair, Siamese, and Tonkinese. Quieter breeds include American Wirehair, Birman, British Shorthair, Chartreux, Egyptian Mau, Exotic Shorthair, Havana Brown, Korat, Scottish Fold, and Snowshoe.
If your cat talks to you at night, it’s because she needs something. No one, and especially not an animal, should be punished or yelled at for her needs. First, make sure that your cat is comfortable and properly cared for. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you’ll need to decipher exactly what kitty needs. She may need to have her internal timer adjusted. That can happen with a bit of patience and a few of the strategies mentioned above. Or she may simply need to learn that while you love her lots, you’ll demonstrate that love during daylight hours. Don’t punish the nighttime meows but don’t reward them either.