Why Does My Cat Cry at Night? The Reasons Behind Your Feline’s Nocturnal Wails

Cats are Crepuscular

Cats’ natural sleep cycles tend to follow the activity patterns of their prey, which are most active at dusk and dawn. According to Wikivet, cats often show peak activity levels during twilight periods when prey is also active. Though originally aligned with sunrise and sunset, indoor cats may extend their active times into the night with exposure to artificial lighting.

Instinct to Hunt

Even though pet cats today do not need to hunt to survive, their ancestral and instinctive urge to hunt remains strong. According to icatcare.org, the motivation to hunt prey is only partly related to hunger. Cats feel an innate desire and satisfaction from stalking, chasing, and capturing prey.

This instinct can be especially strong in indoor cats. As reported by Purina, when senses are peaked at night, indoor cats may feel an irresistible urge to hunt. Prowling, stalking, and vocalizing at night are signs this powerful instinct has kicked in.


Many cats tend to be more active at dawn and dusk, which are known as crepuscular times of day. If a cat does not get enough stimulation and activity during the day, they may act out their natural hunting instincts at night instead. A cat that is bored and understimulated may cry out, meow, or make other noises to get your attention. They are looking for play, interaction, and activities to stave off boredom. Try to engage in more interactive play sessions during the day, especially before bedtime. Have dedicated play time with toys that allow your cat to mimic hunting behaviors. This will help satisfy their natural instincts so they are less likely to be bored and vocalize at night.

Cite: https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/cats/behaviour/training/cat-meowing-at-night


Anxiety, especially separation anxiety at night, is a common cause of persistent meowing in cats. Cats are social creatures that bond closely with their owners. Being left alone at night can trigger feelings of anxiety and distress, causing the cat to vocalize and cry out [1]. Some specific triggers for anxiety-related meowing include:

  • Being left alone when the owner goes to bed
  • Sudden changes in the home environment or routine
  • Introduction of new pets or people in the home
  • A lack of environmental enrichment and insufficient playtime/activity during the day

Cats may pace around meowing when anxious as a way to seek attention and comfort from their owner. Providing reassurance and environmental adjustments can help ease anxiety and reduce nighttime vocalizations. If the cat continues to exhibit separation anxiety, consulting a veterinarian may be warranted.

Medical Issues

Some medical conditions can cause cats to meow excessively at night. Common issues include:

Hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland, is relatively common in older cats. It can lead to restlessness and vocalization, especially at night. Treatment usually involves medication to regulate thyroid hormone production (https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/cats/health-and-nutrition/conditions/hyperthyroidism-in-cats).

Cognitive dysfunction, similar to dementia in humans, is another age-related condition. Affected cats may seem disoriented, anxious, or restless at night and meow persistently (https://vethelpdirect.com/vetblog/2022/06/04/5-reasons-why-your-cat-cries-at-night/). There are medications and dietary supplements that may help manage the symptoms.

Arthritis causes joint pain that can worsen at night when cats are resting. The discomfort may lead to vocalization. Providing soft bedding, keeping cats warm, and giving pain medication can help an arthritic cat sleep better.

Any illness or condition causing pain, nausea, or other forms of discomfort can potentially disrupt a cat’s sleep. It’s important to have senior cats evaluated regularly by a vet and watch for any behavior changes that could indicate a medical problem. Treatment will depend on the specific condition causing your cat’s distress.

Vision Decline

As cats age, their vision can deteriorate from conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, or retinal detachment. According to one source, “This is because excessive vocalisation, including at night, can be a sign of overactive thyroid or kidney disease in cats.”1 Deteriorating eyesight, especially if it happens suddenly, can cause disorientation and anxiety in cats at night when their surroundings are dark and unfamiliar. Another source notes, “If a cat cannot see or hear well, they may be scared or confused. At night your house is much quieter and darker which can be frightening if their senses are impaired.”2

Cats with declining vision may meow more at night while trying to navigate in the dark. They can also experience increased disorientation, anxiety, and separation anxiety. Meowing is their way of calling out for reassurance and comfort. Checking with your veterinarian can help identify if age-related vision issues are causing increased nighttime meowing.

Neurological Conditions

Some neurological conditions like cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) can cause cats to vocalize more at night. CDS is related to the effects of aging on a cat’s brain and can alter sleep-wake cycles.

According to Purina, the symptoms of CDS include night time vocalization, aimless wandering, and forgetting litter box training. The portions of the brain impacted by CDS are associated with memory, learning, awareness, and sleep.

As cats age, dementia and CDS can cause disorientation and changes in sleep patterns. A cat may wake frequently, vocalize, or seem lost in the home. Consulting a vet can help diagnose CDS or other age-related cognitive issues leading to night time meowing.

Litter Box Issues

Cats can be quite particular when it comes to their litter boxes. If the litter box is not cleaned regularly, the cat may meow out of frustration from having to use a dirty box. Cats prefer clean litter and will let their owners know if the litter box is unacceptable. Lack of access to the litter box, especially at night when the cat is active, can also lead to meowing. Some cats have preferences for certain types of litter and will protest having to use something they don’t like. Clumping clay litter is often preferred because it clumps waste and absorbs odors. If the cat’s preferred litter suddenly changes or is unavailable, the cat may meow when using the litter box to express their displeasure.

To reduce meowing, it’s important to clean the litter box daily and make sure the cat has access to it at all times, especially at night. Pay attention to the type of litter the cat prefers and stick to it. Providing a clean, easily accessible litter box with their preferred litter can help reduce late night litter box meowing.


There are several solutions to try if your cat is meowing constantly at night:

  • Provide more playtime and stimulation during the day to tire them out before bedtime. Interactive toys like feather wands are a great option.

  • Leave some lights or calming music on at night so your cat doesn’t feel lonely. Consider getting a companion pet if your cat is social.

  • Offer food puzzles or toys stuffed with treats to keep your cat occupied at night.

  • Take your cat to the vet to check for underlying medical issues like dental disease, arthritis, thyroid problems, etc. that may be causing discomfort or pain at night.

With patience and some trial and error, you should be able to find a solution to limit the nighttime meowing. Just be sure to rule out any medical causes first with your vet.

When to See the Vet

If your cat’s nighttime meowing persists even after trying various solutions to address potential causes, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a veterinarian. Here are some signs that it may be time for a vet visit:

Meowing persists after trying solutions – If your cat continues vocalizing frequently through the night despite your efforts to provide more playtime, affection, access to food and litter, and management of their environment, an underlying medical issue could be to blame.

Signs of pain, discomfort, or changes in appetite – Cats who are uncomfortable, in pain, or not eating as usual may meow more as a way to express their distress. Observe your cat closely for signs like limping, changes in litter box habits, less interest in toys or food, or excessive grooming which could point to an illness or injury.

Elimination outside the litter box – Inappropriate urination or defecation, especially if it’s a new behavior, can signal medical problems like urinary tract infections, kidney disease, diabetes, or thyroid disorders. It’s important to rule these out with your vet.

Major change in behavior – If your formerly quiet cat is suddenly very vocal at night, or their personality seems different, have them evaluated medically. Cats are good at hiding illness, so changes in their normal behavior can be one of the first signs of a problem.

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