Why Does My Cat Yowl At Night When I Go To Bed?


It’s common for cat owners to be woken up in the middle of the night by their cat yowling loudly. This consistent nighttime vocalization can be alarming and frustrating for owners who just want to get some sleep. Though it may seem like your cat is just being annoying, there are usually underlying reasons for this behavior. Understanding why your cat may yowl at night can help you address the causes and work to find solutions.

Exploring Natural Cat Behavior

Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk (https://www.purina.co.uk/articles/cats/behaviour/common-questions/are-cats-nocturnal). This crepuscular behavior is a natural adaptation as cats are predators whose vision is optimized for hunting at twilight hours. Unlike humans who are diurnal and sleep at night, cat rhythms follow the cycle of available prey – rodents, birds, and insects that are also active at dawn and dusk.

Cats can exhibit bursts of energy and playfulness early in the morning as the sun comes up and again in the late afternoon/early evening as the sun goes down because their prey is more active at these times. Their vision and hunting abilities are specialized for crepuscular activity (https://www.fetchpet.com/the-dig/are-cats-nocturnal). So a cat up yowling at 3am is not behaving according to its natural rhythms.

Signaling Distress

Yowling at night can sometimes signify your cat is in distress, pain, or dealing with an illness. As the ASPCA notes, meowing and yowling is a cat’s way of communicating, and they will often make these loud vocalizations when something is wrong (ASPCA). For example, cats may yowl due to hunger, thirst, illness, injury, cognitive decline, or other issues causing discomfort or distress. Elderly cats in particular are prone to yowling at night as they develop health problems associated with aging.

It’s important to pay attention to when the yowling occurs and what other symptoms accompany it. Yowling paired with apparent discomfort, changes in litter box habits, appetite changes, lethargy, or other signs of illness warrant a veterinary visit to identify and treat any underlying medical conditions. Left untreated, conditions causing yowling can worsen and significantly impact your cat’s health and wellbeing.


Some cats yowl loudly at night as a means to get attention or social contact from their human family. Cats are social creatures and can become distressed when left alone for long periods. The yowling behavior is an attempt to elicit a response and interaction from people in the household.

It’s not uncommon for attention-seeking behavior to develop at night, when the cat’s people have gone to bed. The cat may feel lonely or want to continue playtime and will vocalize loudly to get the humans up and interacting with them. This pattern can become habitual if the cat learns the yowling successfully summons the owners.

As explained by the ASPCA, “If your cat is meowing for attention, teach her that you’ll only pay attention to her when she’s quiet. Resist the urge to shout at her or give her any form of attention when she’s vocalizing.” https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/meowing-and-yowling

It’s best to preemptively give the cat adequate playtime and affection during waking hours, so they are less inclined to act out at night for attention. Providing environmental enrichment like cat trees, toys, and scratching posts can also help satisfy a cat’s needs.


Being left alone at night can cause feelings of anxiety and distress in some cats, leading to vocalizations like yowling or crying. Cats are social, territorial animals that can form strong bonds with their human families. When a cat is suddenly left alone, it can trigger their natural separation anxiety and make them feel insecure or fearful in the absence of their preferred companion. This anxiety may worsen at night when the house is dark and quiet. According to Arm & Hammer, some signs of separation anxiety in cats include excessive meowing or crying, destructive behavior, house soiling, and irritability.

There are several ways to help ease separation anxiety in cats. Establishing a consistent routine with regular feeding times and play sessions can provide stability when you are away. Providing interactive toys and puzzle feeders with treats can also help occupy them. Using synthetic pheromone sprays or diffusers can have a calming effect. Allowing access to windows and cat trees helps them observe the outdoors. With patience and counterconditioning techniques, cats can learn to become more comfortable when left alone at night.


Cats are creatures of habit and can become confused when their normal routine suddenly changes. Bedtime is often when cat owners engage in winding down behaviors like turning off lights, closing doors, and settling into bed. These cues indicate to the cat that it’s time for sleep. However, some nights the routine is interrupted, and this abrupt change can leave cats feeling puzzled and disoriented.

As highly observant animals, cats notice small details in their environment. They know which lights should be on at what times, which doors stay open or closed, and when you normally climb into bed. When something about the bedtime routine shifts, it catches their attention. They may yowl to express their confusion and signal that something is off.

Cats feel most secure when their territory and daily schedule remain stable and predictable. Sudden differences like a later or earlier bedtime, forgotten nightly play session, or lights left on can make them uneasy. Yowling is their way of saying something is not quite right and they want an explanation (Source: https://www.webmd.com/pets/cats/nighttime-activity-cats).

To prevent bedtime confusion, keep a steady routine around sleep hours. Make sure your cat has access to food, water, litter, toys, and sleeping areas. Avoid drastic changes and engage in calming activities before bed. With a predictable schedule, your cat will feel more secure and less likely to yowl from disorientation.


Cats are naturally active creatures that need sufficient physical and mental stimulation during their waking hours. Lack of stimulation can lead to boredom, especially at night when the house is quiet. Bored cats may begin yowling loudly at night to get their owner’s attention and to self-entertain.

As creatures of habit, cats expect certain daily routines of feeding, playing, and bonding. Disruptions to this routine can also lead to boredom-induced yowling. Cats that are left alone all day while their owners are at work may have pent-up energy at night, leading to loud meowing and crying for activity and stimulation.

Make sure your cat has lots of enrichment during the day like toys, cat trees, food puzzles, and playtime. This will help satisfy their stimulation needs so they are less likely to be bored and vocalize at night. Try to stick to a consistent daily routine so your cat knows what to expect. Give them extra interactive playtime right before bed to tire them out. Avoid inadvertently rewarding nighttime yowling by ignoring attention-seeking meows after bedtime. Your cat will learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing (Purina).


There are some things you can try to reduce your cat’s nighttime yowling:

  • Make sure your cat gets plenty of playtime and exercise during the day to tire them out before bedtime. Try interactive toys like feather wands and laser pointers.
  • Feed your cat a meal right before bed so they have a full belly and are less likely to beg for food.
  • Establish a calming pre-bedtime routine like brushing or playing light music to relax your cat.
  • Provide safe spaces your cat can retreat to like a cat tree, scratching post, or hideaway bed.
  • Use pheromone diffusers or calming treats/supplements to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Make sure your cat always has access to food, water, litter box, toys, and scratching areas at night.
  • Shut doors to prevent waking you up but give access to other areas to explore.
  • Ignore the yowling – responding could reinforce the behavior. Only give attention for quiet behavior.

Implementing a consistent routine and meeting your cat’s needs can help minimize disruptive night vocalizations over time.

When to Seek Help

If your cat’s yowling at night is persistent or increases in frequency, it’s important to rule out potential medical issues. Consult your veterinarian, as conditions like hyperthyroidism, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, arthritis and kidney disease can cause cats to vocalize more, especially at night.

Your vet can perform a physical exam, take blood tests and evaluate your cat’s overall health to determine if an underlying illness is causing the nighttime yowling. Addressing any medical problems can help improve your cat’s wellbeing and quality of life.

In some cases, your vet may prescribe medication to help manage pain, anxiety or other issues influencing the cat’s behavior. Or they may recommend environmental changes to make the cat more comfortable at night. Getting to the root cause with professional veterinary guidance is key if your cat’s nighttime yowling doesn’t resolve on its own.


In summary, there are several common reasons why cats may yowl or meow loudly at night when their owners go to bed:

– Signaling distress or discomfort from an illness or injury

– Attention-seeking behavior due to separation anxiety or boredom

– Confusion or disorientation, especially in elderly cats

– Anxiety triggered by loud noises, changes in routine, or sensing something alarming

While occasional yowling may be normal, excessive or frequent nighttime vocalizations could signify an underlying issue. It’s important to observe your cat’s body language and behavior to determine the cause. If your cat is suffering from pain, illness, or emotional distress, seek veterinary advice right away. With patience and care, you can help your feline friend feel more comfortable and secure at night.

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