Why Does My Cat Keep Me Up All Night Yowling?


It’s not uncommon for cats to yowl or cry loudly at night. This excessive vocalization can disrupt sleep and become a nuisance. There are several potential reasons why cats yowl so much when it’s dark out:

  • Communication – Cats may yowl to signal to other cats or respond to noises they hear outside.
  • Disorientation – Elderly cats with cognitive decline may become confused or disoriented at night and yowl.
  • Pain – Undiagnosed pain or illness can cause discomfort leading to nighttime yowling.
  • Anxiety – Stress, loneliness, or anxiety may cause cats to cry out at night.
  • Hunger – Cats may yowl to let you know they want an early breakfast.
  • Predatory instinct – The night elicits a cats’ urge to hunt.
  • Old age – Senior cats may become more vocal at night as part of the aging process.

While yowling can simply be an annoyance, it may also signal an underlying medical issue. This guide will examine the common reasons for nighttime yowling and what you can do to curtail it.


Cats yowl for a variety of communication purposes, especially to get the attention of humans or other cats. According to the ASPCA, “The cat’s meow is her way of communicating with people. Cats meow for many reasons—to say hello, to ask for things, and to tell us when something’s wrong.” [1]

Cats may yowl loudly at night as a way to get attention from their human owners. This nighttime yowling helps the cat connect with the humans in their life. Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning most active at dawn and dusk. Their nighttime yowling allows them to interact with humans when the humans are home at night.

In addition, cats yowl and meow to communicate with other cats, especially for mating purposes. Tomcats yowl to attract mates, and female cats in heat yowl to attract potential mates. This type of cat-to-cat communication via yowling often occurs most frequently at night when cats are most active and roaming. [2]


As cats age, they can develop cognitive issues like dementia or cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS). This can cause disorientation and confusion, especially at night. According to the ASPCA, “Older cats may vocalize excessively for a number of reasons, including disorientation” (source). CDS leads to memory and learning problems, which means your cat may yowl because it has forgotten where it is or gotten lost in your home.

Cats with CDS often seem lost or confused and may yowl to express their anxiety or find their way. As noted by Petplan, “You may find that they start loudly meowing or yowling for no apparent reason” (source). The disorientation of CDS is usually worse at night, so your cat may seem fine during the day but then yowl when it can’t recognize its surroundings after dark.

Checking your cat’s vision and hearing can help determine if sensory impairment is also playing a role. But excessive or new nighttime yowling especially in an older cat can signify CDS. Consulting your vet is advised to explore treatment options for improving your cat’s cognition and reducing this anxious, disoriented vocalization.


One of the most common reasons for increased yowling at night is that the cat is experiencing some kind of pain or discomfort (source). Cats are masters at hiding pain and can tolerate a lot before they start to vocalize. But if your normally quiet cat starts yowling loudly and persistently, especially at night, it’s a sign they may be suffering.

Yowling from pain can indicate several issues like dental problems, arthritis, injuries, infections, and other illnesses (source). Cats rely heavily on their senses, so dental disease and mouth pain is a very common cause of discomfort. Arthritis and musculoskeletal issues are also frequent as cats age. And injuries or illnesses affecting any part of the body can induce pain that leads to nighttime yowling.

It’s important not to ignore excessive or unusual yowling and to get your cat examined by a vet. They can check for dental issues, take x-rays, and perform other diagnostic tests to pinpoint the source of pain. Early treatment for the underlying condition can help resolve the discomfort and excessive vocalizing.


Cats often yowl excessively due to anxiety and stress Dutch. Common sources of anxiety that lead to yowling include separation anxiety, lack of stimulation, changes in routine or environment, and fear of loud noises like thunder or fireworks. Separation anxiety is a frequent cause of anxious yowling in cats, especially at night when the owner goes to bed or leaves the house. Signs of separation anxiety include excessive vocalization, destructive behaviors, and elimination outside the litter box Metro Vet Chicago. To reduce anxiety and yowling, it’s important to provide a predictable routine, environmental enrichment with toys and activities, and reassurance. Medications, pheromones, and training may also help anxious, vocal cats.


Cats will often yowl, meow loudly, or cry out when they are hungry and want to be fed (Source 1). This is one of the most common reasons cats vocalize at night – their internal body clock tells them it’s time to eat. Cats that are constantly begging for food may start meowing or yowling persistently when they anticipate their next meal.

Some cats have learned that crying out gets their owner’s attention to fill up their food bowl. They quickly make the association that meowing leads to being fed. This can lead to habitual begging behaviors and incessant meowing around typical feeding times (Source 2).

Predatory Instinct

Cats are natural hunters with strong predatory instincts. When cats spot potential prey like birds, squirrels, mice, or insects, it can trigger excited vocalizations and yowling (Source). Their hunter’s instinct kicks in and they become fixed on catching their target. This is perfectly normal cat behavior.

In addition, cats may yowl when they hear sounds that remind them of potential prey, like chirping or scurrying. Their keen senses pick up on noises we can’t detect. These sounds can trigger your cat’s inner hunter and result in excited yowling, especially at night when outdoor critters are most active (Source).

It’s an instinctive reaction as they tap into their natural hunting abilities. With patience and distraction, you may be able to redirect your cat’s focus when the predatory yowls begin.

Old Age

As cats get older, increased vocalization is common. Senior cats tend to yowl more frequently, especially at night. This is often due to cognitive decline associated with aging. According to the Reading Eagle, “Senior cats often yowl because they have hyperthyroidism, chronic kidney disease and/or high blood pressure.”[1] Elderly cats can become disoriented and confused, forgetting where they are or what time of day it is. The yowling helps reassure them and re-establish their territory and surroundings.

Hearing loss in older cats may also lead to increased meowing and yowling. As explained by Petplan, “If their hearing declines, elderly animals may become a little noisier to compensate.”[2] Yowling helps senior cats communicate their needs more loudly and clearly. Overall, senior cat yowling is very common and usually not a cause for concern on its own. However, major changes in vocalization patterns in elderly cats should prompt a veterinary visit to check for underlying medical issues.


There are several potential solutions for addressing nighttime yowling in cats:

First, try to identify and address any underlying causes, such as hunger, anxiety, or medical issues. Make sure your cat is getting proper nutrition and on a consistent feeding schedule. Consider behavioral enrichment like more playtime and environmental enrichment during the day to tire them out at night. Anxiety issues may be addressed through pheromone diffusers or medications prescribed by your vet.

Second, try training techniques like rewarding quiet behavior with treats, or using devices that deter vocalization when it occurs. Start by rewarding any moment of quiet, then gradually expect longer periods of quiet before rewarding. Deterrents like SSScat spray can also be used to discourage unwanted meowing.

Third, examine your nighttime routine and make any changes to accommodate natural cat behavior. Cats are crepuscular so playtime and feeding later at night may help. Provide access to engaging toys while you sleep. Make sure litter boxes are clean before bed. Close doors to areas you don’t want accessed at night.

With persistence and commitment to meeting your cat’s needs, it is possible to reduce disruptive night vocalizations. However, do consult your vet if the issue persists or worsens. Some meowing may be part of normal communication.

When to See a Vet

Excessive yowling without explanation can be a sign something is seriously wrong with your cat. According to The Village Vets, “If you think the problem could be related to pain or illness, however, it’s important to take her to the vet as soon as possible. The quicker you get your cat checked out, the better her prognosis will likely be.”

Some warning signs from T&C Vets that mean you should take your cat to the vet include:

  • Abnormal litter box behavior
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Sudden change in appetite
  • Dragging back legs
  • A lump or swelling on their body

If your cat is yowling excessively and you cannot attribute it to a behavioral cause, it’s best to get them examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible. The earlier a medical issue is detected, the better the chances of effective treatment.

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