Many cats show nocturnal behaviors. This is a trait that they have inherited from their ancestors in the wild. Cats are also very vocal. When you combine the two, you will get a behavior that can be very annoying to a lot of people. A cat meowing at night can disrupt people’s rest. So, why do they do it?

An Overview of Feline Sleep-Wake Cycle

To learn why do cats cry at night, it is important to understand their sleep-wakefulness cycle. On the average, domesticated felines can spend 12 to 16 hours sleeping. Some can also sleep a full 20 hours per day. This is a trait that has its origin in their wild forefathers.

Cats in the wild can afford to sleep a lot longer than other animals. Prey animals do not have such a luxury. They have to be alert all the time as sleeping too much can be a life and death situation. In many instances, prey animals will be very active at night. They think that all the predators are already sleeping.

Unfortunately, cats tend to be more active at dusk or dawn, too. They have somehow learned that prey animals are more active during this time of the day. As such, they will spend most of the day dozing off. This is to help them conserve their energy for the nighttime hunt.

Close-up of the mewing British cat

Possible Explanations for Feline Night Calling

Domesticated cats have learned to adapt to a more diurnal pattern of wakefulness. Cats have already learned to be active when their pet owners are around and to doze off when they are alone in the house. It is possible, then, that a cat meowing at night is nothing more than its way of getting its owner’s attention. Here are some other possible explanations as to why do cats cry at night.

Medical Problem

It is always possible that the night calling is due to an underlying medical condition. There are some diseases and health conditions that are worse at night. Swelling and pain can worsen with immobility. Inflammation of the joints can also grow worse because of the colder nighttime temperature. Increased vocalization is one way a cat can communicate its pain or discomfort.

Feline Anxiety

Stress and anxiety in cats can also lead to night calling. For example, a change in residence can cause some cats to increase their vocalizations at night. They are not familiar with the new environment.

The same is true with newly-adopted kitties. They may not display nocturnal vocalizations in their original home. However, because of a sudden change in their environment, they can resort to increased meowing. Kittens may be insecure because they no longer have their mommy and littermates. Adopted cats can also be insecure because they no longer have the company of other cats at the shelter.

Feline Boredom

There are cats that vocalize when they get bored. This is especially true among kitties that are often left at home alone because their masters have to go to work during the day. As such, the cat spends the rest of the day sleeping because there is no one that it can interact or play with.

Unfortunately, by the time the pet owner arrives home, he or she will already be too tired from the day’s work. The owner may no longer have time or energy to play or interact with the cat. The pet, for its part, will try to increase its vocalizations in an attempt to wake up its master so they can play.

Hunger or Thirst

Another possible reason as to why cats meow at night is that they are hungry or thirsty. One has to understand that there can be many explanations as to why cats can go hungry. It is possible that its last meal was in the morning before the owner went out of the house to work. Not giving the right amount of cat food can also be a reason. Giving low-quality cat food can also make a kitty feel hungry more often.

Of course, there can also be medical explanations as to why your cat is hungry at night. There can be intestinal parasites that are consuming the nutrients intended for the cat. It may have its meal in the evening. However, because of these parasites, the cat will still feel hungry.

Feline Dementia and Other Cognitive Dysfunctions

Cats with cognitive dysfunction can also display increased nighttime vocalizations. These cats cannot process the different pieces of information that its senses send to their brain. They get confused.

A reduction in the cat’s sense of hearing can also complicate feline dementia. It cannot hear its own meow. As such, the cat will vocalize a lot louder.

Other Possible Reasons 

When a cat is in heat, you can also expect a lot of nighttime vocalizations. Males announce their presence to other male cats in the area so that they will not move in on the female in heat. Female cats also vocalize to announce their “availability” and readiness to mate.

A cat meowing at night can also be a sign of distress. The cat may be stuck behind a furniture or an appliance and cannot get out. Meowing is its way of asking for help.

What You Can Do

Night calling can be very annoying. The good news is that you do not have to live with it. There are things you can do to help your cat from meowing at night.

  • Give your cat interactive toys during the day so that it will have something to do. This will also help it sleep at night longer.
  • Play with your pet for at least 10 minutes before going to bed. This will tire your cat so that it will no longer have to get up and vocalize in the middle of the night.
  • Feed your pet right before its bedtime. A hefty meal often makes a cat sleep a lot faster and sounder, too.
  • Have your cat evaluated by a veterinarian for any underlying medical condition.

A cat meowing at night can be a sign of distress or the cat’s need for some playtime. Whatever the case, having a veterinarian help you determine the cause can lead the way to its effective management.

Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for MyPetNeedsThat.com, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!

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