Why Cats’ Meow And Yowl At Night

Recently, I have had many complaints from people about cats who keep them up all night.  The people are desperate for help due to lack of sleep.  Here is a list of the common causes of meowing or yowling that I see broken down into two categories.  I will address treatments in my next post. 

-Hyperthyroidism or excess thyroid hormone may cause vocalizing and hyperactivity.  This is more common in cats over 7 years of age.  
-Testicular tumors that secrete testosterone.
-Intact (not spayed or neutered) animals looking for a partner.  This is the season when love is in the air.
-Hormonal stimulation in animals that were improperly sterilized.
-Drug side effects.
-Pain especially from osteoarthritis.  I had one patient that had trouble getting into the litter box.  He would stand beside it and meow until someone put him inside.  Cutting down one side gave him pain-free access.   
-Pruritus causes by allergies or external parasites.  Fleas, bed bugs and mites tend to be more active at night. 
-Dementia and brain tumors.
-Hypertension which is often found with renal insufficiency in older cats.

-Anxiety which often occurs as cats age and their senses diminish. 
-A cat that is protecting their resources or territory will make a lot of noise.  This often occurs when the resident cat sees or smells a cat outside their home.
-Boredom due to lack of behavioral enrichment.  Cats need places to rest, eat/drink, use the litter box and play.  Sometimes, we forget the need for play.  
-Lack of exercise is a huge problem for indoor cats.  Besides causing unwanted behaviors, it also leads to obesity.  As my professor taught me in veterinary school, “A tired animal doesn’t get into trouble.”
-Hyperactivity related to high carbohydrate diets.  In some ways cats are just like kids, feed them a high carbohydrate (sugar) snack and watch out.  


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.