My last blog post discussed how several medical and behavior problems may cause nighttime meowing and yowling. This post will discuss treatments and how to get your cat back on your sleep/wake cycle.
First, have the cat examined by a veterinarian to find medical problems that might be causing the meowing. In my experience fleas, hyperthyroidism, pain and dementia secondary to aging are the most common reasons. If your pet isn’t sterilized, schedule a spay or neuter right away. Those hormones cause a host of undesired behaviors.
If no medical problems are discovered, it is time to move on to a behavioral evaluation. Set up a video camera and record your cat’s nighttime behavior. Is another pet in the family blocking their access to valuable resources (food, water, litter box or resting areas)? What is the cat doing right before the meowing starts? Were they looking out the window or sniffing the front door? Keep a log of your cat’s daily routine for one week and then look for patterns.
Here are some remedies for common problems:
1) Hyperactivity after eating – Giving snacks or feeding a high carbohydrate diet is like giving sugar to children. Feed canned food which is lower in carbohydrates one hour prior to bedtime.
2) Meowing due to hunger – Cats on a strict diet will often beg for food. To curb this behavior, get an automatic feeder. They even come with ice packs to keep canned food fresh. Set the feeder before the humans retire for the evening at the opposite end of the house. When hunger strikes, the cat will smell the food and take out their frustrations on the feeder instead of the humans. When it finally opens, the cat thinks begging from the feeder worked.
3) Territorial protection – If your cat is running between windows or marking the door, look for another animal in their territory. Some cats are highly territorial. They view any foreign cats as intruders that need to be driven away immediately. To stop this behavior, keep neighborhood cats away from the doors and windows in your house. Motion activated air cannisters work well for this.
4) High prey drive – Some cats want to chase, catch and kill anything that moves. See #5.
5) Lack of exercise/boredom – This is a big problem for all cats which leads to obesity as well as undesirable habits. As my professor in veterinary college stated on several occasions, “A tired animal doesn’t get into trouble.” Before bed, exercise the cat. My cats love kitty feathers dusters. Play with the cat until they can’t chase the clump of feathers anymore. This also works with cats who like to bite feet through the covers. Schedule regular play times to give your cat an outlet for their energy. Playing with your cat everyday will also build a stronger human-animal bond. I predict you will come to enjoy this time together as much as your cat does.