Yowling cats outside at night are a pain in the ears…and the brain. Here are the main reasons cats make this horrible sound:
- They have health or behavior issues.
- The cats are mating.
- It wants to come inside.
- Kitty is saying “Hello.”
- The cat is stressed.
- A fight is about to happen.
- The cat has been exposed to cannabis smoke.
Has a yowling cat disturbed your sleep again?
I think that besides an infant’s wail, a cat’s yowl is the next most disturbing sound.
When it happens at night, while I am trying to get some rest, well, it’s really bothersome…to say the least.
And just to be clear…we are not speaking about loud meowing. Yowling is much louder and more intense.
Unfortunately, yowling is part of the cat’s “vocalization set.” In other words, the group of sounds they make to communicate their needs and feelings.
So, cats are going to yowl whether we like it or not.
At least, we can understand why this might be happening and and the best solutions to stop the yowling.
Many of these solutions you can only do if the cat is yours.
Having said that, if you know the owner and think you can chat with them, you can use these ideas to show them what they can do and why they should do them.
The first five reasons presented are the most common according to information from the South Boston Animal Hospital in the U.S.
1. Cats may yowl when they have health or behavior issues.
Especially if it’s a younger cat, yowling could be a sign of a behavioral issue.
Keep a cat behavior journal.
Every time your cat yowls, write down as many details as you can about your feline and the situation before, during, and after the yowling.
- Is your pet yowling at the same time every night?
- What about the location?
- Are there other animals or people around?
- Are they the same each time?
- How long does the yowling last for?
- Is it one period or several throughout the night?
Information like this can help your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist get to the bottom of the situation and find a solution.
Cognitive means “brain.” Dysfunction means “not working well.”
So, cognitive dysfunction means any time the brain is not performing/working in a way considered normal or usual.
A cat with cognitive dysfunction of some type may have memory issues.
So, the kitty yowls outside at night because it does not recognize its environment, even though it is the same outside area the cat has been in for years.
Another symptom of cognitive dysfunction is trouble making decisions, so the cat may be yowling out of frustration at not knowing what to do.
A light or two in the garden may help your pet recognize their surroundings more quickly.
Does your yowling cat usually sleep at night? Another idea is to have the cat inside, perhaps even in your bedroom.
Should kitty wake up disoriented, you are there to give them reassurance via some petting and your familiar smell.
Lastly, yowling cats are awake, so the suggestion is to help them sleep better.
During the day, make sure they are highly stimulated mentally and physically. In other words, tire them out.
Feed them an easy-to-digest meal before bedtime.
Make sure they have a very comfortable bed, either inside or outside.
Hopefully, kitty will fall asleep…and stay asleep until a reasonable waking hour.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) has a comprehensive article on Issues in Older Cats.
General pain or discomfort
As I mentioned in another article on this site, your pet may hide its pain from you.
This is because felines are wild animals at their core.
To survive, wild animals will do their best to hide any signs that something is wrong.
So, your cat could be injured, ill, have arthritis, etc., and you would not know it—even if you are the most concerned and caring owner ever.
Hyperthyroidism & Kidney Disease
Kidney disease or an overactive thyroid can make us (and cats) thirsty, hungry, or in pain.
So the yowling you hear outside at night could be the cat trying to get someone to help.
Could your yowling cat be having any health or behavior issues?
To make sure everything is ok, get your pet checked by your veterinarian and/or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
2. Yowling is a mating call.
Not exactly our idea of a romantic sound, right?
Unsterilized females and unneutered males are yowling outside at night to find mates.
The females use yowling to signal their ability and desire to mate, while the males yowl as a sort of “door opener” to the females.
Find out when the breeding season is in your geographical area.
In the Northern Hemisphere, it is basically February – September—just before spring to just before fall.
Unspayed females will be in heat every 18-24 days during this time.
For roughly four days, a female in heat will show some or all of these signs more than usual, it will be affectionate, rub against people and furniture, purr, roll around on the floor.
Unneutered males will react to females in heat by pacing and meowing/yowling during the entire time he picks up her scent.
Spaying females and neutering males will stop the yowling but will also prevent them from reproducing.
Your decision, of course.
3. A yowling cat might not have a cat door.
Think about it. You’re outside. For whatever reason, you want in.
You can’t open the door. What do you do?
You start calling softly, but no one answers. Gradually, you get louder and louder until someone pays attention.
Install a cat door, so your pet has independent inside/outside access.
If the cat is not yours, try speaking with the owner and suggesting they put one on their door.
4. Yowling could be an enthusiastic greeting.
Strange as it might seem, cats yowl as a way to say “Hello” to humans and other animals.
However, this yowling should last for only a short time.
5. Stressed cats may yowl.
Stress may be the reason a cat is yowling outside at night.
Some non-medical, common stressors are:
- Loss of a loved one
- Separation anxiety (the owner is away from home for a long period such as for a vacation)
- A new family addition (human or animal)
- Being in a new home (even if with the same family)
Can you identify the stressor(s)?
If the reason(s) are on the list above (or could have been included in the list above), your pet most likely needs some extra reassurance.
Try to spend more time with your cat, so your pet is in no doubt that it is loved and has a solid place in the household.
If you are not sure why your cat is stressed, it is time for a visit to the vet.
6. The cat yowling outside at night might be a “community cat.”
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) has created a new category name for feral, stray, and other cats that don’t appear to have regular homes—community cats.
One post on the Quora forum had two responses from highly-rated responders regarding yowling in community cats.
The yowling could be a sign that the cat is going to fight another cat or animal.
The yowling is connected to the feline mating ritual.
In addition to the yowling mentioned in reason #2 above (Yowling is a mating call.), the yowling could be due to the pain female felines feel when the male withdraws his barbed reproductive organ from hers.
Organizations that champion community cats believe in Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) aka Catch and Release.
In addition to reducing the yowling, TNR also reduces the number of homeless kittens on the streets.
You can read more about this philosophy in this Humane Society of the U.S. article.
Contact your local Animal Control department, so they can find the cat and improve the situation.
7. Cats may yowl when “under the influence.”
An article in a Scandanavian veterinary journal described a Persian cat, aged 6, which was behaving strangely.
The cat was brought to the veterinary clinic and kept there for two weeks.
During that time, the cat behaved as expected.
However, once it was returned home, the strange behavior returned.
Again, the cat was brought to the veterinary clinic.
After a deeper investigation, the clinic found that the cat had been exposed to smoke that has the same effect on humans.
Isolate your pet from any cannabis smoke in your home and garden.
Writer: Lisa Aharon