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Why Do Cats Make Weird Noises At Night?

Whether you have just adopted or bought your first cat, or you have lived with cats all your life, you are equally likely to be astounded and even terrified by some of the noises that they can make.

Yowling or caterwauling is particularly unnerving and is often the ‘weird’ noise that worries owners the most.

Meowing you expect, purring you try to elicit, hissing you can understand, but why do they yowl? And why do they always choose to make weird noises at night when you are tired and more vulnerable to nervous frights?

Nine times out of ten, cats make weird and wonderful noises during the night when they are bored or hungry. Weird yowls are emitted by female cats in heat, or by male cats who sense a female in heat.

Cats also make weird noises if they are sick, injured, or stressed. They yowl when they are frustrated at being locked inside or at losing the quarry they were hunting. Senior cats can yowl because they have dementia.

Black cat face closeup with mouth open wide

Your cat will never yowl at you for no reason. If they are yowling, they have a specific problem they are trying to let you know about.

These problems range from hormones to senility, and you should try to ascertain how you can help your feline friend. There are also ways to minimize these heart-stopping wake-up calls.

Why Cats Make Weird Noises At Night

Cats are crepuscular. This means that they are most active in the hours just before sunrise and the first few hours after sunset.

However, 4 am can feel like the middle of the night to someone whose alarm is only set to go off at six or seven.

The reason why cats often make weird noises at night is to attract your attention. During the day, they can attract your attention by tapping you, meowing, rubbing against you or even by plonking themselves on your lap.

When you are deep asleep, these tactics are not so successful, so they switch to shouting at you.

Cats Yowl To Wake You Up

If your cat is hungry, thirsty, bored, or wants to get out of the house, they will yowl to wake you up. As we pointed out earlier, their usual methods do not work as effectively when you’re sound asleep. Making weird noises is far more successful.

What’s frustrating is that cats are very clever, so they learn quickly that making weird, loud noises has the desired result. In the future, they will forgo the gentler methods such as purring in your face and kneading your belly with their paws and will go straight for the caterwaul.

Females In Heat And Males That Sense This Make Weird Sounds

If you have an unsterilized female cat, she can go into heat throughout the year. If you lock her inside at night while she is in heat, she will likely yowl because she wants to get outside to go in search of a mate.

If your female cat is not spayed, you should keep her indoors to prevent unplanned pregnancies and the contraction of sexually transmitted feline diseases.

If you have an unsterilized male cat, he will want to be outside as much as possible to roam the neighborhood in search of females in heat.

If you lock him inside, he will yowl because he wants to get outside. This yowling will be particularly tenacious if he can hear or sense a calling female in heat within the vicinity.

Cat sitting and crying in a dark room

Cats Sound Weird When They Are Sick Or In Pain

Cats yowl when they are in pain or are feeling sick. Some cats sound like they’re crying ‘no, no, no, no’ right before they vomit. If this is the cause of their yowling, it will most likely continue during the day.

Gently check your cat for injuries, pale gums, or abdominal tenderness. You can also see if they stop eating and drinking and if their coats start to look dull and tatty (this can happen quite quickly when a cat is ill or in pain).

Cats Yowl When They Are Stressed

Typically, cats don’t cope well with change. They can become stressed by a big event, such as moving house, and from something relatively insignificant like you starting to go out two evenings a week.

Cats don’t like their routine to be disrupted and can vocalize their distress by making weirds noises. A new kitten or a new baby in the house can cause your resident cat to feel insecure, and they will yowl because they need you to comfort them.

Cats may also become stressed and start yowling if another cat is in their territory or if there is a storm.

Cats Make Weird Noises If They Can’t Do Something They Want To

If your cat is locked inside at night and sees a lizard running on the outside of the window, they can yowl in frustration because they can’t get at the creature.

If they are allowed outside, their quarry may hide or escape them, and they will also yowl in frustration. If they are accustomed to going outside at night and you start to lock them in, they can get frustrated.

It’s not necessarily unkind to start locking your cat in at night. There may be a storm coming, a predator may be reported to have started roaming the neighborhood under cover of darkness, or you have moved houses, and you don’t want them to run away.

Cats Yowl When They Get Old

Senior cat making weird noise because it is lonely

Senior cats can develop hearing and vision problems that make them feel vulnerable in the poor light at night. They may also feel like they don’t know where you are and will yowl to find you so you can comfort and care for them.

Older cats can also develop cognitive dysfunction (dementia). They become confused, disoriented, and distressed and may yowl because of this distress or simply as a result of a cognitive misfiring.

You cannot do much about a senior cat who is yowling, apart from being patient with them. Dusk till dawn Motion sensor night lights can really help. Many are conveniently available on Amazon. Here’s a link to a great example.

How To Prevent Your Cat From Yowling At Night

You should never punish a cat for yowling at night, no matter how frustrating it is. They are trying to tell you something, and are looking to you, their beloved owners, to help them.

Give Them What They Might Need During The Night

Cats know what you can provide for them, so if you try to foresee their nighttime needs, it can prevent them from making weird noises to wake you up.

Make sure your cat gets lots of exercise right before bedtime to reduce its energy levels. Spending time with them in play before you go to sleep can prevent them from feeling like they are missing out on special time with you.

You can also provide them with a new or favorite toy that they can play with when they are awake at night to minimize the chance of them becoming bored.

Give your cat a snack right before you go to bed, or set out a bowl of kibble that they can have access to throughout the night. You also need to make sure they have enough fresh water.

Sterilize Your Cat

When your female cat is spayed, she will not go into heat and will be less driven by hormones to escape the house at night and find a mate.

Neutering a male cat will also mitigate their desire to roam the neighborhood looking for a female and will also make them less distracted by a nearby female who is in heat.

Sterilizing your cats is also the most responsible decision if you are not purposefully breeding with your cats. If you are purposefully breeding with your cats, you will have to steel your nerves against the yowling because they need to be kept inside.

Take Your Cat To The Vet

If your cat is making weird noises, this can indicate illness or injury, and you should take them to see a vet if you feel they are looking unwell or if you cannot see any other reason for their yowling.

Minimize Their Stress

If you have had a change in your household, whether it was a move, a new addition, or a routine change, then make sure your cat feels secure by spending extra time with them and keeping as much the same as possible.

For example, if you have moved houses, make sure you still feed your cat at the same time you did in the old house. And don’t think that they will want a new bed to match their new home; give them their old bed.

Why Do Cats Make Weird Noises At Night? Conclusion

There is no doubt that caterwauling or yowling is a weird and unsettling noise to hear from your cat, especially at night. But actually, it means that your cat is trying to convey an issue to you.

They may want to go outside, get attention, be fed, or be comforted. They may be hormonal, in pain, ill, stressed, or suffering from cognitive disorders.

For the most part, you can take steps to minimize your cat’s yowling at night. Ensure they have worked out some of their beans, feed them, provide them with fresh water before bedtime, and minimize upsets to their routine.

Take them to the vet for a health check and sterilize both males and females. Your cat can also get dementia and may yowl as a result, so make sure they feel safe and be patient with them.

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