why cats meow at night

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The Meaning Behind Why Cats Meow at Night

Is your cat meowing loudly at night, waking you up for reasons you just don’t understand? There are lots of reasons she might be doing this but you won’t be able to stop this behavior until you determine what exactly is behind her night vocalizations. Learn more about what she needs so you both can sleep better.

The Meanings Behind Cats Meowing at Night

It’s fairly common for pet owners to say that their cat has kept them awake by meowing in the middle of the night. Night calling can be a confusing and frustrating behavior if you don’t know why your cat is doing it.

Vocalization is completely normal behavior for cats of all ages. Cats communicate many things using meows, whether they’re playing, calling to kittens, asking for food or complaining about a dirty litter box. 

Some common reasons your cat is meowing throughout the night include:

  1. Your cat’s instincts are telling her it’s time to hunt.
  2. She didn’t do enough exercise/activity during the day and wants to play.
  3. She’s hungry or thirsty.
  4. She’s confused by a new environment or schedule.
  5. She’s scared.
  6. She’s lonely and seeking attention or just making sure you’re still there with her.

Many people think that cats are nocturnal. Actually, cats are crepuscular animals, which means they are most active around dusk and dawn. Your cat might be unusually active late at night or in the very early morning hours because her body is naturally scheduled to be. Instincts are like habits cats are born with—they won’t even realize they’re doing anything out of the ordinary if their instincts tell them it’s normal.

Cats are often comfortable eating several small meals throughout the day. If you’re feeding your cat two meals daily, she might become hungry before breakfast time and start meowing for food. Similarly, she might call to you if her water bowl is empty during the night and she wants a drink.

Kittens and adopted cats, especially, use night calling when they’re not yet comfortable with their new environment. If you adopted your cat from a shelter, she might have been used to sleeping among dozens of other animals and will have to adjust to your home.

She might also simply be scared of the new environment. Or, if you and your cat have just moved to a new home or apartment, she might be unsettled by the change. These are easy feelings to sympathize with—remember the last time you moved, or even the last time you stayed in a hotel, and how unusual those first few nights felt. Keep in mind that it might take longer for a cat to adjust to a new home and routine than it would take you.

A significantly different work schedule might disrupt both your sleeping pattern and that of your cat. Since cats rely on routines once you’ve established them, changes in the schedule can lead to more meows for attention or reassurance during the night. And if you’ve just welcomed a new member of the family into the house—a baby, a dog or another cat, for example—your cat will have to adjust to their schedule, too.

How You and Your Cat Can Sleep Better

Once you’ve determined what’s making your cat meow at night, you can determine how to break the habit and help both of you sleep better.

First, be flexible and patient as a family. If you have children in the house, make sure everyone is on the same page about what to do. You’re going to focus on establishing a new routine so consistency from all family members is key.

Start sleeping better with these tips:

  • Schedule play time with her before bed.
  • Leave some food and water in her bowl overnight.
  • Close blinds so she’s not distracted by things outside.
  • Move her bed into your room.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes of playing before bed for her to use up that extra energy and sleep quietly through the night. If you’re working during the day and your cat sleeps for most of the time that you’re gone, she’ll have lots of energy to expend when you’re home. Adding this play time to the routine will help the sleep that comes after it becomes part of the routine, too.

Playing can also help reset the internal clock that signals active time or “hunting” time. Chasing a toy around before bed will soon be expected and replace the middle-of-the-night workout.

Changing your cat’s feeding schedule can also help her sleep. She might be eating too early and waking up hungry. Small meals of high quality food, given to her throughout the day, will help her stay full until morning. Try scheduling her last small portion nearer to bedtime. Or, leave a bit of food in her bowl overnight (with some fresh water) so she can feed herself if she does wake up.

Many cats love sitting in window sills and watching everything that’s happening outside. But at night, their excitement might keep you up. Try closing the blinds and curtains if your cat is regularly meowing at the activity outside. Move their bed into your room if they seem scared.

Determining why your cat meows at night is the first step toward helping her sleep through the night and getting more sleep, yourself. With patience, consideration and these tips, you can change your cat’s routine so that both of you have better nights.

SOURCES

“Stop Cat Meowing at Night.” Adopt-a-Pet.com, Humane America Animal Foundation, 25 Feb. 2015.

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