Cats use their meows exclusively to communicate with humans.
Perhaps they are telling us they want more food, are wishing you paid them more attention, or are letting you know they aren’t feeling 100% themselves. In most cases, meowing is harmless. In fact, it is arguably useful as it lets you know your cat needs something from you.
However, there is nothing more annoying than a cat that meows through the night while you and your family are trying to sleep. It can disrupt your slumber and make it impossible to sleep until morning without being disturbed. Besides, what is so urgent that your cat can’t wait to tell you in the morning?
If you’re asking yourself “Why does my cat meow at night when I go to bed?”, you’re in the right place. In this article, I share all the possible answers to this question and some handy tips on how you can get your kitty to stop making such a racket at night.
Keep reading and you’ll both be sleeping through the night in no time!
8 Reasons Why Your Cat Meows at Night
Understanding a cat’s meows is vital in making sure you understand their wants and needs. My cat meows loudly after using the litter box to let me know she’s done her business. Sometimes, my cat meows when I sneeze to show her surprise and confusion. But why does my cat meow at night when I go to bed?
As with everything cat-related, there is no one answer to this question. Instead, several explanations could be true. From anxiety and old age to hyperthyroidism and boredom, here is a look at all of the possible reasons in more depth.
1. Cats are Crepuscular Creatures
Many people believe cats are nocturnal creatures, but this isn’t strictly the case.
Domestic cats are actually crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. Therefore, your cat might meow at night when you go to bed as they are still in this active and alert state. They are calling for your attention and want you to be with them.
Of course, this isn’t always the case as all cats are different. Kittens tend to be much more active at night and show more nocturnal sleeping patterns. In other cases, cats completely adapt to the routine of their owners and will sleep through the night. Generally, the older a cat is, the more adapted to human sleeping patterns they become.
2. Your Cat is Bored
If your cat is alert and active at night due to their crepuscular sleeping patterns, they’ll likely be bored without human company. They are meowing as a way to beg for your attention and ask for you to play with them. Of course, this is very inconvenient when you are trying to get to sleep!
My best advice is to get some automatic toys for cats to chase while you’re asleep, such as automatic laser cat toys. My cat goes crazy for her laser pen and it gets her running around the place. As soon as she uses up all of her pent-up energy she tends to sleep through the night. And, if at any point she does wake up feeling bored, she can turn the toy back on and have another play.
Chasing toys are not your only option though. Think about what types of toys your cat likes best. If they like pouncing rather than chasing, a flopping fish cat toy might be a better option. Self-moving balls or feather toys are other possibilities. Have a shop around and see what you think will keep your cat entertained the most. Or even better still, buy them a selection!
3. Your Cat is Hungry or Thirsty
When cats meow at humans, it is often to communicate that they are hungry or thirsty. This is an unlikely explanation if your cat meows as soon as you go to bed. However, if it has been hours since feeding or you forgot to top up their water bowl, it is a possibility.
To help avoid this issue, always make sure you check their water bowl is filled with fresh water right before you go to bed. Moreover, establishing a consistent feeding routine can help your cat understand when it is feeding time and when it’s bedtime. Choose a routine that works for you and your schedule so you can be sure you commit to it.
4. Your Kitten Feels Scared
Does your new cat cry like a baby at night? Kittens or newly adopted cats will often meow at night as they are not fully settled in their new home yet. They feel scared by themselves and are seeking reassurance from their new owner as they are still adjusting to their surroundings.
To help your cat ease into its new home, you need to set up the perfect sleeping spot. But, where should kittens sleep at night? Here are some of my top tips on creating a calming environment bound to help your kitty sleep through the night without calling for help:
- Confine a new cat to one room at night to help them gradually become accustomed to their new surroundings.
- Ensure all essentials such as their food and water bowls, litter tray, and cat toys are in the room to limit their need to disturb you.
- Make the room kitten-proof by removing all trailing wires, breakable objects, and substances that are toxic to cats.
- Provide a warm and cozy bed that is lined with something soft. It needs to be large enough to fit your cat but small enough to help them feel secure.
- Choose a bed with high sides where possible as this further helps to create feelings of safety and security while alone at night.
5. Older Cats are Confused
If you have a senior cat it is possible that your cat is confused. As cats age, it is normal for them to suffer from sensory decline. Their vision, sense of hearing, and sense of smell will all start to deteriorate.
When this happens, the loss of senses can make the world a confusing place for a senior cat. In the day, they may feel relaxed in their home as they have you nearby. However, come nighttime when you and your family are fast asleep, they may feel overwhelmingly confused and call for help.
Additionally, your senior cat may also be suffering from feline cognitive dysfunction (FCD). This is where their aging brain starts to deteriorate, which impacts their memory, ability to learn, and awareness of their surroundings. If your senior cat has feline cognitive dysfunction, you may notice other symptoms alongside meowing and yowling through the night. These clinical signs include:
- Spatial disorientation when walking around
- Losing interest in playing with their toys
- Sleeping excessively and/or altered sleep cycles
- Forgetting learned behavior such as how to use their litter box
- Showing indifference to food and water
If any of these symptoms apply, take your cat to see your vet. There is no curative treatment, but your vet will be able to recommend changes you can make to your cat’s environment and schedule to make its life easier.
6. Your Cat is Anxious
Some cats are anxious. Throughout the day, an anxious cat may seek constant reassurance from its owner and you might notice that your cat is so affectionate all of a sudden. You are acting as their human comfort blanket.
However, when you go to sleep at night, your cat is left on its own. They no longer have your reassurance and are meowing to communicate they are feeling anxious and need your help. Thankfully, you should easily be able to spot anxiety in cats as several other symptoms will also be apparent.
These include the following:
- Becoming more withdrawn and hiding more frequently
- Either becoming overly needy or less tolerant of people
- Changes in appetite and thirst
- Unusual sleeping patterns or restlessness
- Hesitant to use the litter tray or cat flap
- Unrelaxed body language such as dilated pupils and upright ears
- Excessive grooming
If you think your cat is anxious, try to work out why they’re feeling stressed. Have you just changed their feeding routine? Has there been a new person or animal in your home? Have there been loud noises such as fireworks or a party? These may sound trivial to humans, but cats are creatures of habit and even the slightest changes to their routine or environment can make them feel anxious.
Where possible, you can reverse the change to help them feel more at ease. However, in some instances, this isn’t possible. In these cases, the best you can do is to create a calming home environment with plenty of places to hide, toys to play with, and all their basic needs covered. If you are still worried about your cat’s anxiety, speak to a vet.
7. Outdoor Cats Feel Trapped
Does your cat meow at the door at night? Outdoor cats may do this when you go to bed as they feel trapped inside your house. They are most active at dusk and dawn and want to be out exploring. So, they meow at the door as their way of asking you to let them outside.
I never suggest obeying your cat’s wishes to let them out at night. This is when catfights with other neighborhood cats are more likely. The chances of road traffic accidents also increase at night. Besides, if the weather turns your kitty may be locked outside without anywhere to shelter from the bad weather. This could make them stressed and sick.
If you think your outdoor cat feels trapped, you may wish to install a catflap so they can let themselves in and out while you are asleep. However, you might purposely be keeping them inside for the safety reasons I have just mentioned.
If this is the case, you can help stop your cat from meowing to go outside by making your home an exciting place for them to be. Provide plenty of toys for them to play with while you sleep, scratching posts for them to dig their claws into, and a cat tree to climb. Be sure to let your cat out in the day as well so that they are more likely to settle inside when it gets dark.
8. Your Cat Has an Overactive Thyroid
Hyperthyroidism is common in cats, especially middle-aged felines or older. This is where the body produces too much thyroid hormone. These are involved in metabolism regulation, and cats with an overactive thyroid typically exhibit some of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss despite an increase in appetite
- Increased thirst and urination
- Cat acting weird and having periods of hyperactivity
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Matted, unkempt, or greasy coats
If you notice these symptoms in your cat, take them to the vet. They’ll be able to conduct a physical examination to see whether your suspicions are correct. If diagnosed with an overactive thyroid, anti-thyroid drugs, radioactive iodine therapy, or surgery may be recommended for treatment. Once the disease is under control, your cat should make less noise at night.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
As you can see, the answer is far from straightforward. From natural crepuscular tendencies to cognitive decline and hyperthyroidism, there is a whole range of possible explanations.
If you want to stop your cat meowing at night and keeping you awake, you need to determine which one applies to your cat. Then, use all the tips I have included in this article to help resolve the issue. Before long, you’ll both be having a peaceful night’s sleep.