Cats are in their element at night. As crepuscular creatures who thrive at dawn and dusk, they’re typically up much of the night. In the wild and outside, they use this time to catch their prey like mice, and they use it to explore. But in your home, it can be pretty disruptive.
Unless you’ve trained your cat or they have adapted to match your sleeping patterns, domestic cats will also be awake at night. And while you try to sleep, cats are begging for your attention. This means you might often hear your cat crying like a baby at night. It is nearly impossible to sleep through all the noise!
This is extremely disruptive to your sleep, especially if your cat keeps you awake every night. And, if you don’t get up and show them attention, they might start using your furniture as your cat’s personal jungle gym. So, why do cats cry like babies at night? And what can we do to stop this unwelcome behavior?
Having dealt with my fair share of sleepless nights, I share everything I know in this article. In most cases, cats cry out because they’re hungry. But they could just be fooling you! Keep reading to get to the bottom of it and put this bad behavior to bed for good.
Why Do Cats Cry at Night?
The main reason that cats cry at night is due to hunger. If you fed your cat before bed, it is quite a long time for them to wait until the morning for more food. However, hunger is not the only reason why cats will cry out. Keep reading for more information about hunger cues and other reasons why cats will cry during the nighttime.
1. Your Cat is Hungry
As you probably already know, a high-pitched and inquisitive call means that they are likely hungry. Therefore, hunger is the most likely reason why your cat is crying like a baby at night. However, it can be difficult to tell whether cats are truly hungry or are just pretending to be to get your attention.
If your cat is truly hungry, he or she will get right next to your face or in your room. Even when I shut my door, my cat meows at the door persistently if she is hungry. They go to any length to get another tasty meal! When you get out of bed to tend to your furry friend, a hungry cat will also usually lead you directly to their food bowls.
I suggest looking at how much and how frequently your cat is eating to check if you are feeding it the correct amount. The average kitty will need around 300 calories of food per day, give or take. Small breeds like Munchkin cats will need less food, and larger breeds like Maine Coon cats will need more food as they expend more energy.
There are about 300 calories per cup of dry food, whereas a six-ounce can of wet food contains around 250 calories. Luckily for us cat parents, there are feeding recommendations on the cans and the food bags. Usually, these recommendations are based on your cat’s weight. Make sure you are feeding your cat the right amount throughout the day.
2. Your Cat is Bored
If your cat is sufficiently fed but your cat is still crying out at night, boredom might be another cause for their excessive noise. My cat meows at night when I go to bed as she knows she has a long night alone to entertain herself. Although they are independent creatures, cats still want and need attention!
You must ensure you give your cat the right amount of exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. If your cat is your only pet or if they are indoor kitties, they will need more time with you to get the enrichment they need. Ensuring your cat gets this stimulation in the day means they are more tired and relaxed when it comes to bedtime.
Depending on your cat’s breed, size, and age, the amount of exercise they need will vary. Bigger cats need more exercise, while smaller cats will need less. Young cats and kittens will take a long time to tire out, whereas older cats will become tired quite quickly. In general, your cat will need frequent play sessions throughout the day for the best results!
3. Your Cat is Trapped
If your cat is an outdoor cat, it might feel trapped if it’s inside at night. This is a common reason for cats to call out at nighttime. Many owners assume their cat is always hungry and meowing, but your cat might be trying to get your attention to let it outside.
This is usually a quick fix as you can get up to let your cat out. However, if your cat wakes you up for this after you’ve been sleeping for a while, this not only can get annoying, but you may be able to prevent the problem by putting them outside before you go to bed. It is also a lot safer for your cat to spend the night inside and you might not want to let your cat outside for this reason.
The opposite problem might occur as well, where your cat wants to be let in during the middle of the night. In this case, your cat’s schedule might need to be rearranged with some training and adaptation.
4. Your Cat Wants to Mate
Cats have natural feeding and sleep schedules, and cats that are not spayed or neutered might be following their natural mating urges as well. This means that cats might be calling out to find a mate or because they heard another cat calling out for the same reason.
You will easily be able to tell if your female cat is in heat as there are very notable symptoms. If your cat keeps meowing and rubbing against everything, is begging to be let outside, and will yowl to all the active males in the neighborhood. My cat is so affectionate all of a sudden whenever she is in heat too, so this is another sign to look for.
It is more difficult to notice whether male cats are looking for a mate. This is because they are always active and are waiting for a female in heat to come along. However, you might notice some of the same signs as females, including meowing at night and wanting to be let outside.
5. Your Cat is Getting Old
As cats age, many sadly start to develop mental problems, such as cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This is where the cognitive functions of the brain slowly start to decline, which can make your cat disoriented. The confusion causes cats to call out and beg for help. They’re scared and want their human there to help bring them a sense of calmness.
Deterioration of hearing and vision is also more common in older cats. If they have hearing or vision problems, they may also need guidance at night, and calling out is how they get your attention. Like cognitive dysfunction, these cats are meowing and asking for your help.
Other problems that come along with age, like arthritis, may also be causing your cat to cry out because they are in pain. However, if this is the case, you’ll probably notice your cat crying out a lot throughout the day. This condition causes constant, long-term pain that isn’t limited to nighttime. It also has other symptoms such as limping, stiffness, and a reluctance to move. If you’re asking “Why does my cat meow when I pick her up?” this is another sign of this illness.
6. Your Cat is Sick
Many of the medical conditions that cause cats to cry like a baby at night are linked with old age. However, even young cats can develop painful health conditions or injuries. For example, your cat might have been in a catfight and has a bad injury. They will meow and meow endlessly to inform you of what has happened and ask for help.
Another example is something like a urinary tract infection that makes peeing extremely uncomfortable. These can affect cats of any age. If your cat meows loudly after using the litter box, this is a highly likely scenario. You might spot other symptoms as well, such as failure to use the litter box altogether or blood in the urine.
If you cannot get your cat to be quiet at night, it is a good idea to rule out medical conditions. I suggest keeping a close eye on your cat if their meowing has suddenly started. Make note of any symptoms you see and call the vet if in any doubt. They might be totally fine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry when talking about your cat’s health.
7. Your Cat is Stressed
Finally, stress and anxiety can cause your cat to cry like a baby at night. Cats are very sensitive creatures and can get spooked by all kinds of things. Common stressors include moving home, having new guests around, or a neighborhood cat infringing on their territory. Loud noises such as thunderstorms can also scare your cat.
When cats are scared, they will call out to their human for comfort and support. My cat follows me everywhere and sleeps with me when she is stressed! I don’t mind this all that much, and take satisfaction in the fact my cat comes to be for love and support. However, if you’re not there to provide comfort it can cause loud and disruptive meowing.
How Can I Stop a Crying Cat at Night?
It is important to know why cats cry like babies at night. However, you’ll also want to know how to stop this behavior. It is extremely disruptive and disturbs your sleep, leaving you groggy and frustrated. Besides, cats always meow to communicate something to humans. It is best to know what our cats are trying to say to us so that we can fulfil these needs and give them a happy life.
Below are my top tips on how to stop your cat from crying at night. But before you do any of these steps, make sure you rule out medical conditions first. Behavior changes are always best seen by a vet. So, once your veterinarian has given your cat the all-clear, try one or more of these fixes.
1. Change Feeding Times
Traditional feeding is where you feed your cat two meals a day, splitting their calories into two meals. Usually, pet parents who feed their cats traditionally will give their cats one meal in the morning and the second meal in the late afternoon or early evening.
This feeding schedule can be the easiest for you. It is also one of the more natural feeding routines for your cat as they would hunt in the morning and in the late evening, which goes along with their natural sleeping and hunting patterns. If you are using this traditional feeding routine, I recommend feeding your cat its evening meal as late as possible. This means it is less likely your cat will wake you up in hunger.
However, if you want to stop your cat from crying out in hunger while you’re sleeping, smaller and more frequent meals are a much better option. And with the help of an automatic feeder for your cat, you can feed them these small meals while you’re fast asleep.
Automatic feeders today are very advanced and easy to use. You simply put the food inside and then set timers for when you want your cat to be fed. Some feeders will deliver 2 meals per day, whereas others feed up to 10 meals. You can set the timers to deliver meals at the hour your cat starts making a racket. If they are truly crying because of hunger, this should solve all your worries!
2. Use Food Puzzles
In the wild, cats eat frequently as they use large amounts of energy when they explore and hunt. You can replicate this feeding style by using food puzzles. Basic food puzzles involve you putting treats or your cat’s meal in different slots. Then your cat will have to figure out how to open these compartments to get their food.
Try putting down a food puzzle just as you go to bed to stop your cat from getting hungry at night. This is more beneficial than putting down a bowl of food as they challenge your kitty, giving them some mental stimulation and enrichment. Therefore, this solves two of the possible causes of meowing at night. Firstly, this is a great way to feed your cat while you sleep. And secondly, they help to keep your cat entertained and curb boredom.
3. Change Their Diet
If you are feeding your cat regularly and know they’re consuming the right amount of calories, you might want to go one step further and look at the nutritional value. If your cat is eating poor quality food, they might be hungry despite eating a lot!
The nutritional value of food varies dramatically between brands. Cats of different ages and health conditions also need different nutrients to thrive. Therefore, I recommend speaking to your vet about your cat’s diet. They will be able to best advise on the right food for your kitty.
If you do change your cat’s diet, ensure you do so gradually. Cats don’t respond well to change! If their new food catches them off guard they can become stressed. As I mentioned earlier, stress is another reason for cats to meow at night, so it could make the noisy situation worse! With any changes to routine or environment, slow and steady are best.
4. Play Together Before Bed
Another tip is to ensure you play with your cat directly before going to bed. Playtime is a bonding experience, so your cat will be much happier spending the night alone after having some quality time with you. This will also provide them with a dose of healthy stimulation so they’re less likely to get bored.
Playing with your cat before bed also works by tiring them out. The more sleepy they feel, the more likely they’ll let you sleep through the night. You can even leave a few toys out for your cat to play with by itself as you sleep. However, make sure none of them has small bits that your cat could choke on. The last thing you want is an accident while you’re asleep!
Automatic cat toys are also a godsend. Many of these are motorized and run by themselves, entertaining your cat for hours. They can use these at night while you sleep. Alternatively, these automatic toys are great for busy owners that don’t have time to play with their cats during the day.
5. Install Nightlights
For cats that have vision impairments or are older and have dementia, you can add a couple of nightlights throughout the house to help them find their way around. These additional lights will keep them from getting scared. And the less scared your cat is, the less likely it will come to wake you up.
Other changes to your home environment can also go a long way. Make sure your cat’s bowls and the litter box are in an easily accessible location. You want there to be as fewer obstacles as possible between their favorite sleeping spot and these necessities so they can find them with ease. Your vet will be able to offer more tips on adapting your home environment to help manage these conditions.
6. Install a Cat Flap
If you have an outdoor cat that constantly meows at the door, consider installing a cat flap. This will allow your cat to come and go as it wishes and without waking you up. Outdoor cats can also keep themselves entertained more easily in the outside world. They will explore and hunt, and won’t be reliant on you for entertainment.
If you’re worried about other animals using it to gain access to your home, don’t panic. There are collar-activated cat flaps now that only open in response to your cat’s unique collar tag or microchip ID. Many also have timer settings and one-way locks, so you can still have some control over your cat’s access to the outside world.
7. Get Your Cat Neutered
Cats that have not been spayed or neutered are a lot more vocal at night. Therefore, another option you can try is neutering your cat. This is a relatively quick operation that is performed by a vet. The procedure removes the sex organs and thus curbs sexual behaviors and tendencies.
For female cats, this means they will no longer go into heat. Not only will this improve their nighttime meows, but also stop other unwanted heat behaviors. Spaying a cat also prevents unwanted pregnancies and the development of life-threatening diseases such as cervical cancers.
For male cats, their urge to find a female in heat will subside. Males that have been neutered also tend to be less territorial and aggressive as well. So, a good night’s sleep is only one of the many benefits you get from this quick and easy operation.
8. Ignore Your Cat’s Behavior
Lastly, you may consider ignoring your cat’s behavior. If they cry out, and you always show them attention, they may learn that they can get what they want by calling. If you ignore them, they will usually move on to something else. However, you should only ever do this if you’re certain that there is nothing seriously wrong. The last thing you want to do is leave a medical condition unchecked!
You should also note that ignoring your cat will be frustrating at first. Cats are very persistent when they want something. They will meow and meow, and you will probably have a week or two of no sleep. But if you push through and train your cat, you’ll never have to deal with being woken up again.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
While cats can cry like babies for several reasons, the most likely causes are that they are hungry or bored. However, serious medical conditions can cause excessive crying out at night, so make sure that you have a good wellness plan for your cat, especially as they age.
Try and figure out the cause for your cat’s nighttime crying before you try to solve the issue with any of my tips. Over time, you’ll either get used to your cat’s calls, or you will successfully fix its behavior. Either way, a good night’s sleep is on its way to you very soon!