My cat won't stop yowling

October 26 |
fierce jungle animal
Thanks to Beth for uploading this to our Flickr pool.
My cat howls at night. Every night. Without fail. I've tried giving him food, fresh water, cleaning his litter box, playing with him before bed. He has toys he can play with on his own, but they're just not interesting I guess. We've tried training him with a spray bottle, which he treats as a game. He hides under furniture and howls from there. I've tried locking him in various rooms but he's started tearing off parts of the door. There's nothing wrong with his health. I would prefer to just put in earplugs and ignore him, which has been the only somewhat effective method, but my roommate won't, and my roommate is starting to hate both me and my cat.

I know why he howls. He's bored out of his kitty mind, and I feel bad for him, but I can't get up at four in the morning, every morning, and play with him. I'm a full-time student with a job — I need sleep. My cat recently escaped (he's learned how to open the screen door), and with that brief adventure the howling has gotten worse. I would let him be an indoor-outdoor cat, but I live in an apartment with no way to install a cat door and it's a block away from two very busy streets. I don't want to get a shock collar. I don't want to re-home him. I can't get him a companion animal either, although I think that would help the most. Please help me. -Bird

What say you cat-owning Homies? We KNOW you are filled with tons of cat advice. How do you get a cat to stop yowling if you can't let it out, you don't want to shock it, and you can't get it a companion?

  1. Hi there,

    Sorry to hear you're having such a time of it. I have four cats; three indoor, and one outdoor (long story!) and as I'm sure you can imagine, that caused a bit of a problem. Sounds like your cat is under a bit of stress; we had a similar problem with one of ours. Our vet recommended getting a plug in pheromone called 'Feliway', and it's absolutely brilliant. Also, make sure your kitty has lots of dark, safe places to go and be alone. You can get cat cribs that attach to the underside of chairs, if you're pushed for space!

    11 agree
  2. My cat used to do the same thing. She wasn't yowling, but she would scratch at the bed and knock stuff off dressers to try and wake us up. In the end, I ended up getting another cat, so that she had someone to play with all night. It worked, more or less, now they just play noisely in the same room, or the kitten tries to harass me awake, but I can at least lock them out now without them trying to rip down the door. But obviously, a second cat isn't a good answer for everyone.

    Have you tried automated toys? I've recently learned that I can amuse my cats for hours just by putting a marble in the bathtub, but there's also automated laser pointers:

    7 agree
    • I can't help but thinking a marble in a bathtub might be almost as annoying a sound as a cat yowling!

      23 agree
      • *cough* Compared to the last cat I heard yowling? It's quieter (especially because I swear they always pick the spot in the house with the best acoustics) but yeah, if the only bathtub is adjacent to the bedroom… It's about as annoying. XD

        1 agrees
      • I used to have a cat that loved a bouncy ball in the tub. A lot quieter than a marble. Actually, the quiet thrumming sound it made was kind of soothing.

        3 agree
    • ping pong ball in the bathtub works really well too and is a bit quieter.

      8 agree
    • I was just going to suggest that automated laser pointer! My sister recently purchased it to help keep her cats busy when she's trying to sleep. So far, it's working.

      2 agree
    • Mr. Ivriniel's cat doesnt' like those automated laser pointers. He quickly realizes that he can't grab that red dot and loses interest unless you walk around the house carrying it.

      0 agree
  3. How old is your cat? I ask because the older Jack got the less he yowled in the night. Before he quit yowling I decided to play with him a LOT before going to bed. The idea was to tire him out. Toy of choice was a stick with elastic and a mouse on the end of the elastic. It would get him jumping, running, and eventually playing fetch. I'd do it until I heard him panting, let him catch his breath, then start up again.

    I knew he was done for the night when he stretched out on his back and half-heartedly batted at the mouse.

    5 agree
    • I came here to say this same thing: when our younger cat was just out of kittenhood he had boundless energy and no problem waking me up to play in the middle of the night. So I got his favorite toy–a stick with feathers on the end–and right before bed we played, me making him run and leap, until he was panting and refused to play any more. He'd sleep through the night, or at least not wake me up, and we both enjoyed the play time.

      He did occasionally bring the stick up onto the bed in the middle of the night, I'd wake up to find it tucked under the covers with me!

      11 agree
      • Jack does that too! Though he usually does a ritual of "killing" it before passing out on my legs.

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      • haha Both my cats do this. some days i wake up to find that our kitten Mogwai has surrounded me with toys and my feet are tangled in ribbon or cord…

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    • This worked well for us when our cats were younger, too!

      2 agree
  4. Ahh yes, feline night yodeling.
    My question: is kitty neutered?
    My suggestion: if not, this may be Tom behavior. If he is or you don't wish to neuter him, Feliway as the first commenter advised. We use it and love it.

    14 agree
    • I was going to ask the same! I had a cat who would just yowl and yowl, but after I got her fixed, she was suddenly silent. It was a bit sad, because she went from being very talkative to barely a meow, but.. still better than her REEEOEOOROOEEOOORRRRRWWWWWR.

      5 agree
    • I second the question of whether he is neutered. It is a must in my world where I am surrounded by tons of strays and kittens looking for homes. (yes I do trap and release)
      Another option if the toys dont work is a kitty xanax. I'm not all pro-drugs for pets but sometimes it beats losing a roomie or having to move or rehome a pet.

      0 agree
  5. I was going to ask the same thing- is he fixed?

    If so, yeah, maybe he's bored. Maybe you can train him to readjust his schedule. play with him in the evening or whenever you're available. Really tire him out and get a couple of automated toys. I've heard good things about those pheromone doo-hickeys!

    4 agree
  6. As the owner of a very vocal cat, I will also note that if you talk to your cat a lot and have "conversations," you're going to end up with a chatty kitty. My cat could use more mental stimulation but she's also just very talkative (and kinda whiny about it). This is in comparison to one of our other cats that almost never meows and another that only makes noise when she's pissy or wants us to open the basement door.

    I definitely agree that if your kitty is younger, he may just be still adjusting to your schedule. If he's older, he may just be an oddball. A friend's cat meowed at the wall in the middle of the night for no reason. She had company but she would just randomly stare at the wall and meow.

    5 agree
    • My cat is also *very* talky. I say he takes after his mother ;)

      Anyway, Atticus is currently with my parents and they got a new kitten a couple of months ago. Atticus no longer talks at my parents quite so much, but does give Tobias lengthy, in depth lectures on being a cat.

      It's pretty annoying, but also SO CUTE!!

      I am no help to the OP. Sorry OP :(

      3 agree
  7. This was our cat two years ago. It was so bad that I joked we might get more sleep with a newborn…which was not untrue for a while. The solution, unfortunately, was just to protect the doors that the cat was attacking and keep him a few rooms away during the night. We built these elaborate scratching post door barriers out of plywood and carpet scraps, and just plopped them in front of the doors. This was only feasible for a few months, during which time he was MISERABLE, but it actually gave him time to mellow. Once we opened up the doors, he was far calmer at night and can mostly keep himself entertained quietly. (This was with a neutered cat, by the way; balls had nothing to do with it.)

    1 agrees
    • If scratching is a problem, I recommend Soft Claws. They're little plastic caps that you essentially superglue over their claws. They shed off eventually, between 1-6 weeks. I just replace them as they come off. He still scratches at the door (he almost does it more because he likes the light squeaking sound that the plastic makes), but the scratching doesn't do any damage. One pack of 40 caps is about $14 on Amazon. Totally worth it.

      1 agrees
  8. Another happy Feliway user here! When my boyfriend and I moved into a new apartment together, my cat would wake us up at all hours of the night yeowling. It got to the point where one of us would sleep in the bedroom and the other would sleep on the couch so the cat would have some company. The Feliway plug-in did the trick!

    4 agree
  9. Yes, Feliway is awesome! Amazon has much better prices on it than in pet stores, but regardless it's worth every cent. You can also get this stuff called Rescue Remedy, which you can put on his food or in his water in the evening. It helps to calm stressed animals (and people!).

    Is allowed in your bedroom at night? Before we got dogs, we had to leave our bedroom door open so the cats could come in and out as they chose or they would yowl at the door to get in. Now, the dogs sleep with us so they're happiest not in the bedroom, but that's beside the point.

    I know you said getting his a friend was out of the question, but if it's boredom and loneliness rather than stress (which could make sense with you being a working student), it might be a good idea to consider. I've always found that two cats or two dogs are WAY easier to take care of than one. Maybe contact local rescues and see if there are any kitties who need foster homes? Then you're not committing forever to a new cat, but getting him a friend for a while. Some cats freak out too much around others for this to be an option, but if he's social and young it may be just the thing he wants.

    0 agree
    • My local "farm & feed" store carries Feliway, and honors coupons (which are abundant and valuable). It ends up being a lot cheaper than Amazon.

      0 agree
    • Tangential note: Rescue Remedy chewable gummies are basically what get me through life.

      0 agree
    • Know your own cat, though. My yowl-y cat proved that she'd rather starve to death than eat or drink anything spiked with Rescue Remedy. Same with prescription meds. Now we just suffer the yowling :(

      0 agree
  10. Hi there! I second the suggestions for Feliway, I volunteer at a cat rescue and the Feliway spray can work wonders with some of our cats. A lot of stores also sell live catnip/cat grass plants, which can help agitated/lonely cats calm down and be happier/quieter.

    I will also mention that you should go to the vet to find out if your cat needs to be re-neutered. We once had to neuter one of our males three times(!) – the first time they only found one testicle (the second hadn't dropped yet, he was rather young), the second time they removed the undropped testicle, and the third time they removed what turned out to be a bonus third testicle! He's not the only cat that we've had to re-spay/neuter, and every time they calm down after the final bits have been removed.

    1 agrees
  11. Nthing Feliway. It is MAGIC. I was a disbeliever, and now an absolute convert. I used it for two months while we moved to 3 different places: it worked to keep my kitty saner throughout the process and call the new place home.

    2 agree
  12. My cat used to yowl outside the bedroom door when we closed it for the night. He'd stop eventually, but it was so sad. And loud. I couldn't have him in the room at night with the wall-to-wall cat toy, I mean, carpet. Now that I'm in a house with hardwood floors, kitty gets to roam the house and LOVES. IT. Sometimes he'll wake me or my husband up with middle of the night, manic kitty head bumps of lurve, but it's better than hearing his pitiful cry every night.

    Can you leave the bedroom door open, if you haven't been doing that? What about putting a chair or something near the door to keep it open enough for kitty to get in, but it'll keep it from flinging all the way open? (To keep some bit of privacy.)

    1 agrees
  13. Hello! My cat did the same thing for months! I tried everything: took him to the vet to make sure he was healthy, played with him before bed, kept his schedule set, bought him scratching posts and toys, and installed shelves for him to climb up on. Nothing made him stop screaming all night and running all over the house. I eventually resorted to spraying him with water which also did nothing. Also, I tried Feliway, and although I personally know others that it works for, my cat was not effected. If your kitty is not neutered, that would be my number one suggestion! Get those boys snipped! If he is already neutered (like my kitty is) you may be in for a discussion with your vet about behavior modification drugs. My cat was 5 years old when he started with these behaviors, so it was nothing to do with hormones or kitteness. And yes, I know! My first reaction to putting my cat on drugs was "HELL NO!" I did not want to put my kitty on drugs but it was the last resort so I decided to give it a try. It has really helped! I see no change in my cats behavior, other than he doesn't act crazy all night. He does not act drugged up or anything like that. I finally accepted that some people need medication for their brains, so it makes sense that some animals do to!

    1 agrees
  14. We have put our cat Mookie in the bathroom every night since we got him, and that's helped prevent the night time crazies (or at least kept us from waking up for them). His litter box and food are in there, and his favorite thing, the bathtub.

    He's enjoyed ping-pong balls in the bathtub, but really loves it when I make a little ball of wadded up paper and sparkly pipe cleaners (they make almost no noise, cost @ 10cents each, and are easy to spot when he loses them under the sofa).

    I've also read that giving your cat a big meal helps them to get full and then go to sleep. So maybe change your kitty's meal plan to feed him a generous portion at night time.

    Also the Feliway plug in helped us a lot when we first got Mookie and he was all freaked out.

    0 agree
    • Yeah, we feed our cats right before bed too, and that helps a lot.

      0 agree
  15. If you haven't watched My Cat from Hell yet then you should start. Jackson Galaxy has so many great ideas to troubleshoot unwanted behaviors. He also has a blog, a website, and a Facebook page. It has helped me make my 2 bedroom apartment with 3 adopted cats and any number of foster cats into a harmonious cat Paradise. I recommend a trip to the vet to make sure it is't anything medical, if not neutered you should get an appointment ASAP, and lastly make him play his tail off before bed. Other things that will make him a happy kitty are high places to go like wall mounted shelves and entertainment centers, puzzle toys that you can hide treats in and works his tomcat brain, one litter box per cat plus one extra, and the Feliway collars or sprays are great as well. Being the animal care manager at a humane society and a foster cat mommy has taught me so much about kitty cat behavior. good luck!!!

    5 agree
  16. I was watching my sister's cat for a while and he was a yowler at night. After the 3rd night of little sleep, I tried just leaving the light on in the living room for him and he was just fine. Either he was afraid of the dark or in his head "it's not really night time if the the lights are on."

    1 agrees
  17. When my now-husband and I first moved in and got our first cat (within 2 weeks of each other!), Jinx would meow relentlessly at the door and use his razor-sharp kitty nails to try to rip the door apart to get to us. Problem was, he would try to "kill" our toes and keep us awake. We eventually resorted to crating him at night in the corner furthest from our bedroom. He still meowed for hours, but after a week or two, he was getting the hint. We started not crating him and only doing it when he started meowing at night. It worked like a charm because even now, 4 years later, he doesn't say a word at night. Our new cat on the other hand likes to try to wake us up at the asscrack of dawn

    1 agrees
  18. I've had similar problems with my cat. She spent most of her life as a house cat, and when I moved out, she did not adjust easily to being an apartment cat. What I determined was this: Spraying does not work. It just doesn't. Cats are smart enough to associate the spray bottle with you, so they think you're just being mean. They don't get it. Months spent trying to spray my cat into silence just hurt our relationship. We're so much closer now that I'm not doing that. I agree that playing before bed can be HUGE – cats are evolved to be free roaming, and it can be hard for them to adjust to cramped quarters. Playing can really help make sure they use their muscles. Make sure you give them some open space, too. My cat would tear ass up and down my hallway in my apartment because it was the longest place she had to run. Now that we're in a house, she is just SO much happier! But when we were in a smaller space, we would spend some time with the doors open and furniture pushed against the walls, giving her as much play space as possible.

    One final note: A lot of people on the internet disagree with this, but I have found that the best way to get my kitty to calm down when she's howling at night is to call her. I don't know whether she's disoriented or bored or just lonely, but when she starts crying, I call her over. She usually settles right down. (I do have a secret cat-beckoning tool though – she is passionately in love with my down comforter, and lightly scratching and patting it always brings her running.)

    3 agree
    • I usually call my cat too, and then give him lots of petting and head butts. About 70% of the time he decides to curl up and sleep, but sometimes he keeps up the nonsense. Oh well.

      2 agree
  19. One of my cats yowled at night and it turned out she's afraid of the dark. Once we started turning on a light somewhere in the apartment, she quieted down.

    1 agrees
  20. If you're in an apartment, the little kitty could be getting anxious from the noise or vibrations of neighbors coming home.
    While I had one neighbor, my kitty would yow without fail from 8 to 8:30 Monday thru Friday. I'm guessing this is when my neighbor came home and played with their own pets, and my kitty was jealous.
    Be nosy, meet the neighbors, ask them what they're doing around that time of night – and maybe it will give you insight into what's bothering Kitty.

    0 agree
  21. I am very interested in hearing the response to this. I have two cats, brothers, and they have been doing this ever since I got them. They are healthy, happy, have all the cat space and toys they need but literally as soon as my head hits a pillow, they start to howl. And when I lock them out, they scratch and tear at the door so bad, that they might as well just be in with me howling.

    I used to live in a small one bedroom, and it got so bad I would just lock them in the bathroom at night (with litter/water/necessities) and I would place a fan right by my head and that way I couldn't hear them. Before that, I had tried Feliway, calming drops, tiring them out — I even tried to build a 9 foot wall in my bedroom that retracted so I could pull it out at night, but they totally could jump over it.

    Now, my solution is to literally keep them in another part of my house. We have an addition off the back that our bedrooms are in. As long as they don't "know" that we are at home sleeping, they don't meow, and I am far enough away where I couldn't hear it if they did.

    Of course, this is total luck that we moved into a house like this, it isn't much of a solution!!

    0 agree
  22. I suggest taking kitty to the vet to rule anything medical out first. My oldest cat is a little over 10 years old and he started getting more vocal over the last year. He started becoming very vocal at night, insisting on being "entertained." Turns out that it was a thyroid issue! He's on medication now and is back to his lazy, quiet self. YMMV!

    4 agree
    • I was going to say this, too. We used to have a cat named Spot who would howl and yowl all night long, and it turned out to be something with his thyroid. Cats don't have to be elderly to have thyroid issues, either. The vet can do a blood test to at least help you rule that out.

      0 agree
    • I was also going to ask if you have had the cat checked for hyperthyroid. It is very common in older house cats. Mine as well. She still whoops and hollers even on meds, but is much better now that we have her thyroid under control. I suggest a vet visit if you haven't yet. Cats can have thyroid issues that go undetected for many years. The sooner you get it under control the better health and longevity your cat will have.

      0 agree
  23. A big thing for me in this situation was not responding to my cat in any way. When he had been crying at night, I had been calling back or spraying him or going and picking him up, but I stopped when I read that this all was reinforcing the behavior. I committed to ear plugs for a few days and remained totally quiet and impassive when he yowled, and he literally stopped within two or three days. If you can get your roommate to agree to try ear plugs for a week, it could be what you need. If it doesn't work, then you can go on to other solutions. Just a thought.

    2 agree
  24. We have a very vocal kitty as well and we
    a)bought her a cat tower and put it up against the window so she can watch the road outside
    b) got toys to hang off said big tower so she can stalk them at night
    c) play laser pointer/feather on a stick game right before bed
    d) put a bird feeder right outside the window, so she can "stalk"them all day
    e) when she wakes us yowling, we spray her, it stops her

    0 agree
  25. My cat used to do that all night every night. What I did was pretty simple. Since cats are nocturnal they sleep all and day and then want us to play with them all night. So, over the course of just 1 week, I managed to switch his sleep schedule. Whenever I saw him asleep during the day, I woke him up and played with him. Over and over and over again. After about a week of this, he started sleeping through the night and playing during the day. About once a year, he slowly makes his way back to his previous daysleeping ways and I just repeat the procedure. It worked fairly quickly and was much cheaper then any other alternatives.

    1 agrees

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