Cats meow to communicate. Most often domestic cats are meowing to try to tell their humans something. Usually humans appreciate these vocal requests, being such vocally communicative creatures ourselves. But when a cat is meowing too much or too loudly, like at night when we (and our neighbors) are trying to sleep, that’s not usually appreciated! If you have a cat that's meowing too much and you want him to be quieter, it typically involves a bit of detective work and trial-and-error to figure out a happy resolution and reduce or eliminate the cause of their boisterous meowing.
The first step is to figure out why he/she is meowing. Here are some things they may be trying to tell you:
- I’m lonely
- I’m bored
- I’m hungry (or think I’m hungry)
- I’m thirsty
- I want to be let in (if he’s locked out of the bedroom for example)
- I want to go outside
- I miss my mom (most often baby kittens, but older cats too)
Ideally the solution will eliminate the reason for the nighttime meowing before it starts. Once you’ve gone to bed and your cats starts meowing, if you get up to do something about it, you are teaching you cat — or rather, your cat is training you — that if he meows, you’ll get up and do something. That’s rewarding the unwanted behavior. You might want to invest in some ear plugs for your household and neighbors while you give the various solutions a try!
Note: These solutions are not the only possible solutions! They are just ideas to get you started on figuring out the best solution for your household and your cat.
Solution for lonely/bored:
One hour before bedtime, engage Kitty in 45 minutes of intense playtime and games. The last 15 minutes are spent giving Kitty attention, but of the low-key kind, like talking to him, snuggling with him if he likes that. I have one foster cat who loves being read a bedtime story! We are often so busy with our lives, and cats appear to be so low-maintenance, but some cats need more physical and emotional attention that they are getting, which is why they are meowing at night.
Solution for I’m hungry/thirsty:
Feed your cat meals instead of free-feeding, if you are free feeding. Or if you are gone most of the day, free-feed while you are gone, but take up the food when you get home. Then put down the free-feeding dish right before you go to bed. Alternately, feed your cat a bedtime snack of wet food.
Solution for I want to be let in:
If you are locking Kitty out of the bedroom because he wants to sleep with his belly across your face, try getting him a super awesome carpet cat tree (aka cat condo) with the U-shaped or O-shaped kitty sleeping perches, and put it right next to your bed, making sure one of the sleeping perches is higher than your head – cats often want to be higher than us. If Kitty is locked out because he attacks your feet as they move under the covers, one hour before bedtime, engage Kitty in 45 minutes of intense playtime and games, then 15 minutes of mellow winding-down playtime.
Solutions for I want to go outside:
This is typically a cat who goes out during the day, or who used to be allowed to go outside, but is now being kept inside at night for his own safety. Give kitty access to an open but securely screened in window with a kitty perch where he can feel as if he’s outside, or build him a catio (it doesn’t have to be large) and install a cat door so he can go in and out without needing your assistance.
Solutions for I want my mom:
Lots of cuddle time before bed, and if you can have kitty sleep in bed with you, that will often solve this problem. If kitty is too small to be safely in bed with you, and you don’t have or can’t get your kitty a real feline friend, a stuffed animal the size of another cat or kitten can help. They even make them with heartbeat noises!
Rarely, cats may have high anxiety from traumatic past experiences that causes nighttime meowing. These cats may need a professional cat behaviorist or veterinarian’s help to stop their night time meowing.
We hope these solutions to stop cat meowing are helpful!