Causes of howling at night in cats

Updated June 19, 2018

If your cat howls during the night, the noise can keep you and others in your home from getting the sleep you need. This behaviour, also called hypervocalization, has many causes, including behavioural and medical issues. Cats who suddenly start to vocalise heavily at night need a vet exam to determine the cause of this behaviour and rule out an underlying illness.

Medical causes

Cats who howl loudly at night can suffer from a medical condition or injury. Hyperactive thyroid syndrome and high blood pressure can lead to this behaviour, as can high levels of toxins in the blood. Geriatric cats, which are those older than 12, may suffer from cognitive dysfunction, which causes confusion and disorientation, causing the cat to hypervocalize, especially at night. Other medical causes include deafness, brain tumour or feline hyperesthesia, a condition that causes manic, hyperactive behaviour. If your cat takes medications, some of them, such as periactin, anabolic steroids and metoclopramide, can also lead to increased vocalisation at night.

Mating behaviour

An intact female cat in oestrus, the period of breeding, will howl at night to attract the attention of a potential mate. A female cat experiences her first oestrus between the ages of 5 months to 1 year old. Throughout the months of January to August, the cat will be in oestrus, also called "heat," every two to three weeks. An intact male cat may also vocalise at night to prompt you to let him out so he can mate. He may also howl if he senses a female cat in heat outside or in your home. Spay or neuter your cat to stop this behaviour.

Separation anxiety

Closing your cat out of your bedroom at night can induce separation anxiety and the need to vocalise. If you hear your cat pawing at the door to the room while vocalising loudly, this may indicate separation anxiety. It could also mean that the cat has run out of food and wants you to feed it, or that it wants to play with you. To reduce this behaviour, provide your cat with plenty of exercise by playing with it in the evening to tire it out and help it sleep throughout the night. Provide toys to occupy it outside of your bedroom and enough food to last it until morning.


A cat who howls loudly at night is trying to communicate to you that something is wrong. Check on the cat to ensure it has not become trapped in a closet, has access to its food and litter box, and that everything in your home looks OK. If everything looks in order, check your cat for any injuries. Take your cat to a vet for a checkup and, if he finds no underlying illness, ask him about putting your cat on anti-anxiety medication to help curb its hypervocalization. Consider getting a companion cat for your existing cat if it cries at night because of boredom or loneliness.

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About the Author

Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.