Categories: Cat BehaviorSounds

Howling cat

by Michael

Howling Cat - Photo by SingChan

Here are a list of reasons for a howling cat and the various sources of that information. My cats have never yowled at night but my girl cat has on occasions meowed rather plaintiff at night and woken me up as a consequence. The typical question might read:

My cat has recently started howling at night. He will do it over and over. It wakes me up and I get up to find out what is going on and then I give him a cuddle before going back to bed. Why do I have a howling cat at night?

The answers might be as follows. Some overlap because they are simply answers found on the internet or in one of my books:

  • It might be a health problem. For example feline hyperthyroidism or high blood pressure. Cat health needs to be checked out before going on to behavioral matters. On the basis that health checks out, it might be an older cat becoming confused or disorientated, a younger cat feeling insecure for a number of reasons (e.g. house move). The cure is to ignore it (not reward it) and it will eventually stop1.
  • Your feline is after attention...lock her in a downstairs room (or one that is a decent distance away)2. Or put in earplugs and ignore it. She or he will learn that it does not work and stop.
  • It is related to age and a loss of hearing and sometimes the other senses too. This leads to a cat's voice sounding different and the howling is the cat testing the voice. The loss of sensory skills causes confusion in the dark. Leaving a low level light on and soft low volume sound can help3.
  • It is because a cat is programmed to go out and hunt at night and if the cat is an indoor cat it might get bored so they try and get the human companion up to provide some interaction4.
  • Hyperthyroidism causes anxiety which in turn causes howling at night when you are asleep and not around to provide a distraction and/or interaction5. It is treatable.
  • It might be because the cat is lonely at night
  • A sexed male cat might yowl at night as a territorial marker establishing his "home range"6.


There is no one answer. My feeling is that it is more likely to be either (a) a thyroid problem or (b) calling for companionship, yes it could be as simple as that on a common sense basis. If it is the former it is fixable. As for the latter I don't believe in harsh training (i.e. ignoring the cat) as a way of resolving it. More attention at other times might resolve it. I would tend to do as the cat requests as a solution. That is certainly a more loving response in line with the relationship, one of companionship.

From Howling Cat to Cat Facts


- sources on howling cat

1 Why Does My Cat Do That? by Catherine Davidson


3 this reference is a link and it is broken.




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Howling cat

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Mar 30, 2011
by: Anonymous

Loved the article, my cat is almost 12 and she makes this terrible sound once a week, after reading this article, I do think it's just confusion from growing old (sad face)....

I am in agreement withJan Plant here on the board (comments) - ignoring an animal is odd, and honestly I was a little shocked to see in the article, 'just lock the cat in another room, and the animal will stop crying', say what? That was the only part (yet it was a big part) of the article that turned me off from the author of this page - I can't see anyone doing that? Honestly, who does that? If you have to lock your animal in a room all the time, personally I don't think you should own an animal!

Dec 26, 2009
Cats not earing
by: Ruth

So sorry about Ol' Cole,Jan. It's serious when a cat stops eating. It's another lesson my wise old vet taught me many moons ago, along with never punishing cats in any way at all and never bathing them unless they are too dirty to clean themselves,etc etc.
He'd say if a cat stops eating, it's the time to worry, 2 days not eating, get him to the vet.
But in Ol' Cole's case,even if you could catch him, a trip to the vet would traumatise him so much he'd be unlikely to recover anyway.
I think if they had a choice, all cats would like to hide away to die in privacy when it's their time.

Dec 26, 2009
Howling or yowling
by: Jan Plant

Seems this is found in quite a few cats.Ruth mentions that perhaps it's older cats saying goodbye, or their version of it.I wonder.Ol' Cole has been making this ungodly noise for several evenings now ,and not eating.Poor old soul.Can't get close enough to catch him for the vet.Guess all we can do is wait and see.
Another interesting and informative article MIchael.Thank you.I don't understand the ignoring part.I,personally,don't have inside cats.But ignoring an animals cry to me ranks right up there with ignoring a crying baby.They cry because something isn't right.Most of us know our animals different voices,so a cry is a sign of some type of distress,isn't it?

Dec 26, 2009
Howling cats
by: Ruth aka Kattadorra

Another brilliant article thank you Michael.Yes there is always a reason why cats do something, it's our job to find out what that reason is and put it right if we can.
We've had it happen with 2 very old cats of ours,with both of them it started not long before they died and it was an eerie heartbreaking sound.They did it around 5am and feeding and comforting them made them feel better.
Both (thankfully) died naturally and peacefully of old age before we had to make the decision for them, but I do wonder if in old cats this is a sign they are geting ready to leave us ? The day before Ebony died she visited all her old haunts inside and outside the house !
Could this be the basis of another article,do cats know when their time to die is approaching ?

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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