What Does It Mean When My Cat Yowls?

Cat owners often ask me about unusual vocalizations from their pets. One of the most common and alarming experiences for the concerned cat parent is unexplained yowling. Cats yowl for a variety of reasons, ranging from completely benign to potentially indicating a serious problem.

What is Yowling?

Yowling in cats is a loud vocalization that may sound like an expression of distress or displeasure. Cats may yowl once or repeatedly, and some cats may continue to vocalize for hours, particularly females in heat.

Unaltered Cats

Seeking a mate is one of the most common reasons a cat may yowl for an extended period of time. Females in heat often vocalize miserably for days on end, keeping their families up all night. Intact males seeking mates also yowl– think of the classic Garfield comics where Garfield stands on a fence and “sings.”

This one’s an easy fix. If your cat is disturbing your sleep calling for a mate, spay or neuter it. Spaying in particular has excellent health benefits, including reducing the risk of several types of cancers and eliminating the risk of pyometra. Both sexes tend to be happier and more relaxed if desexed.


If your cat is yowling, make sure it has enough food and water. This may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s often overlooked. If your cat has recently started a diet or switched foods, he or she may also yowl in protest, hoping you’ll produce more food or the old food.


Many cats quickly learn that, by yowling, they can cause their owners to drop everything and pay attention to the cat. Kittens are often guilty of this. If you’re woken at 2:00 AM by yowling, or if your cat sits beside you and yowls while you use the computer, you may simply have a bored cat hoping to convince you that you have nothing more important to do than feed or play with your pet.

To discourage yowling due to boredom, try making time for several play sessions during the day, so that your cat is happy to nap or amuse itself when you’re not around to pay attention to it.


If your cat yowls frequently or for an extended period of time, and no explanation from the above list seems to fit, it may be indicating that it is ill or in pain. Intestinal cramping due to a digestive upset often causes cats to yowl. If your cat yowls after using the litterbox, a UTI may be to blame. If for any reason you suspect your cat is vocalizing to express pain, take him or her to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

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9 Responses

  1. Mikayla
    | Reply

    I dont mind my cat yowling I have had her for six months I adopted her from petsmart. Shes fixed shots the whole 7 yards and she does it every once in a while not often but she will leave the room I’m in and go upstairs and yowl or if I go to bed she does the same thing downstairs. She gets plenty of attention I think its funny that she does it but it does sound like shes stuck somewhere and cant get out.

  2. Chipster
    | Reply

    Our cat was yowling nightly from tooth decay that was not readily visible.

  3. Kortamu
    | Reply

    Yeah, mine is a two-yr-old unaltered primarily indoor male… so that pretty much means he just wants a girl! We have two females, one spayed and one that is only three months old. My other cat is the kitten’s dad, courtesy of our neighbor… she was the only surviving kitten in a litter of six so I took her. Anyway her dad is the alpha among the cats in my household so it makes sense that the younger male would want to be noticed. He only caterwauls two or three times, then gives up. Luckily it’s usually during the day and only in the winter when he stays inside a lot.

  4. Erica
    | Reply

    My cat loves my dog and thinks of him as a brother. Every time the dog goes out for a walk, the cat sits and the window and yowls repeatedly. This behavior continues until the dog comes back in the house. It’s not a problem in the middle of the winter with the windows closed, but I don’t think that my neighbors will be too happy when the summer comes around and the windows are open all of the time!

  5. Randy
    | Reply

    Our cat yowels mostly at night. He is around 17 years of age. I have heard of feline cognitive disorder. Is this a symptom of that disorder? If so, what can we do about that. in addition he has occasionally urinated outside of his box – in another room. has he forgotten where the box is located?

  6. Brian
    | Reply

    My cat will be 17 in a few weeks, a year ago October she began to yowl. I was originally thinking she was in pain, as she does have a bad tooth and has had some constapation issues (which have bene resolved) however she NEVER does it when she is lying down or sitting on the bed or couch. (I dont think teeth care whether youre in bed or not when they cause pain) Then I thought perhaps she is confused, however she will yowl, I will go get her, place her on my bed and then she will immediately jump off the bed, run down the hallway and start yowling all over again. All these so online called “experts” dont seem to have any advice other than what I already knew on my own, so I guess its off yet again to my Vet!

  7. Brian
    | Reply

    Oh yeah and this originally was only at night, and she would stop upon seeing me, but now its all times of the day and she doesnt stop when she sees me. Athena, whats wrong with you?? : /

  8. LeRoy
    | Reply

    This AM I heard cats Yowling. I looked out my window and saw my 8 yr old, neutered male and another cat Yowling together. (Can of like singing) What is this about? No aggressive behavior, after awhile they both sat down, close together and continued to Yowl for about 5 minutes.

    Personnly I that they were just friend getting together.

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