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.
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.