Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Caterwauling: What Is It? Why Do Cats Do It?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

cat meowing

They might not be able to talk, but cats have a plethora of ways in which they can communicate with us. Caterwauling, or yowling or howling, is one way. It can be incredibly disturbing when you hear it, and once you have heard it, you know what the noise is.

In the wild, cats caterwaul at one another to relay some message, and they are doing the same thing by howling at you. They are attempting to relay some piece of knowledge or alert you to something that they believe is important, even if you don’t.

While it’s natural, it can be loud, it can be indicative of a genuine problem, and you will probably want to find a way to at least reduce the amount of caterwauling, especially if it occurs at night. Read on to find out exactly what this noise is, what causes your cat to make that noise, and whether there are any steps that you can take to help eliminate the noise.

Causes Of Caterwauling

Cats are very expressive animals and while they can’t mimic human speech, they do find ways to communicate with you. If you’ve had your cat for some time, you probably know when they are hungry or when they are going to want to use the litter tray. They might scratch to be let out and even knock to be let back in. Caterwauling is just another way to draw your attention to something.

  • Pain – If your cat suddenly starts making this howling noise, there is a good chance that it is enduring some kind of physical pain. Look for obvious signs, but don’t rule out the possibility that there is some unseen pain that is leading to the noise. Cats are somewhat prone to gastrointestinal problems, or it could be that they have stood on something sharp.
  • Hormones – Cats communicate with one another all the time, even if that communication is to tell another cat to stay away. They also communicate their desire to mate, and a feline mating call can come across as caterwauling. One may caterwaul to another to express their desire, while the other cat might caterwaul as a positive or negative response.
  • Alert – A caterwaul is a great means of raising an alarm because it is loud, and it gets your attention. If your cat sees or senses something that it perceives to be a threat, a loud howl is a great way to relay this information because it will, at least, cause you to have a look for any possible threat.
  • Anxiety – Cats are susceptible to changes in their environment, as well as changes to their daily habits. Something as seemingly innocuous as a new piece of furniture could be quite stressful to your cat, especially if they were attached to the old sofa. Separation anxiety could also manifest as a loud howling noise, while some cats are moved to meow if their litter tray is too dirty.
  • Attention Seeking – Cats love attention and can get quite upset if they aren’t getting what they believe to be a suitable amount of attention. Loud noises could be your cat’s way of getting your attention away from the TV and on them. They could be letting you know they’re hungry and out of food or simply that they have managed to use the litter tray, even if they have been doing so successfully for years.
red and white tabby cat caterwauling
Image By: Dimitris Vetsikas, Pixabay

How to Prevent Caterwauling

It is a means of communication, so you should expect some occasional caterwauling from your cat. To prevent it completely limits the ways that your cat can inform you of any problems, but excessive howling is annoying and likely to be a sign of a deeper problem.

Try the following steps to curb the enthusiastic calls from your feline friend.
  • See a Vet – If you believe that your cat’s yowling is being caused by some physical pain, see a vet to confirm the diagnosis. The cause of pain might not be visible, for example, kidney damage, but it could be serious, and it might benefit from immediate and timely action.
  • Neutering – If your cat is looking for a mate or attempting to mate with another cat, and is caterwauling, for this reason, having them neutered could stop the noise as well as the unwanted advances. Neutering also extends the life expectancy of a cat by reducing the likelihood of contracting certain diseases and illnesses.
  • Reassure – If your cat is making a racket in a bid to let you know of a perceived threat, it may just need some reassurance that everything is OK. Your cat relies on you for pretty much everything including protection, so determine what has caused the distress and look for ways to resolve the issue before reassuring your cat that everything is OK.
  • Address Anxieties – Other instances and occasions might be causing anxiety. If your cat yowls at night, it could be that they are hungry. They might miss you when you’re in another room. Address anything that is causing anxiety and you should find that your feline friend makes less noise, and you enjoy a more peaceful home.

Why Do Cats Caterwaul?

Cats have a repertoire of noises and other means of communication, and as humans, it is our job to try and understand those noises so that we can provide for our feline friends and ensure that they are safe, comfortable, and free from pain and discomfort. Caterwauling can be an alarming noise, and that is kind of the point of it.

Featured Image Credit: Marvin Otto, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

Authored by

Nicole is a lover of animals of all sizes but is especially fascinated with the feline variety. She’s the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese, and works every day so he can relax in the sunshine or by the fire. She’s always had a cat in her home and has spent countless days with others, observing behaviors and softening up even the grouchiest of the lot. Nicole wants to share her kitty expertise with you so you and your cat ...Read more

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database