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How Can I Stop My Cat From Crying At Night?

Despite a widely-held belief, cats are not completely nocturnal. They are more active at dawn and dusk, which is likely because that’s when their natural prey is also most active. However, cats will tend to treat night no differently to day – sleeping, eating, hunting and playing whenever they feel like. Why? Because that’s what cats do!

Having a pet cat is wonderful, but what can you do when their behaviour starts to impact negatively on your life? Cats crying at night can be a huge drain on the household, and can interrupt sleep. No one wants that! So how can you help your cat to stay quiet at night?

As part of our series on cat behaviour, we take a look at some of the most common reasons your cat is crying, and steps you can take to soothe them. Hopefully after trying these tips you’ll all be able to sleep soundly again!

The root causes

The first place to start when trying to solve any problem is to figure out what’s causing it to begin with. There are a number of reasons that your cat may be crying, but there are three main ones:

  • Lonely – in need of attention
  • Hungry or thirsty
  • Wants to go outside or come in

Lonely – in need of attention

One of the main reasons for a cat crying at night is because they want your attention. Behaviourists will tell you that the very best thing you can do is to not provide any attention at all. If a cat makes a loud cry which causes you to get out of bed and interact with them, they will learn that this is a great way to attract your attention. A cat will almost definitely not stop crying at night if you go and see them and tell them to be quiet!

However, conditioning a cat to learn that meowing at night will not get them any attention can take a long time, and it can often be a struggle to ignore a crying cat!

One of the best ways to resolve this is take advantage of a cat’s nature here. You know how you’ll be playing quite happily with your cat, when suddenly they walk off or run outside? Use this boredom tendency as a pre-curser to bedtime.

Around 45 minutes before you are due to go up to bed, engage your cat in high-energy, fun playtime. Use their favourite toys and give them a few cat treats. After a little while you’ll notice that their interest starts to wane. At this point, sit with them on your lap (or wherever they like to snuggle) and give them around 10 or 15 minutes of head scratching, chin tickling or whatever is their very favourite way of interacting with you. If your cat has had their fill of stimulation and attention from you during the day then they’ll be less likely to cry for it at night.

Despite what they might want you to think, cats really do love human attention. The above technique may not work depending on the personality of your cat – so adapt it to suit you. But make sure you’re consistent with it, as cats hate a change in routine and this could cause them to go back to night crying again.

Before you head off to bed, place your cat in their favourite sleeping area. You could even cover one of our fluffy cat beds with an item of your clothing so that they feel comforted by your scent.

Sometimes the solution for a lonely cat can be simple – they need a friend! If your cat enjoys the company of other cats then you could consider getting a second one. However, taking on a new cat is not something which should ever be taken lightly. You must also consider the fact that if your existing cat does not get on with the new cat, it could make matters worse!

Hungry or thirsty

Cats should have access to fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Admittedly, if your cat is anything like the cats here at Me & My Pets HQ then they much prefer to drink from a dirty puddle!

Ensure that your cat’s water dish always has an ample supply of clean water so that they definitely do not go thirsty during the night.

If your cat is hungry, not a lot is going to stop them from crying until they get fed! Cats should be able to go through the evening without eating, so it could be that they are not being fed enough during the day. Or your feeding times are not consistent, so your cat is unsure about when dinner and breakfast will be served.

Ensure that your cat’s feeding times are similar every day, so that they learn when they will get fed. If you are using self-feeding then ensure that the bowl of dry food has an ample supply before you head off to bed.

You can also try giving your cat a small supplementary treat before you go off to bed. This will help to keep their stomach fuller for longer Try some cooked fish or chicken – or a few cat treats, but don’t overdo it!

Wants to go outside

If your cat likes to spend time both outside and inside but doesn’t use a catflap, this can be one of the hardest problems to solve. A crying cat that wants to come into the house can disturb the whole neighbourhood, and a cat that wants to go outside will disturb the whole house. You also run the risk of the cat needing to go to the toilet. If you don’t have an indoor litter tray then this can become a messy problem!

If a cat meows to go outside at night, it’s usually because they used to have free access to the outside world but are being kept in. This can quite often be a problem following a house move or recovery from illness. For those cats that are being kept in temporarily, ensure that they have a litter tray and can explore the house rather than being shut in one room.

If you have the luxury of space, you can try a catio. But these can be costly and aren’t an overnight solution! For those who need to keep the cat indoors, try safely screening a window and leaving it open. The cat will be able to sniff the air and may feel as if it’s outside.

Wants to come into your bedroom

How many times have you laid in bed and heard a scratching at the door? Or heard that faint meow which gets louder and louder as you ignore it, until it turns into a full-blown, ear-shattering wail!

If your cat sleeps nicely when it’s in your room, and it sticks to a designated cat sleeping area or cat bed, then there’s nothing wrong with letting it in at night. Leave the door ajar so that it can come and go as it pleases.

However, if you have one of those delightful cats who loves to sleep directly on top of your face – or you have a cat allergy - then keeping them out of the bedroom is a must. It’s also recommended for pets to be kept out of young children’s rooms at night.

Like the conditioning of a cat who wants attention, keeping the cat out of the bedroom is a matter of consistency. If you get up to let it in – or even shoo it away – then it will learn that meowing by the door will get your attention.

As much as we hate to say it, sometimes the best solution with this is to buy a pair of earplugs and ride it out!

In the meantime, you can try the same approach as detailed in the ‘lonely – in need of attention’ section. Lots of attention, play and cuddles before bed will leave your cat feeling loved, satisfied and secure.

Teaching a cat new behavioural traits is a lot like parenting. The golden rule is – be consistent! They need to learn the boundaries in which they can act, otherwise they will keep pushing you to react in the way that they want. Be patient, stick with it and before long your cat will be calm and quiet, and everyone in the house will get a good night’s sleep again!

Disclaimer: This content in this article is intended for information or entertainment purposes only, it is not intended to replace the advice of a vet or animal health professional. Your use of the information is entirely at your own risk and Me & My Pets assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of the information found on this site. If you have any questions or concerns over your pet's wellbeing you should consult your vet immediately.  

Posted in Cats