If you are the pet parent of a cat, chances are you will have experienced the joys of excessive early morning meowing.
You are in bed, it’s 5am, and suddenly you hear that tiny voice outside the bedroom door that you know won’t stop for hours. How can you get your cat to leave you to sleep in peace? In this article we will look at what you can do to improve the situation.
Why is your cat meowing so late at night?
The first thing to establish is what is causing your cat to meow. Before taking any steps to change the behaviour yourself, you should first contact your veterinarian. Excessive meowing can be a sign of an underlying health problem. Your cat may be feeling more irritable, hungry, or thirsty, or they may want more attention than usual, because they are not feeling well.
This is even more important for cats who have unexpectedly developed the habit of meowing, but The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends all very vocal cats should be checked out.
Once you are sure your cat is in good health, you should try and work out why they are meowing in the early hours. It is important to make sure that there isn’t another fixable issue; perhaps their water bowl needs filling or they are injured.
If you’re sure that this isn’t the case, you can ask yourself the following questions: do they want attention? Are they asking for food? Do they wish to go outside?
How to stop the meowing
Your cat wants attention
If your cat is on their own all day, they may be bored. There is nobody to play with, and indoor cats won’t always be able to keep themselves entertained. Some cats will then sleep a lot during the day, meaning they will be more awake and have extra energy at night. Then, of course, they think you should be with them. After all, why should you be sleeping when they want to play?
To help solve this problem, you can take several steps. Firstly, play with your cat before bedtime. This will help them feel as though they have had time with you, and tire them out for the night.
Secondly, do not give in to their demands for attention when they meow. Reward your feline friend with affection when they are quiet and they will learn that meowing does not work.
When your cat wants to be with you at 4am, the worst thing you can do is open the door. Whether you’re petting them or shouting at them, your little fur ball will learn that they can get your attention by meowing at the top of their lungs and the behaviour will persist. While shouting at them may send them running this time, they will have learnt that you respond to their demands.
The very worst thing you can do is to wait for a large amount of time before giving in. Now, you have trained your cat to meow for half an hour straight to get what they want.
Your cat wants food
It is best to feed your cat at set times of the day, and not change this routine. Your cat will learn when they are going to get food and when they are not. You can always put a small amount of food in their bowl before you go to sleep to see them through the night. They will then associate this with bedtime.
Always try to feed your cat before they remind you with loud meows. Otherwise they will associate the two behaviours.
Again, getting up in the night to feed your cat teaches them that meowing means food. This is a learned behaviour and shouldn’t be encouraged if you want to sleep through the night. Scolding or punishing will not improve the behaviour, but potentially make your cat fearful of you.
Another solution is to purchase an automatic feeder. You can program this to dispense food at your convenience, and so even if you decide to sleep in,your cat will still be fed on time. The added bonus here is that even if your little fur ball decides to meow for food outside of the set time, hopefully they will be meowing at the feeder, not at you!
Your cat wants to be let out
This is a difficult behaviour to manage. If you have recently decided your cat needs to be kept indoors on a more permanent basis, they will take time to adjust. Do not let them out for small amounts of time when they ask because you feel bad, they need to become used to the indoors. Their behaviour will get better with time.
If you let your cat outdoors sometimes, you could consider a cat flap. This way, you are not their personal doorman and they can be independent. For a more secure home, you could consider microchip cat flap such as the PetSafe® model. These detect your cats’ microchips and only open for them, with the option of manual locking.
For more information, see our essential guide to letting your cat outdoors.
Overall, it is important to stay calm. Your cat is not trying to annoy you, and their behaviour is not vindictive. A cat’s sleep cycle is very different to that of a human and shouting at them will not teach them that you like to sleep past 4am. They need to learn that they get attention and food when they are quiet, on your terms, not on theirs.
Recommended read: Understanding your cat’s meows, the easy way
Does your cat meow excessively?