Why Do Cats Howl? (7 Main Reasons Explained)

Cats may communicate in a variety of ways, and vocalisation is one among them. This may include common cat noises like meowing, purring, and hissing as well as more ominous noises like howling.

Have you ever heard your cat howl? Our feline friends can make the characteristic sound of howling to communicate with humans or other cats for a number of different reasons.

I. The meaning of howling

Cats have a peculiar vocalisation called howling. Many of you have probably heard it before. It may have been heard when cats are fighting at night or when they are mating.

The sound is similar to a deeper, louder, continuous meow, and is sometimes called to as “yowling” or “caterwauling.” 

II. Cats Howls because

Now that we know what howling sounds like, why is it that cats howl? There are many reasons for this, some of them are harmless reasons that are easily fixed and others are more serious.

Either way, if your cat has suddenly started to howl, they’re trying to tell you something. It’s important to find out why your cat is howling so that you can help them.

III. Reasons For Cat Howling

If your cat starts howling suddenly or persistently, take them into the vet for a thorough checkup.

Cats can howl if they’re in pain, distressed, bored, or due to certain medical conditions. We’ll discuss these reasons further below.

1. Hormones

Cats that aren’t spayed or neutered (castrated) can often be heard howling or yowling during the mating season. This can be because they’re trying to find a mate by howling and calling out to other cats. They can also howl when fighting with other cats and this happens a lot during the mating season (e.g., males competing against each other for females).

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2. Territory

Cats don’t like it when other cats trespass into their home or territory and this can cause a variety of vocalizations, including hissing, growling, and howling, to make their displeasure known to the other cat.

3. Hunting

Cats are crepuscular creatures, meaning that they’re most active at dusk and dawn and this is their favorite time to hunt. Cats that are kept indoors at night might start howling during the early hours to be let outside to hunt. Hunting is a normal behavior to display, even in our pet cats.

4. Bored

Cats that are inactive or under stimulated, might become bored and restless. This can cause a variety of behaviors including cat meowing, howling, or yowling and attention-seeking behavior.

5. Tensed

Cats that are suffering from any form of stress might vocalize more. This might include excessive meowing or howling along with other changes in behavior. Stress can come in many forms for cats, such as a new baby in the house, a change of work schedule, conflict with another cat, or if they are experiencing pain or discomfort.

6. Sick

Any cat that is in pain or discomfort may howl or meow loudly to convey this, so it’s extremely important to check for any signs of injury. If your cat is older, it could be a sign of a chronic medical condition.

Conditions like hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) and hypertension (high blood pressure) can cause howling in older cats. This can occur at any time of day or just be at night time (common with hypertension).

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Another medical reason that might cause this is cognitive dysfunction syndrome. This can occur in elderly cats and is similar to dementia in humans. It can cause disorientation, confusion, changes in social interaction and changes in their sleeping routine.

Cats that are deaf might meow or howl loudly because they can’t hear themselves.

7. Genetic

Certain breeds are more vocal and chatty than others. Siamese cats are famous for their loud meows, which may sound like howling when the cat is trying to get your attention.

IV. Your Role in this

If your cat is howling, try to find out if something is causing stress, pain, or discomfort.

If your cat is howling, it’s likely that they’re trying to communicate with you and it’s important to know why and how to solve the issue.

Keep an eye for:

  • Check for injuries and causes of pain.
  • Visit your vet to rule out medical causes.
  • Neutering will solve the problem if your cat isn’t neutered and the howling is hormonal.
  • Ensure that your cat has enough food, water, clean litter box (one per cat, plus one more) and places to sleep (resources).
  • Address any underlying stress by using pheromone diffusers, separating resources for cats, etc.
  • Allowing cats to have access outdoors if they wish through a cat flap during the night to prevent howling at dawn (crepuscular activity). If they’re indoors only or kept indoors at night, you can provide lots of toys that allow them to demonstrate hunting behavior.
  • If your cat is bored, provide lots of interactive toys and an interactive or automatic feeder to keep them occupied. Provide consistent, positive human interaction and consider the use of a pet sitter if you’re away a lot.

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V. Visit a Vet if

If your cat is howling for no apparent reason, especially if it’s a new behavior, you should see your veterinarian so that they can rule out common causes of injury and pain.

Senior cats are particularly prone to high blood pressure, an overactive thyroid, kidney disease, and cognitive dysfunction (dementia).

Your vet will take a full history and examine your cat; they might decide to carry out some blood and urine testing to check for the conditions mentioned above. Diagnosing these conditions earlier can improve the long term prognosis for your cat so always seek veterinary attention if you’re concerned.

VI. Avoid doing this

Your cat isn’t howling to “annoy” you or wake you up at night, they’re howling as a form of communication. Never punish your cat for this behavior—they aren’t doing this maliciously and it’s likely that they’ll just become fearful of you, which will make the problem worse.

Howling is a normal form of communication that our cats display and it’s up to us to determine why they’re doing this in order to help them. It might be caused by hormonal reasons (by not being neutered), boredom, stress, or even medical reasons.

If you’re not sure why your cat is howling or if it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it’s important to get your cat checked by a veterinarian. Never ignore a change of behavior as it could be a sign of an underlying problem.