What is Caterwauling and Why do Cats Do It?

Most people have heard the sound at some point or another, the loud yowling of a cat. Many times the sound comes late at night when you’re trying to sleep, and off in the distance, a loud cat cry is heard in the dark. This is known as a caterwaul, and it is done by cats for a number of different reasons. If you are a cat owner, you may hear it more often than a non-cat owner, but if you are a cat owner, you need to be aware of the sound and know what the different reasons are that causes a cat to do this in case it is something that you need to help your cat with.

The loud yowl, crying caterwaul of a cat is typically done for a number of reasons, and here are six of them.

1. Trying to find a mate

When cats are not spayed or neutered, they will go on the hunt for a mate. Both male and female caterwaul, but the female will caterwaul when she is in heat and looking for a male to mate with. When a male caterwauls, he recognizes a female in heat and wants to mate with her. In order to prevent this reason for caterwauling, as a cat owner, it is important to either spay or neuter your cat to help prevent over population of cats.

2. In pain

When a cat gets hurt or injured they can caterwaul. This is their way of letting you, or someone know that they are hurting. Outside of an injury, there are a few medical conditions that can cause caterwauling, including kidney disease and overactive thyroid issues. Any cat is susceptible to these two medical conditions, so if you hear your cat caterwauling on a regular basis and don’t see and sign of injury, and they are spayed or neutered, it’s probably time to visit the vet to make sure it isn’t medically related.

3. Alert system 

Some cats are pretty territorial and if they see something they don’t like outside, that they feel is invading their space, they may start to caterwaul. Cats love to stare out the window and observe the outdoors, birds, other animals, people, or whatever there may be going on. They can be similar to dogs in that they will alert their owner that there is something that they just don’t like or feel comfortable with lurking close by.

4. Feeling insecure or vulnerable

Cats are creatures of habit and they like everything to stay the same. When a cat is put in a position where they feel “out-of-sorts,” they can caterwaul to let you know that they are unhappy. This can be due to a recent move, new people or visitors in the home, possibly a new pet they are unfamiliar with. Anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or vulnerable can cause a cat to caterwaul.

5. Disoriented

Cats age like humans, and their brains and cognitive skills can be altered. There is a condition that is common among aging cats, typically ages 11-15 years of age is when they begin to shows signs of feline cognitive dysfunction. They feel discombobulated or confused. When they begin to feel confused or disoriented, even in their own home, it can cause caterwauling.

6. Attention seeking

While many cats can be aloof and seem very independent, there are times that your cat will crave your attention. Cats that are more attached to their owner may do this more, especially if they are used to getting your attention and you suddenly are busy and not paying attention to them. The way they know how to get your attention is to yell, (or yowl). Caterwauling could just be an attention-seeking sound that you should pay attention to and see what they want.

No matter what the reason is, caterwauling should be investigated and not ignored because the truth is, when a cat caterwauls, there is something it needs, whether it is to be spayed or neutered, affection, reassurance, or a trip to the doctor.


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