Reasons Why Your Cat Howls, Which is Called 'Caterwauling'

Posted by Christy Caplan
Cat Screaming

There is always a reason to be concerned when you hear 'caterwauling'. You know when you hear a cat sound that is different than a meow, and this is how it's categorized. The meow is persistent and melodramatic.

According to Catster, when the pitch gets higher, drawn-out, melodic and "yowly," it's time to really pay attention. This type of sound is called caterwauling, and there's nearly always a reason behind caterwauling.

What is caterwauling?

There are six reasons you may hear your cat howl and start 'caterwauling'. VCA Hospitals tells us that cats start caterwauling to communicate many needs and emotions, including the following:

1. Physical problems

According to VCA, cats that are in pain will make noise. If their tummy hurts or they have arthritic joints, or they are injured, they vocalize. Cats with systemic medical problems like thyroid disease or kidney malfunction (often associated with high blood pressure) may howl, too.

Visit the vet if you suspect your cat is in pain!

2. Hormonal reasons

Your cat may be in heat! VCA explains that a cat in heat makes some strange noises!

"When female cats are in heat, they make strange noises to alert males in the vicinity. Males, in turn, respond with equally strange noises to let the females know they heard the mating call."

3. A danger warning

This won't surprise many cat owners. They may caterwaul if a stranger comes inside their yard, and even if the intruder stays outside, they may yowl. Expect some singing if your cat sees birds, squirrels, mail carriers, etc. through a window and considers them trespassers.

4. Anxiety

Stressed out cats may 'caterwaul'. They can become stressed if there is a major change in their environments like a family move or a family member leaving the house for a new job. If your cat is unhappy they'll let you know it, so you should talk to your vet if you feel the yowling and behavior is something that should be discussed with a medical exam.

5. Attention

Is your cat trying to manipulate you?

Catster explains that some cats resort to caterwauling when they want or need something from us.

"It could be food, water, physical attention, play or any number of reasons. While it's important to make sure our cats' basic needs are met, they've been known to use caterwauling as a manipulation tool. If you get up to give your cat treats when he starts caterwauling in the middle of the night, he'll soon learn that caterwauling = treats."

6. Cognitive dysfunction

Don't ignore this! Do you have an old cat? You need to keep your old cat comfortable.

VCA says that some cats (dogs too) experience cognitive changes as they age.

"According to the ASPCA, more than 55% of cats 11-15 years of age and 80% of cats 16-20 have some form of cognitive dysfunction. Senior cats may approach the food bowl but forget to eat. Others may exhibit repetitive behaviors like pacing the floor. And some aged cats caterwaul. Cats are historically nocturnal creatures, but with cognitive dysfunction, cats take night-time to the extreme by howling at all hours."

With declining vision, they may wander and stumble around the house. As they become increasingly frustrated, the caterwauling escalates even more.

This term wasn't one I was familiar with! So this is our 'word of the day' and all cat owners know how important it is to be able to interpret cat sounds. Whether it's a purr or whine, most vocalizations are normal but not caterwauling.

Are you lucky enough to live with a cat that howls? If you do, tell us what they're like below in the comments! 

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Reasons Why Your Cat Howls, Which is Called 'Caterwauling'