Why is Your Cat Howling?

The reasons for cat howling vary. Cats may howl out of boredom or stress or because they’re ill or injured. Let’s learn more about this cat sound here.

A black and white cat with his mouth open making noises or sounds.
A black and white cat with his mouth open making noises or sounds. Photography © SensorSpot | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

All cats make sounds, though some kitties are more vocal than others. Meowing, purring, hissing and growling are some common cat noises— but what about cat howling? Is it normal for cats to howl, and if so, why do cats howl? If these are questions you’ve asked yourself, you’ve come to the right place … read on to learn more about cat howling!

First, what does cat howling sound like?

A cat howling sounds like typical cat meowing, except more drawn out — and sometimes deeper. There can also be a melodic quality to it.

Why is your cat howling?

Cats usually meow to communicate with humans. They use the vocalization to ask for food, attention, to be let in or out of a room or any number of day-to-day reasons. With cat howling, however, there’s typically something more unusual at play. Some of the reasons for cat howling may include …

1. Cat howling happens because your cat isn’t spayed or neutered

Marilyn Krieger, Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and author of Naughty No More! says, “Whole females are known to howl. They howl to let the boys know they’re looking for boyfriends.” Males also howl when they sense there are ready-to-mate females nearby.

2. Cats howl because of boredom and stress

Cats who lack mental stimulation may start howling because they’re bored. This could mean they’re left alone too often or they don’t have the toys and resources to keep their brains active.

Cats could respond to anxiety with cat howling, too. Many cats become stressed when there are shifts in the household, including a move, change in the number of people or animals in the home, or even a switch in food or litter brand.

3. Cat howling happens because of illness or injury

Cats are great at masking pain, but cat howling could indicate a red flag in the health department.

4. Cats howl out of confusion

CDS (cognitive dysfunction syndrome) can affect older cats, leaving them feeling confused and anxious. CDS can even affect the sleep cycle, causing the cat to wander the house howling at night. “Cats with medical issues such as hyperthyroidism and dementia often howl,” Marilyn says. “It’s sad to hear kitties with cognitive issues howling — it’s usually late at night.”

How does cat howling differ from dog howling?

An older calico cat with mouth open making sounds or noises.
Cat howling is different than dog howling. Photography © ablokhin | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

We’ve all heard howling dogs, right? Sometimes canines join together in choral “harmony.” In general, dogs can howl for different reasons than cats do. Additionally, they do it more often than cats do, and a lot of it has to do with genetics. Dogs are wired to howl because that’s the way of their wild ancestors, who howled to direct members of the pack home after they’d been away — kind of like a puppy version of Marco Polo.

Although dogs, like cats, use howling to communicate stress or injury to humans, they also do it during play and to announce their presence to other dogs or mark their territory.

How to stop cat howling — if your cat is howling for medical reasons

First and foremost, medical concerns should be ruled out when we’re faced with cat howling. As previously mentioned, cat howling could indicate injury or illness, including hyperthyroidism and CDS. And for our cats’ comfort and our own — as well as feline overpopulation prevention — cats should be spayed and neutered.

How to stop cat howling — if your cat is howling because she’s stressed

Help cats adjust to changes in the home by taking things slowly. Introduce new animal and human additions, as well as modifications to food and litter, slowly. Drastic changes can definitely cause anxiety, which could result in howling. Why not prevent the stress?

How to stop cat howling — if your cat is bored

Interactive toys and treat puzzles could be just what the kitty ordered when it comes to mentally stimulating a cat. Scheduled playtime with kitty is also a great way to engage a bored cat as well as provide some human-cat bonding time.

The bottom line on cat howling

Sometimes cat meowing can turn into cat howling. “Vocalizing/howling for attention and/or food can also be stopped,” Marilyn explains. “Never punish the cat, it can escalate the behavior, cause other unwanted behavior and distance the cat from her person. Instead, identify the reasons for the behavior and address it. For instance, if she’s demanding food with howls late at night, get a timed auto feeder that will dispense measured proportions at night or early morning. There are timed auto feeders available for canned food. Right before bed, play with her and end the play session by immediately giving her a substantial meal of healthy cat food. Also, make sure that there’s plenty of enrichment and that the cat receives lots of attention when she isn’t vocalizing.”

Thumbnail: Photography © SensorSpot | iStock / Getty Images Plus. 

Read more about cat sounds on Catster.com:

14 thoughts on “Why is Your Cat Howling?”

  1. My cat howled one morning when I slept an hour later than normal. It scared me so I jumped up and he was sitting on the dining table with his sister and perked right up when he saw me! My cat does try to get me up so I have to close my bedroom door in the morning to get those couple hours of extra sleep.
    He became cuddle kitty when he saw me go for coffee.
    We enjoyed drinking coffee and me waking up for the day. Once I am up, his job is done for the day!

  2. Joanne Kirkland

    Hi my cat howling at night never done it before untill we moved in this house which we moved in it over 12 months ago it’s she use to go out before but not very far n not for long can’t let her out her there’s a busy road .

  3. Pingback: 11 Cat Emergencies That Need Immediate Vet Attention – Top Rank Pets

  4. Professor Catherine Kush

    Very interesting article.

    On another note, the very last “Catster” magazine I received was a mess. I received it shortly before April 01, 2020. The pages were mostly bent and wrinkled. I would guess it looked like this, due to water damage.

    This is the first time this has ever happened to me. Is there any chance I could get a replacement copy of your very last Catster magazine?

    Thank you so much.
    Professor Catherine Kush

  5. My female 4 year old cat has howled amazingly near the front door. Also, my cat used the kitchen floor for #2, where the litter box is. This finally stopped when I let her out on the screened in back porch. I need to do this many times a day but thank goodness it finally stopped the long standing #2 problem.

  6. Pingback: 9 Cat Sounds and What They Mean – Info Body

  7. My cat Donna was spayed @ 4 months old. @ 7 years old she started howling as if in heat. Vet respayed her 2 more times looking for ovarian tissue, no luck. Woman sub vet asked if anyone in the home was using topical estrogen, I was! I quit that day & Donna quit howling 2 days later. She has been licking it off my arm!

  8. My cat howls when he wants to know where I am as soon as he finds me he stops, even if he can’t get to me. Just being able to see me is enough.

  9. This article could really scare or concern a pet parent. The only reason my cats ever howl is because they are playing with their toy and they want attention. My cat will sit with her toy in front of her and just howls.

  10. I’m cat sitting our son’s cat. Within the past 2 months, he has started kneading with all 4 legs and has attacked me during this ritual. I told my son he needs to get his cat neutered because I believe the cat thinks I’m his territory.
    Am I guessing correctly. He also howls if I try to sleep in my bed. If I sleep in chair, he doesn’t howl as much.

  11. Our neighbors have about three thousand cats that roam the neighborhood. I believe their howling is more related to the mating ritual. However, due to the number of them, I suppose there could be medical issues that are going untreated.

  12. Pingback: Why is Your Cat Howling?

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