How to Stop Your Cat From Meowing at Night

By Elizabeth Tumbarello

The meow of a cat has evolved over centuries to sound just like the cry of a human baby, making it hard for pet owners to ignore the nighttime cries of their feline companions. Since cats can't talk, they use vocalizations to express their needs and desires. Unfortunately, cats don't always understand that their needs and desires can wait until after you've had your beauty sleep. Cat owners can take steps to minimize the likelihood that their cat might need something during the night, as well as train the cat to avoid meowing during the night.

Ginger tabby cat lying on an unmade bed.
Cat on bed
credit: Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images

Step 1

Wear your cat out. Play with your cat periodically throughout the day. Engage your cat with toys and interactive games that involve running, chasing and hunting. For maximum effect, play with your cat for about an hour before bedtime. By the end of play time, your cat should be tired enough to sleep through most of the night.

Step 2

Stick to as normal a routine as possible. Stress or anxiety can cause nighttime meowing. Keeping to a steady routine means less stress and anticipation for feline members of your family.

Step 3

Supply the cat with clean water and fresh food before bed. Some cats meow at night in an attempt to wake their human caretakers for basic needs. By supplying your cat with a full bowl of water and an evening meal, you reduce the risk of your cat needing to wake you to meet its needs.

Step 4

Scoop the litter box before retiring for the night. Cats are clean creatures by nature, and some cats will refuse to use a litter box that is even mildly soiled and may meow at night to try and wake you so they can use the facilities in peace.

Step 5

Spay or neuter your cat. Intact female cats in estrus (heat) meow and howl at night to attract mates. Intact male cats meow to echo the calls of females in heat, or for their owners to let them out to seek a mate. Copulating cats howl and screech during nocturnal trysts. Spaying or neutering your cat eliminates these behaviors.

Step 6

Spray the cat with a water bottle. Most cats hate water, and the stream from a squirt bottle delivers a clear message of "knock it off." Through operant conditioning, the cat learns to associate nighttime vocalization with negative consequences. Squirting the cat stops the meowing immediately, and you may need to squirt the cat less as time wears on.

Step 7

Ignore the meowing unless the tone, frequency or quality of the vocalization suggests an emergency. If you get up every time your cat meows for attention, it learns that meowing is the correct way to get you up during the night. Ignoring the meowing doesn't produce immediate results.