We all have this wish that our pets will be able to talk to us in a more comprehensible way. That would be the day when caring for them is so much easier because we no longer have to keep on guessing what their meows, trills, purrs, and yowls mean. While most cat parents already have an idea of the possible meanings of different kinds of “meows”, there is one feline vocalization that can raise the hair on your spine, so to speak. There is nothing more disturbing or alarming than hearing your cat yowl. This is a very odd sound that is right between a happy meow and a distressed howl. It is a strange feline vocalization that pet parents would want their cats to stop at once. But why do cats yowl in the first place? What message are they trying to convey? Let’s find out.
One of the most common reasons why a cat may yowl is because it’s hungry. This is a need that is very basic to all living organisms. While humans will not cry whenever they’re hungry, they do manifest certain behaviors that show uneasiness. For most folks, they will vocalize their hunger. Unfortunately, a cat cannot tell you that it needs to have its tummy filled with its regular meal. Neither will it be able to point at the clock to tell you that it’s time for its lunch.
The current observation is that yowling cats that are given food right after often stop yowling altogether. This creates the notion that yowling is a cat’s way of telling you that it is already hungry. If that is the case, how come the cat did not meow instead? Why yowl when it can create other noise to get your attention?
The most likely explanation is that ordinary vocalizations like meowing may not be producing the results the cat expects. For example, it may meow all it wants, but its owner is ignoring it. However, when it yowls, its owner pays attention immediately. This has something to do with the nature of the yowling sound. The dictionary defines yowl as a wailing cry. Nobody would want to hear wailing in the house; it is alarming. As such, when a cat yowls, it sends shivers down the spine of its owner. This gets his or her attention.
Hence, yowling is a more powerful communication tool than meowing since it gets the attention of the owner a lot faster.
If giving the cat its meal will not stop it from yowling, then it only means its vocalization is not food-motivated. As explained, a yowl is a more powerful way to communicate a cat’s “wants” than conventional meowing or purring. Hence, if food will not stop the cat from yowling, then it is possible that it wants you to give it attention.
This is quite unusual since most cats are prodigious aloof loners. They prefer the company of no one. They like spending the rest of the day alone, doing their own thing. However, there are cat breeds that have dog-like temperaments; that is, they seek and revel in the attention of their pet owners. It is also not surprising that certain feline breeds can develop separation anxiety whenever they don’t get to see their owners for a long time. Cats like the Burmese and the Siamese are prime examples of feline breeds that are prone to separation anxiety.
More often than not, the cat yowls whenever the treasured owner is not around the house. It is the cat’s way of showing its distress. They are not too comfortable about getting separated from their owners for a long time.
There are also instances when the yowling continues well upon the arrival of the pet owner. In such cases, the cat only wants the pet parent to give the cat its undivided attention. And since meowing will not often give the cat what it wants, it yowls.
The Need to Mate
Pet owners observe that unspayed felines have a greater tendency to yowl than those that are already spayed. This leads to the conclusion that yowling is a communication tool for female cats to announce their “availability” to tomcats in the neighborhood.
If you are observant enough, cats tend to make horrible and annoying noises during the breeding season. Female cats in “heat” are very vocal about their need to procreate. Do not blame them as this is a natural part of speciation. It is the only way they can perpetuate the species.
The same is true with male cats that will make very troublesome noises during the mating season. They yowl because of two important things. First is to let the female cat know that they are “available” to mate. The second reason is to let other males in the area not to go anywhere near the female cat as they came in first. Of course, these are mere assumptions. But many pet parents do observe these behaviors among cats during the mating season, lending credibility to the assumption.
This is one of the reasons why you should have your cat neutered or spayed. This will help reduce the occurrence of such annoying vocalizations while also helping reduce the number of uncared-for cats. Unfortunately, spaying or neutering your feline pet will not solve yowling in the neighborhood. You will have to live with that, unless you can get your neighbors to spay or neuter their cats as well.
It is true that cats can do fine on their own. However, most of the domestic cats that people own today get confined indoors. They are not like outdoor cats that can have all the opportunity to explore their surroundings. Animal behaviorists say that one of the essential aspects of a cat’s optimum health and wellbeing is getting enough enrichment activities. If a cat is restricted indoors, then its opportunities for enrichment also decrease.
Try putting yourself in their shoes (or paws) and you will begin to appreciate how “interaction” can be so much more meaningful. If you stay all day and all night in your bedroom, there’s a good chance that you will grow bored, too. You can play computer games, stream videos, or listen to music to while away the time. These help take your mind off of boredom.
Unfortunately, your cat cannot enjoy such luxuries. It cannot play computer games, unless you teach it how. It will not be able to appreciate movies and TV shows, unless you train it how to turn on the TV and switch channels. It will not be able to appreciate the music you’re listening to, unless it also learns how to turn on your music player or stereo.
The point here is that most cats would also love to venture outdoors. One way they can get their pet owners to bring them outside is by yowling. It is a very annoying and alarming noise that is sure to get anybody’s attention. The natural response will be to give the cat its food. If it doesn’t stop the yowling, then playing with it might.
If this doesn’t help either, try letting the cat out in the backyard. However, it is best to keep a watchful eye on your pet. For better security, it is ideal to purchase a large outdoor cat enclosure so your kitty can also enjoy the outdoors without risking its safety.
Pain and Irritability
Most of our feline friends have a knack for hiding their pain. Seldom will you see them writhing in pain. You may not hear them complain about it, too. However, there are cats that tend to vocalize their discomfort. If they meow, they know that this will get interpreted as a sign of comfort or non-distress. However, if they yowl, then something is amiss. After all, you do not “wail” because you are happy. You “wail” or cry because of something that is the opposite of happy.
The issue here is determining what could be causing the cat’s pain. You can take your cue from other behaviors that the cat displays. For instance, if you see it licking one of its joints more often than it used to, then there is a chance that the cat is suffering from arthritis. If the increased self-grooming behavior is confined to a certain body part only, then it is possible that there is something painful in that area.
The only way you can be sure that a cat’s yowl is a sign of pain is to have the animal inspected by a veterinarian. At the clinic, the pet can undergo a comprehensive review of systems that includes a head-to-tail physical examination, health history assessment, and laboratory tests. This will help identify potential problem areas and pave the way for the determination of the best possible treatment.
There is one medical condition among cats that can make them very irritable; thus, increasing the likelihood of yowling. Hyperthyroidism in cats increases every imaginable metabolic process in the feline body. This can lead to irritability or increased restlessness. Irritable cats do not “meow”. They will often yowl to announce their discomfort.
One of the more intriguing explanations as to why cats yowl is cognitive dysfunction, otherwise known as feline dementia. For most of us, we equate dementia with forgetfulness. However, the neurologic condition entails more than just lapses in memory. The cat’s cognitive function diminishes, making it feel at a loss. They get confused. They are no longer able to make sense of their surroundings. This can be very frightening and very stressful for the cat. Hence, it has the tendency to vocalize in a more fearful manner.
Feline behaviorists observe that older cats and felines with cognitive dysfunction show increased yowling vocalizations at night. This is that time of day when everyone else is asleep and the cat gets confused as to where it is or what it needs to do. Imagine waking up in the dead of the night not knowing where you are or how you got there. You also do not know if you have already taken your dinner or not. It is a frightening experience. And the person that can help the cat is sleeping like a log – you. So, they will try to yowl to awaken the slumbering pet owner.
One way you can help a cat with dementia that yowls is to give it a highly-digestible meal right before bed. This will make them not feel hungry in the middle of the night and lessen the chances of them waking up. Creating a more relaxing sleeping area for them can also help. Providing them with more enriching experiences throughout the day can make them feel tired at night.
If the cat doesn’t have any medical condition, is not in pain, is not longing for your attention, or is well-fed, then you are looking at yowling as a sign of a behavioral problem. In most cases, cats yowl because they are anxious or are under stress.
One way you can determine what is stressing your cat or what’s making it anxious is to log those instances when it yowls. Try to jot down everything that you can during the yowling episodes. This will help you identify the possible trigger for their behavior.
For example, you may notice your cat yowls every time it is looking out the same window. It is possible that the cat sees a stray animal in the backyard or that a stray cat is in its “territory”. This upsets the cat. Hence, it yowls to announce its displeasure. It is a must to keep this journal to help you zero-in on what is triggering the behavior.
If your cat’s yowling makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable and you do not know what’s triggering the yowling, a feline behaviorist might be able to help. One has to understand that yowling is as normal as meowing. It is the sound, however, that is quite annoying.