Prowl, howl and yowl -- your cat's at it again, roaming through the house and crying for everyone to hear. As a concerned pet parent, you may have stopped what you were doing -- including sleeping -- to check on her and make sure there was nothing amiss. There are no obvious reasons for your cat's behavior, yet she persists. Roaming and crying behavior can be from boredom or play, or it may point to a medical condition.
The Cat's Meow
Cat crying is normal behavior and occurs for many reasons. Your cat may meow to call your attention to her empty food dish or to let you know she'd like to go outside. She may be saying hello or be asking for some cuddles. However, sometimes a cat's cries cross the line between normal, "hey look at me" cries into more extreme crying. Known as excessive vocalization, PetMD notes this behavior often occurs at inappropriate times of the day or night.
Reasons for Crying and Roaming
Old age happens to everyone if they live long enough. If your cat's a senior citizen, her hearing may not be what it used to be or she may be suffering from cognitive dysfunction. It's not uncommon for geriatric cats to wander their home and cry, particularly at night, as they become disoriented. A cat may also meow excessively as her hearing diminishes.
Male and female cats prowl and yowl when it's time to mate. Female cats who are in heat make noise to let the boys know they're available for mating, and male cats try to gain their attention.
If a cat isn't feeling well, she may roam the house and vocalize her distress as she tries to find a comfortable place. A variety of illnesses, including hyperthyroidism, can cause a cat to feel restless, irritable, thirsty and/or hungry, prompting them to wander and meow.
A cat may cry excessively because she's under emotional distress -- perhaps she's new to her family or she's been separated from a human or feline friend and she's feeling disconsolate about her loss. As well, she may be feeling anxious or be engaged in a conflict with one of her cat "frenemies."
Play and Attention Seeking
Your cat may be on the hunt for something to do or someone to play with. If she's become accustomed to you responding to her cries for attention, she may have decided that her wish is your command and is letting you know she's ready to engage.
Some cat breeds, such as Siamese and other oriental cats, may be more inclined to excessive vocalization behavior. Such cats may be especially active and apt to rove the house chattering to themselves or whomever may pay attention.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
If your cat's roaming and crying behavior is new, you should take her to see the vet to make sure there's nothing medically wrong with her. The vet will rely on lab work, including a complete blood count, electrolyte panel and urinalysis, as well as medical history and physical exam to see if there's a health condition causing her distress. If there's a physical reason, such as hyperthyroidism, behind your cat's behavior, your vet will work out a treatment plan to put your cat on the mend.
If the vet finds nothing wrong with your cat, you'll have to teach your cat when it's OK to cry and roam and when it isn't. A large part of that is learning to ignore her cries when she's trying to coax you into paying attention to her. That means not picking her up or feeding her at her vocal prompts. You also shouldn't yell or scold her because she's still getting your attention that way. If your cat's annoying activity happens during the night, schedule time to play with her throughout the evening so she's more likely to be tired when you are. Scheduling her main evening meal close to bedtime will also minimize the chance she disrupts your sleep if she's on the hunt for a snack.
Spaying and Neutering
Neutering an intact cat has a significant impact on crying and roaming behavior. More than 90 percent of male cats reduce their roaming behavior after neutering. Spayed female cats have no need for heat-induced vocalization.