How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Yowling?

I little background:

My darling cat Smokie is about 12 years old. For at least the past 4-5 years we have had the same bedtime routine: the cats come into the bedroom, where they have food, water, clean litter and me to snuggle, I close the door, they sleep all night on the bed. I do this because at my last few places I have lacked either central heat or central cooling, and needed to keep the door closed to keep the warm/cold air in at night lest utilities bankrupt me. (a situation which will continue at least through this summer)

However, in the past 3-4 months (since about April) Smokie starts screaming and pawing at the door at about 3am. Honestly, he’s very loud. I have a water pistol and zap him (causing even louder yowls of outrage). He tries again at 4am, 5am, 6am, 7am and 8 am. I have, on occasion, had to refill the water pistol three or four times in one night. (I keep a bottle of water by the bed).

At about 8 am or 9 am he will give up and go to sleep peacefully for the next few hours.

Bear in mind I am absolutely religious about squirting him each and everytime he paws and yowls, and I NEVER reward the behavior by letting him out. I have also tried “wearing him out” with a good game of string before bed, and just straight up ignoring the yowls (its pretty hard to sleep!). I understand that you can’t train a cat or any other animal without consistency. A few years ago I trained Smokie to Sit on command, and he knows a variety of other rules and verbal commands, so he is certainly trainable.

Basically, I’m at a loss. 4 months is a long time with no change in behaviour, and I think I’ve been a concistent enforcer.

I kind of have the same problem with one of my cats. he begins doing everything he can possibly think of to get me up. It used to be that he waited till my usual time (between 4:30 and 6 AM) to start waking me up, but he generally changed his behavior so that he’d wake me up whenever he felt like getting pettings or paying attention. A month of this, and I finally worked up the heart to shut him out of the bedroom when he attempted this, if he persisted after the first “NO”. He didn’t do it again after the second time.

The conclusion: Cats can learn very, very, very fast when they want or have to. So, say “no” a few times, and if he continues, take him outside, but shut him in a small room like the bathroom where you can’t hear his yowlings. He’lll be fine for those few hours. With luck, you’ll only have to do it once or twice and you’ll have a magically behaved cat.

There is no place in my apartment where I can’t hear his yowling. I tell him “no” plenty, reinforced with squirt gun zaps. And to reiterate, I’ve shot him so many times with a squirt gun in a single night that I had to refill it four times. And I’ve been on the watergun program for four months.

And anyway, OUT is where he wants to go (whereas your cat wanted MOM WAKEUP). He cannot go OUT and still have access to litter, food and water. I cannot leave the door open for him due to the heating/cooling situation.

Misread as: How Do I Get My Cat to Stop Voting?

Take him to the vet. He’s 12, which is getting up there in cat years, and middle of the night talking can be a symptom of a variety of illnesses.

That didn’t escape my note, but then again, I’m the ice queen. A little water in a bowl, a little litter in a makeshift pan, and let him go hungry for the rest of the night. Then, shut him in a small room such as your bathroom where he won’t be having any fun, and ignore his meows. He’ll be fine and he’ll catch on quickly.

I’ll second “get him to a vet” - that is one of the behaviors that can come with a thyroid imbalance.

I know that yowling can also be a sign of hearing loss, though I can’t give any more info than that.

Cats are weird. I love mine, but damn they’re weird.

Interesting, I didn’t know that. Last year this time Smokie had a full old-cat blood work up done (thyroid (both tests), liver, kidney, blood glucose) and was declared astonishingly normal. Still, things can change in a year and he’s due for a checkup. I’ll bring it up.

As cats age, in my experience their personalities can sometimes change a bit, and health issues can contribute to this.
My kitty Pounce, who passed away last month at the age of 20, began night yowling at about age 15. In her case, her health was reasonably good but she was starting to feel the cold. We were in Colorado then and it gets cool at night 9 months of the year. I bought her a heated kittynest which she slept in continously even after we moved here to Florida. It did help her a lot, and the night yowling decreased.
As it turned out, she also developed kidney problems, which she actually managed quite well–but Pounce’s manner did change, in her final years she was a bit testy, though not with me.
I think sometimes she just felt a little bit disoriented, and felt the need to vocalize about it.
Good luck with Smokie.

Just to let you guys know. My vet really didn’t think there was any reason to suspect hyperthyroid (good coat, normal appetite, normal weight, etc.) but he did suggest that he might be going deaf. Now that I look at Smokie a little more closely, he may be right. I am trying redirection (lifting him into the bed when he yowls) with some small sucess.

The good news is, we are moving soon and will no longer have to shut doors soon.

That’s good news. As I said above, I knew hearing loss could cause yowling, but I don’t know why.

I know I’m coming into this late, but we had a very similar problem a few years back. Boo decided that the middle of the night would be a perfect time to stare at the wall and yowl his fool head off. Not that there was anything on that wall…I suppose it just seemed like a good yowling target to him.

We took him to the vet, and he wrote out a prescription. It took about two weeks, but it did the trick – the yowling stopped. The solution? Our vet put the cat on Prozac.

I’ve heard that, supposedly, the cat can’t hear himself meowing, so he meows louder.

The vet said that the cats find the excessive silence of deafness disturbing and when they yowl, they are making vibrations that they find comforting. Same as old dogs who bark incessantly. The fact that they can’t hear themselves means there’s no volume control (not all of smokie’s yowls are maximum volume, leading me to suspect he can hear a tiny bit.)