cat looking out window meowing
Questions About Cats

Why Do Cats Look Out the Window at Night?

Cats are known for their odd behaviors and quirks, but one of their most fascinating qualities is their obsession with windows. When a cat finds a suitable window perch, chances are it won’t leave for several hours. Cats are skilled at entertaining themselves. Staring is an effective technique cats use to keep themselves busy, whether they gaze ahead while begging, stalking or just zoning out.

Cats enjoy looking out the window for many reasons, from staring at the wildlife outside to just catching some breeze to cool them off. Cats are crepuscular in nature, which means they’re active both in the day and the night. Your cat may be looking out the window in the night because it keeps them occupied while everyone is asleep.

Cats are curious creatures. When their owners have left for school or work, they probably find the strange world outside much more interesting than their house’s interior. Window watching habits are more common among indoor cats than outdoor cats for one obvious reason. Because a house cat spends all of its time inside the house, looking outside becomes much more exciting.

Reasons Your Cat Looks Out the Window at Night

Due to their curious nature, some cats may find the outside more interesting than the inside – especially when everybody is sleeping in the night.

Your cat doesn’t have anybody to play with at this time, but the outside world is still awake. Your cat is hopeful that it may catch a glimpse of a bird, squirrel, rabbit or even another person passing by.

1) Your Cat is Bird Watching

Despite their standoffish nature, cats are surprisingly optimistic. For example, if you feed your cat one hour early today, it may ask (or beg) for food early the next day as well.

In this scenario, your cat is optimistic that it will have its mealtime an hour early again. Similarly, if your cat has ever seen a bird out the window, it will keep returning, hoping to find another avian friend. You may notice your cat scratching at the window.

Cats are highly location-oriented. Therefore, a cat will quickly understand that windows are locations where new stimuli take place. A single occasion of positive reinforcement is sufficient for your cat to find windows interesting for a long time.

When your cat does spot a bird, notice how it reacts with a chirping face and chattering teeth. Your cat is fixated on the prey outside the window.

In addition to the strange clicking sounds that cats make with their teeth, cats also respond to sighting a prey with excited tail-twitching.

This is referred to as a “vacuum activity,” because your cat is performing an instinctive behavior that mimics biting the neck of a mouse, without being able to perform it in real life.

Some cats may chatter their teeth due to dental pain. If you notice your cat chattering its jaw without any visual stimuli or any characteristic vocalizations, make an appointment with your vet for a dental checkup. Dental pain can be debilitating for cats, and if severe enough, it may even lead to loss of appetite and malnutrition.

2) Your Cat Can Smell and Hear The Outside

During the summer when you keep your windows open, your cat probably smells a wide range of scents from the outside and hears multiple sounds that it doesn’t experience indoors. Sometimes for cats, smell and sound can be more stimulating than visual stimuli.

Furthermore, cats can hear high-pitched sounds that we cannot. Your cat may be looking outside the window in the night because it can hear many rodents calling each other. Chances are your cat may be able to smell them too.

Cats can smell and hear through closed windows as well. In the winter when the windows are closed, your cat may prefer to relax in front of a window that doesn’t seal adequately when shut.

3) Your Cat Is Just Cooling Off

Just like us humans, cats love open windows when the weather is right. In the summer, all that fur can make a cat feel incredibly warm. Therefore, it may sit in front of an open window, catching the breeze and letting its fur puff up.

After a cat’s window session is over, it will feel rejuvenated and even mentally stimulated by the million things it was able to smell with the breeze.

In addition to enjoying the breeze, your cat may also be licking the condensation on the inside of your window.

cats look out the window at night

4) Your Cat Is Trying to Catch Flies

As funny as this may sound, windows can are a game for cats. Your cat may be watching the flies coming near the window, hoping that one makes it through the tiny holes in the window screen.

As soon as a fly enters your house, the game suddenly reaches another level. Your cat will excitedly chase the insect until it is finally able to swat it.

Once the fly is finished, your cat will casually walk towards the window, again, optimistically looking for another unlucky bug.

5) Your Cat Is Scaring Away a Dog

It’s common knowledge that cats don’t like dogs with a few exceptions where both species can harmoniously live in one household. However, if your cat isn’t particularly keen on dogs, you may notice kitty staring at one outside the window.

When your cat is safe and is separated from a dog through a window, it will suddenly become a ferocious wildcat. Its goal is to protect itself and its family from the terrifying beast.

How To Improve Your Cat’s Window Sitting Experience

All cats, even outdoor ones, enjoy windows. According to a review published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, windows with an interesting view can be a critical visual enrichment for cats.

A survey of 577 cats published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science found that the cats spent 5 hours or less per day, or an average of 2 hours a day at the window.

The study reported that the most common activity was bird watching, watching small wildlife, or just looking at foliage. Some cats were found watching other cats, insects, people, and vehicles.

Because cats that live indoors can become bored, especially when their owners are not available to play with them, it is crucial that you provide them with sufficient environmental enrichment.

There are many ways you can make windows more interesting to cats, some of them include:

  • Placing the bird feeder or birdbath in sight of the window. This way your cat can watch the birds every time they come to feed in your yard.
  • Leave the outside light on. This will attract moths and other insects, which your cat will enjoy watching every night. Your cat may even leap up at the window in an attempt to catch the bugs on the other side, creating a mentally and physically stimulating game for your pet.
  • Provide wider window sills so that your cat can be more comfortable while looking outside. You don’t have to modify your existing window sills to do this. Place a sturdy table or couch in front of the window for your cat to easily perch on.

Why Is My Cat Looking Out The Window And Meowing?

Despite being crepuscular, cats spend most of their day napping. One common activity most cats share is nighttime calling – also called night calling or night vocalization.

Some cats vocalize to connect with each other or their owners, while others may vocalize when they want attention, food, water or want their litter box to be cleaned.

A mother cat will use vocalizations to call her kittens. Cats are even found using it to let each other know about their whereabouts while hiding from other kitties.

If a female cat is in season and there is a territory dispute between two males, the male cats will use vocalizations to caution each other before preparing for a fight. This is called caterwauling.

Additionally, your cat may be frustrated or disturbed by something it can see or hear outside the window. Upon further investigation, you may find another cat gazing at your cat from its turf.

Because cats are so territorial nature, another cat encroaching in your cat’s property is not going to sit well for your kitty. In such situations, it’s best to eliminate the source of frustration by closing the curtains or blinds and preventing your cat from watching its intruder.

Some cats may call during the night while looking out the window due to insecurity or stress. A newly adopted kitten may use night calling if left alone for the first time in the night.

Your new kitten isn’t yet acclimated to being away from its mother or siblings and may thus, be feeling insecure about being in strange new surroundings.

Other reasons cats yowl at night that may be caused for concern include the following.

1) Your Cat is in Heat

Female cats may caterwaul when they’re in heat to attract other males. A male cat that isn’t neutered may caterwaul when it finds out a female nearby is in heat.

If your cat’s nighttime yowling is keeping you up at night, consider spaying or neutering your cat. Not only will this help you sleep more restfully at night, but it will also help control cat overpopulation as well.

2) Your Cat Has Dementia (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome)

Changes in cognitive functioning in aging cats are becoming increasingly common nowadays. Due to advancement in veterinary care and lack of predation, cats are now living longer than they did in the wild.

According to the ASPCA, cat dementia, or feline cognitive dysfunction occurs in more than 55% of cats of ages between 11 to 15 years and 80% of cats between 16-20 years.

Excessive caterwauling and vocalizations in the night is a common symptom of feline cognitive dysfunction, but it helps to understand other symptoms before making a final judgment.

Your cat may be yowling in the night because it is disoriented and has lost its ability to navigate around in your home when everybody is asleep.

A senior cat may vocalize while looking out the window if it is having a hard time hearing, or is going deaf. Because it can’t hear its voice, it may meow loudly in a troubled tone.

If your senior cat has been vocalizing more recently, don’t ignore it. Taking your kitty to a vet can help you determine ways to improve your cat’s life and ensure it lives happily for many more years.

How to Reduce Nighttime Calling

If your cat does not have a disease of feline dementia, consider tiring your cat so that it can fall asleep easily in the night.

Grab your cat’s favorite toy and play an exciting game of fetch before going to bed. Spending at least 15 minutes every night in your cat’s favorite activity will not only tire your kitty, but will increase your bonding with your pet too.

Sometimes slow, classical music can help soothe cats, especially if it’s a kitten feeling lonely. There are many music options on YouTube designed to help cats sleep faster.

Another option is to use a baby monitor outside your bedroom. Place a receiver next to your cat’s bed and reassure your kitty every time it meows to help it settle back in.