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Calling all cat psychologists

Office Krupke

Sometimes at night, a minute or two after I’ve turned off all the lights and climbed into bed, I hear a sad mewing coming from the hallway. It is not the happy meow I get when I come home or the demanding meow when Krupke swipes my nose to demand food. It’s that sad, lost child, meow.

When I go out into the hallway to see if Krupke needs something, I turn on the lights to find him holding the feather toy in his mouth which is attached to a piece of string and a plastic wand. He’s also kneading his front legs back and forth. When he sees me he’ll stop meowing, pause for a moment, and then run the other way as I approach, either under a table or behind the couch.

I’ve tried picking him up and taking him back to my bedroom, but then he just skedaddles the other way. I’ve tried just talking to him in the dark from my bedroom when the meowing starts. This usually silences him for a moment before he starts up again. I’ve tried turning the light back on without getting out of bed, which usually silences him for a moment. Then he might wander into the bedroom and then turn around. I’ve tried taking the wand toy out of his mouth and waving it around to play, but that doesn’t interest him either.

I have absolutely no idea why Krupke behaves in this neurotic manner. He’s done it for over a year now, before we moved to a new apartment and before Java Bean came to live with us. He does it if I’ve left my bedroom door open or closed. I do not know what is going on in his furry little brain when he’s sadly meowing and kneading the carpet, but it makes me sad to think he wants something and I don’t know what it is. Are there any cat psychologists out there who might have a clue what’s going through my furry little baby’s head?

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Anti-aging Sytropin • July 20, 2009 at 9:29 am

My dearest furry friend Mutsung also acts like this. He’d scratched the plant pots under my bedroom window every night and wails like an abandoned kitten. I’m not allowed to take him inside because my mom has asthma and he’s shedding fur. Let me know if you find out what’s wrong with your cat.

Have a happy day.


alisha • July 20, 2009 at 9:58 am

My ex-boyfriends cat used to do that exact same thing. All we could figure was he wanted us to turn on the light. We tried everything you tried and we got nothing. He would only stop when we would turn the light on. It was like he would get disoriented. One of my cats does this walking around meowing when everyone is asleep and he wants the other cat or dog to play with him.


suzanne • July 20, 2009 at 10:28 am

My cat every night sits on my lap and kneads my stomach :) I’ve always thought it was what they do when they’re kittens and being fed by their mother! Maybe he’s dreaming of his kitten days :)


DanaDanger • July 20, 2009 at 10:37 am

Zoe does this too. It’s by far the most perplexing cat behavior I’ve ever witnessed. I still don’t know what this is about, so do let us know what you find out! :)


MelMel • July 20, 2009 at 10:49 am

Perfectly normal cat behavior- my cat Sophie used to do this every single night – she would carry around a toy in her mouth and meow like she lost her child. It got to the point that my husband and I thought she wanted another cat to play with and we adopted another kitty and it did stop. For a while. But then she started up again. since it’s mainly females that do this I wonder if it has something to do with instinct of raising little kitties.

And kneading means they are very content and happy!


Susan • July 20, 2009 at 10:58 am

Both my cats also make this sound. It sounds sad but it isn’t – they do it to let you know they have hunted something and are bringing you a gift (a feathered toy for example). My cats are both outdoor cats and when they come to the door to be let in and are making that noise I know that they are about to present me with a dead bird or mouse (or in one sad case a baby bunny) and I know not to let them in. One of my cats also hunts socks out of the laundry basket and makes the same noise. We just praise them for being such good hunters. All the cats I know do the same thing


Jen • July 20, 2009 at 11:03 am

Don’t know if it’s connected to Krupke’s behavior, but one of my male cats often scratches and howls at my front door at night after I’ve gone to bed (I live in an apartment, with an interior hallway outside, and he’s an indoor cat…). I’ll call to him at night, and he’ll sometimes stop for a moment only to start again.

My best guess is that it’s kitty angst – I think maybe he just feels really lonely, and yowling and scratching at the door is a way to get my attention. (but on the other hand, it’s hard to get him to come over to me…)


fd • July 20, 2009 at 11:13 am

@Susan – it sounds like PQ’s cat has succesfully hunted the feather wand toy thing then?


Tina • July 20, 2009 at 11:16 am

I agree that it sounds like normal behavior. I’ve had several different cats that displayed similar behavior. I think (but I am not positive) that it’s nurturing behavior.


Nancy V • July 20, 2009 at 11:18 am

My 17 yr old male, Spanky, has started doing something similar. (He used to not meow AT ALL when my other cat was alive, but that one’s been gone 6 yrs.) In the last year, Spanky has figured out acoustics. The stairwell really projects his wailing. I can talk to him and he looks at me like, “What?” , says a nice meow, then starts in with the wailing. I think he just likes to hear his own voice. I’d sure like to know how to make him stop, especially in the middle of the night!


lila • July 20, 2009 at 11:20 am

I’ve noticed that when cats get old, they start to act really strange. How old is Krupke? My old cat got totally senile and started to act like my grandmother when she got into her double digits. Just doing crazy stuff with no rhyme or reason.


Shannon • July 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

My female cat does something similar to with her favorite ball. She yowls though as if she is in physical pain. I’ve taken to putting the ball out of her reach and it has stopped. She still plays at night, with one of the other dozen cat toys in my house, but no more of this pained wailing. So, if it is always the feather toy, put it up and out of Krupke’s reach. It may help.


Diane • July 20, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I think that cats are just strange creatures. Our cat does all kinds of weird things and should probably have a therapist.

Sorry I don’t have the answer either!


Carolina Girl • July 20, 2009 at 1:16 pm

It’s a hunting cry…it’s the sound they make when they catch something. Outdoor cats do it when they catch mice, bugs, etc. Indoor cats do it with feather toys, fake mice, etc. It’s there way of bragging about their catch and letting you know. It’s so cute I think, but not so cute when you are trying to sleep. Ha! I have to hide the toy mice at night or I’ll hear it all night long with mine.


auntjone • July 20, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Is it a catnip toy? Perhpas Krupke is getting tanked and yowling like a drunken sorority girl who hit the Hairy Buffalo a little too hard.


Lisa • July 20, 2009 at 2:16 pm

It seems like the relevant point is this is a new, atypical behavior in a cat you’ve had for years. I’m going to agree with the poster that, depending on his age, this may be a sign of senility. Cats can get senile just like people, and old age for cats starts at 7. My cat started yowling in the middle of the night before she passed away, and the vet said she was probably just confused. We got nightlights for all the rooms and used a Feliway, both of which helped a little but not entirely.

If he’s not 7 or older, I’d say the move has had a similar effect of confusing him. Try nightlights and Feliway if you can.


Deb • July 20, 2009 at 2:22 pm

We have had our cat since he was 6 weeks old. Shortly after we got him, he got a toy monkey that was almost as big as he was at the time. He started doing the same thing with this toy at bedtime everyday. He still has a monkey toy and still does this every night—8 years later. He grabs the toy and starts the mewing… then he comes and makes his bed while he does it. Sometimes he just grabs the toy and starts doing it until we will play fetch with him but mostly it is just at bedtime. My husband thinks it is perfectly normal but the whole kneading the bed with the toy in his mouth and meowing drives me nuts.

Unlike the other poster, taking the toy away and hiding it only causes an even more obnoxious howling at night time because he can’t find his monkey. It is the same howl he does when one of us leaves and he thinks he is alone. It is awful. I would rather have him make his bed with his buddy everynight than that.

Seems to me Krupke is just attached to that toy and knows that when you turn out the light it is bedtime so he is prepping his own bed.

But, I’m not a cat pyschic or pyschologist :)


Lainey • July 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Well, I have two cats, and one of them is afraid of the dark so he howls in the middle of the night if he gets scared. One time he wanted me to accompany him to the litterbox (which is located in the basement, and I guess it was just too scary down there that night). Other times he’s fine. When I lived in my condo, he used to howl at night, and when I would call him to come to bed, he’d run like hell like he thought something was chasing him.

My other cat “yells” at his foam golf balls in the manner you’re describing, as he carries it around in his mouth. It makes sense to me that it’s hunting behaviour. I always thought he was mad at his ball for not doing what he wanted (rolling away, etc.) but hunting behaviour makes more sense.

I don’t think it’s senility in this case.


Smokey • July 20, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I’m actually comforted to know that so many other kitties do this, too. My 5-year old male cat does this, but his mother and sister don’t.

We have to hide his toy mouse AND all of my daughter’s little stuffed animals before we go to bed or he yowls for what seems hours. (Okay, maybe about 15 minutes.) He isn’t upset; he just carries it around in his mouth and sometimes kneeds on it or tosses it and chases it. The only thing that bothers me is that he does it while I’m trying to fall asleep!

If he happens to find one of her stuffies over night and leaves it lying in the floor, my daughter scolds him in the morning. “Bad kitty. No ask!” I guess it would be okay with her if he asked before playing with it? :)


cloudy • July 20, 2009 at 3:50 pm

My 16 year old cat recently started being vocal at night & was diagnosed with high blood pressure which makes her feel disoriented.


anji • July 20, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Maybe he’s scared of the dark? Do you have access to a mini-night-light?

Good luck :S


Ang • July 20, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I had a cat that used to gather rolled up socks and make this noise. I used to think she was taking care of them like kittens, but I suppose she could have been pretending to hunt them. She also made this noise when she caught a mouse. Again, I thought she might have been taking care of it like a kitten, because she carried the mouse gently to me and dropped it unharmed at my feet. It ran at me, and I almost lost my sanity.


moonduster (Becky) • July 20, 2009 at 5:13 pm

I wish I could help with this. Hw sounds sad, but maybe it’s just a quirk of his.


Wendy • July 20, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I have two female cats, litter mates, and one does this and the other doesn’t. Actually, she used to do it. Now they are 19 years old and they seem to meow, quite loudly, for no apparent reason. I had to shut them out of the bedroom at night because I wasn’t getting any sleep. I can sorta hear them in other parts of the house, but if I’m already asleep it won’t wake me up. I do think they seem a bit disoriented when they do it, because when I call out their name, they stop. However, one seems to be completely deaf, so it may be related to that. I read a book, Complete Care for Your Older Cat, by Amy Shojai, and the loud meowing is fairly typical for older cats. I recommend this book, it really helped me understand some behaviors that seemed rather odd and gave a lot of helpful info about health issues.


Stephanie • July 20, 2009 at 5:59 pm

OMG Krupke is channeling my cat! My Normankitten (who’s able to drive this year… just turned sweet 16!) has been doing this for a long time… pretty much when I’m in one part of the house and he’s in the other (now that we have a 2 story it’s when I’m upstairs). Partly for Norman it’s an attention thing, but I can hear him dragging the feather toy around the tile (kinda creepy actually) or sometimes he’ll sit on the landing but drop it and walk away when I give in and try to give him attention.

There’s some comparison that I’m just realizing – he was an only cat for quite a while and shortly after I moved into a new place and then adopted my friends’ cats, the night time mewings (or as we refer to it, “Normankitten is being murderated again…) it started up.


Leigh Ann • July 20, 2009 at 6:21 pm

My cat does this. She’s a 3 year old Siamese mix, and a little nuts anyway, really. It is interesting to see that other cats do this. She wails at night over a toy sheep, or over one of my socks if I leave them where she can get to them. Hunting behavior makes sense. It’s a pain when she does it at night. I have to hide the toy sheep before I go to bed or she will wake us up.


beth • July 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm

When I changed apartments and my kitty acted a bit differently I found a night light helpful.

Krupke is a very pretty cat. Could we also get a picture of Java Bean?

Thanks and good luck.


karen • July 20, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Our female cat makes the same sound every night around 10:00 pm when she wants to let us know she’s made a kill. This is usually a pair of rolled up socks from my kids room. Although the sound is very sad sounding, I think she is actually very proud.


Jennifer • July 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm

So my cat Buzz that passed away in 07, did this all 13 years I had him. For him, he wanted attention I’m pretty sure, as he’d do it when we were in bed or watching TV and not paying attention to him. But his surviving mate, who is now 12, also does it. Buzz always did it with feather sticks, and Meggie carries a “baby” around, a small stuffed toy, and howls like it’s her child. She also wants us to play with it as she’ll wail and bring it into the room with us.

Totally normal cat weird behavior. And I guess you know the kneading is happy feet, totally blissful behavior.


Kris • July 21, 2009 at 7:34 am

Susan’s response is dead on. It’s a hunting/bringing home a gift for you cry.

I laughed at her response especially, because our youngest female does the sock thing too… she drags them from ANYWHERE and creates a big pile of dirty or clean socks, underwear, gloves, whatever she can carry, around our heads while we sleep. :)

Nothing to worry about, I’m sure. He’s bringing you a gift, which is likely why he drops it and runs the other way when you come out. It’s a “here you go, Mom!” thing. :)

Sleeping through that dreadful sound is another story though…


Lynn • July 21, 2009 at 8:50 am

My 17-year-old cat has done this for maybe five years. She sounds just like she does when something really does hurt, and I know, it’s a terrible sound. I always have to check on her, so now she knows I will get up, and she’ll stop wailing when she hears my feet hit the floor. It seemed to start after we had been away for a week, so I think sometimes she is lonely and maybe disoriented, forgetting that we are home. Sometimes she seems active and excited and just wants interaction, so that is probably the hunting behavior others have described, even though she doesn’t carry anything around. She doesn’t do it every night, but she can wake me out of a sound sleep. I would try a night light, since it starts after the lights are out. He’s a beautiful cat!


Lydia • July 21, 2009 at 9:18 am

A friend named Robin who knows more than a lot of vets, I’m sure, about dog/cat behavior, had this suggestion:

“He’s not sad, he’s made a kill. He’s playing. Ginger does the same thing. I call it “Lost Kitten Game”. She takes her favorite toy, hides it out of sight and then calls it. Since he’s a male I suspect it could be that he’s calling for the other cat to come see his kill.”


HugeMD • July 21, 2009 at 10:03 am

Mr. Krupke is ADORABLE. My first cat loved lying on the microwave, too.

I’ve mostly given up trying to understand my cats. I’ve decided they’re just crazy, each in his or her own unique way. I love them each–most of the time. I just come up with new and exciting ways to deal with their annoying habits (double doors to the bedroom, obsessively hiding rubber bands, etc.). Sorry I don’t have any suggestions.


debby • July 21, 2009 at 11:42 am

This is fascinating–I’ve never heard of this before, and here are hundreds of people describing the same behavior.

I vote for the hunting behavior, though. When I was a kid, our cat used to hunt birds and mice and came with that same meow to the front door. But I didn’t think of it as ‘sad.’ I thought of it as ‘its hard to get out a good meow when my mouth is full of this soft fluffy thing.’


lurker • July 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm

@Susan – I totally agree with Susan. It is the sound and behavior reserved for “I’ve hunted something and want to carry it around/show you/bury it somewhere.”

My cats do this daily, and on quite a regular schedule. In fact most of their activities–sleep here, sleep there, hunt and moan, beg for food, lie on lap–are performed very routinely, and have sounds to match.


Narya • July 21, 2009 at 3:08 pm


My friend’s cat converses as it’s time for bed, and then will hop into bed with me, but occasionally she’ll “catch” one of her toy mice and the difference in meow sounds is noticeable. And I can hear the rattle inside the toy, especially as she drops it.


Julie • July 21, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I didn’t have time to read through all the messages and you’ve probably gotten this response a million times already, so I apologize, but it’s most likely predatory behavior and the best way to get rid of it is to get rid of the toy the cat is fixated on altogether and every night put all the cat toys away in a box in a closet or something. That should stop the behavior after a few nights.


Sara • July 21, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Our lovable (albeit thick skulled) tabby cat Jezebel does this in the middle of the night.

After much investigation we’ve identified the reason for the piteous, small toy stuffed mouth mewling:

She’s a cat. It’s what they do.

Now we (and by “we” I mean “Me, since I’m the one who wakes up without the equivalent of a fog-horn blowing adjacent to my ear) sit up in the middle of night when the meow/sea cow distress call starts and loudly says “Shut it, Jezzy!”

It usually works.


Deb M • July 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm

I have four neutered males who live indoors, three of whom are each over 10yo, and one 2yo. Two of the older guys do this once in a while, with toys, and sometimes socks. I’ve often wondered if it’s a sexual thing, something to do with gender confusion–they act like a female cat when she’s carrying one kitten in her mouth and calling to the other kittens. Fergus, my eldest cat, also makes the same noise when he’s fixing to hump Angus, the second eldest (this happens a lot-they’re totally gay). Ian, the youngster, has caught mice, but never makes a sound when he does it. He just leaves them in weird places, like my husband’s work boots. I think some neutered males just get batty in their old age!


Kathy W. • July 21, 2009 at 7:30 pm

It’s a hunting thing–if he’d caught a real bird or mouse, he’d make the same sound–which sounds sad, but it isn’t really. All our (many) cats have done it.


Bonnie • July 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Do you read the comic strip bliss? I thought of you today when I read this. Check it out http://www.gocomics.com/bliss/



kristin • July 22, 2009 at 8:19 am

Maybe Krupke was prematurely weaned? My runt Columbo does this. She was taken away from her mother too early. (not by us).


Regi • July 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

Take him to the vet and have him checked for urinary tract problems. older, nuetered males can get “blocked up”. one of mine nearly died from it, only surgery saved him.


KellyQ • July 23, 2009 at 1:18 am

I’m glad you wrote about this and it was interesting to read all the replies. My cat, Esme, does this at night, every night, as soon as I go to bed. I have 3 other cats and none of the others do it. As far as I’ve seen, she doesn’t have a toy or socks or anything else but the hunting theory is interesting. I have often wondered if she is disoriented or scared of the dark. She was a stray and I have no idea how old she is or how she was treated before I adopted her.

I am curious to see if there are any further theories about that sad, mewling cry.


sarah • July 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

@Susan – I was going to say the same; one of ours hunts Pringles lids with that yowl & brings them to us. We always tell her “good job, Squeaker!!” which seems to help her stop sooner & allow us to sleep. :)


Diane • July 23, 2009 at 5:03 pm

I’ll join the chorus that says it’s perfectly normal behaviour.

DK started doing it about 4 years ago, aged around 5. She’s always been a chatty hatty but suddenly she started the mournful night-time meow/howl routine. This resulted in me losing sleep worrying about her and her laughing her paws off while she slept an hour or so more in the day.

She has a couple of particular toys that she’s fond of and on nights that she’s howled I normally find them somewhere outside of her toy box. I think in her tiny, deranged and demented mind she has convinced herself that she has successfully hunted something and is doing her best to tell us.

Krupke, by the way, is a most handsome specimen – but I guess he knows that.

How are he and Java Bean getting along now?


Sarah • July 24, 2009 at 2:23 am

I think that animals, like people, tend to thrive on routine. We live in a reasonbly sized house and my folks didn’t like the idea of cats roaming at night, playing on kitchen counters, etc. so we started “tucking in” our first cat and continued with cats two and three. The two eldest sleep in the laundry room where their kitty beds/food/litterbox are and the youngest sleeps in the powder room (he’s a little wild). Both rooms have a night light too. Every night at about ten o’clock they start wandering the upstair hall mewing reminding us it’s time for treats and bed! The cats are ten, nine, and two so I guess it’s been a pretty good system.


Andrea DeWerd • July 26, 2009 at 12:31 am

My cat cries a lot, but it’s usually when we close the door to a room he wants to go in, or if we left him alone for a long time, or if he just feels like crying. (He came from a shelter… who knows what happened to him before we got him?)

Anyway, I asked our vet, and she said, “I just can’t tell you what your cat’s thinking.”

Cats are weird. Don’t let it worry you. It sounds like he has a happy, loving room and lots of food. He’s okay.


kat • August 1, 2009 at 3:18 pm

what do you do every time he meows at you? you pay attention to him.

thats all it is. no mystery, no 5 paragraph into the cats thinking. hes bord and wants you to look at him. and when you ignore him, he keeps doing it because they know you will eaither give in, or scream at them, which is paying attention to him anyways.


chrissy • August 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I’ve been researching this too my cat as well does it my sis works at a vet and between me and her we’ve come up with the cat thinks its prey its bringing u a present showing its love with a stuffed toy rather than a real dead animal lol


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