Q: I rescued my now 8-year-old cats when they were 5-week-old kittens born under my porch. They both have their own cat doors to go in and out of a roomy, screened-in lanai. There, they spend hours chattering at the birds and squirrels. Lately, however, we've been finding Ollie yowling in the lanai in the middle of the night. He wakes me up and I go out to find nothing but an occasional stray cat outside. My friend calls his cry "a mating call." Why would Ollie, who's neutered, be doing this?
-- A.T., Tampa, FL
A: Begin by taking Ollie to your vet (and your other cat, as well, if it's been more than six months since the pet's last exam). Cat behavior consultant Dusty Rainbolt says she recently advised the owner of a 6-year-old cat who yowled overnight, and the cat turned out to be hyperthyroid. While generally cats with hyperthyroid disease are over age 9, you never know.
Assuming the cat is just fine physically, Rainbolt says it's likely your pet may be offended by the strays, and may also be training you -- seeking your attention.
Rainbolt likes a product called the Scarecrow, a motion detector sprinkler that sprays water when it detects movement. Cats, of course, don't like to be sprayed. You could plug in a product called Feliway, which diffuses a calming scent that only cats can detect.
"Certainly, the cats outdoors may be causing your cat to react," says Rainbolt. "But his yowling -- no matter why he first began to holler -- has also gotten attention from you."
Rainbolt adds, "Play with your cats before their bedtime, then feed them a snack (without adding to their total daily food intake by making other meals slightly smaller). It's the natural cycle for cats to hunt, eat and then sleep."