Where does the word “caterwaul” come from and What does caterwaul mean?

A caterwaul is just the waul or alluring musical call (or howl), musical, presumably, to the female, that is, of a courting tomcat.

Chaucer has the Wife of Bath say, in the Prologue:

“Thow saist thus that 1 was lik a cat;
For who so wolde senge the cattes skyn,
Than wold the catte duellen in his in;
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay,
Sche wol not duelle in house half a day;
But forth sche wil, er eny day be dawet,
To schewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwrawet.”

And the cat with fine clothes, male or female, does the same to this day.