All cats meow, but some cats really have a lot to say! Having a vocal cat can become taxing for some cat owners. Don’t give up on your vocal cat, there are a lot of things you can try to change the unwanted behavior. A little bit of patience can help you and your kitty get along better.

What is your vocal cat trying to tell you?

Vocal Cat - Gray and White Cat

Photo Credit: David Sutterlütti

All behavior is a form of communication – even bad behavior. Cats meow for a number of reasons. Young kittens may meow to communicate their needs to their mother. Interestingly enough, adult cats do not meow to communicate with one another (unless they are looking for a mate). Rather, adult cats reserve meowing as a form of communication with the humans in their life. Here are some things that your vocal cat could be trying to communicate to you:

  • Pain, illness, or stress
  • A greeting
  • Hunger (or just begging for food)
  • The desire for attention
  • The desire to be let in or out

Talk to your veterinarian first.

Before your start attempting to change the behavior of your vocal cat, you should make sure there is no medical reason for all of the vocalizing. Your cat could be trying tell you that he/she is hurt or sick! If that is the case, treating the illness or injury could fix the problem. Your veterinarian will also want to rule out other potential causes such as hearing loss and cognitive dysfunctions like feline Alzheimer’s Disease. Going to the veterinarian is an important first step no matter what kind of behavior problem your cats are having.

Find the reason behind the meowing.

Once you have ruled out a medical reason for all of the meowing, it is time to discover the behavioral reason for it. Carefully observe your cat – you may even want to take notes. Your cat’s body language may provide clues to their motivation. Pay attention to the circumstances that exist when the meowing starts and what happens to make it stop. Look for patterns that could explain the motivation behind the behavior. Check to make sure that things are the way they should be in the cat’s environment: the litter box is clean and easily accessible (no closed doors), there’s fresh water available, the feeding schedule is consistent, etc. Also take note of how you and the other humans react to your vocal cat. It doesn’t matter whether you give a vocal cat positive attention or negative attention for their behavior, any attention can reinforce a behavior.

Tips for Quieting a Vocal Cat

Vocal Cat - Dizzy Mewing

Photo Credit: Iris via Flickr

You will never get a vocal cat to completely stop meowing, but you can reduce the excess communication.

  • Do NOT give attention to the vocal cat when he/she is meowing. Punishment will not necessarily deter the behavior. As mentioned above, even negative attention will let your cat know that it can get what it wants by meowing.
  • Reward the vocal cat for being quiet. When the meowing stops, immediately give attention or other rewards to the cat. Clicker training the cat can be very helpful with this.
  • If the cat is not spayed or neutered, getting these procedures done could reducing the amount of meowing your cat is doing.
  • If the vocal cat is waking you up for food, try changing the feeding schedule slightly so that you aren’t feeding the cat as soon as you wake up. You could feed the cat before you go to bed at night or just place another activity between waking up and feeding the cat. Automatic feeders can also be helpful in this situation.
  • Don’t give in! It is tempting to just give the vocal cat what he/she wants so that they will be quiet, but you need to wait out the noise to change the behavior.

What does your cat like to meow about?