August 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Cats can be very vocal, and certain cats are more vocal than others. Cats learn to use vocalization to communicate with humans. Certain breeds, such as Siamese, are even known for their vocal demeanor. Many different feline vocalizations exist, and experts have tried to classify the different acoustic variations.

Most cat owners know when to give their cat attention or when it is time to feed (at least in the cat's opinion). Most people can tell when their cat is happy or when they are angry or distraught - many emotions are differentiated by the different tones, pitches, and noises.

Some caregivers love to "talk" with their cats. If you foster or adopt a cat when they are an adult, it is possible that this behavior was reinforced by a prior guardian.

Cats vocalize to get attention. They also vocalize to express emotions such as discomfort or pain, agitation and in some cases, territoriality. If you have a very "chatty" cat, you can stop this habit by not rewarding the behavior and talk back. Ignore them when they meow, do not talk to them or provide them with food or play-especially not in the middle of the night. This should be the backbone of your behavior modification plan. Also pay close attention when your cat is being quiet and give them attention to reward and reinforce that silence.

Always ensure that your cat's needs are met on a daily basis and before your cats demands it. In some cases, it is beneficial to provide your cat with an alternative feeding option. This can be an automatic feeder or food-dispensing and interactive toys in a different room of the home.

Cats need plenty of attention and interaction. Make sure that somewhere in your daily schedule you allot times for scheduled play sessions. Cats like routine and will often meow excessively if their routine is changed. Provide your cat with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Cats are most active during morning and evening hours-similar to their natural hunting hours. Indoor cats need to be entertained and encouraged to play and exercise. Toys, food cubes that make cats work to get the food, and the occasional catnip help keep them from getting bored. Interactive playtime is the best kind of playtime for cats.

Some cats have a difficult time adjusting to a new home. You may notice excessive meowing if you have just moved to a new home or have just brought a cat into your home. It is normal, especially for an adult cat, to be disoriented and unsure in a new environment. Introducing your cat to the house gradually may help prevent some agitation. This behavior usually takes a few weeks to resolve.

Pay attention to environmental changes to see if something could be bothering your cat, such as a new stray cat coming by your back door.

Make sure your cat's diet is adequate and they have a clean litter box and fresh water at all times. If your cat seems excessively hungry, schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.

If a normally quiet cat has become very vocal, your cat could be in pain. Make sure there is nothing medically wrong with them; schedule a check-up with your vet. If your cat is getting older, they could be going deaf or displaying cognitive dysfunction.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie's Fund®