August 2019

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

Most people know when to give their cat attention, or when it is time to feed (at least in your cat's opinion). Most people can tell when cats are happy and or if they are angry or distraught. Many of those emotions are differentiated by the different tones and noises the cat makes.

Cats can learn to communicate with us, just as we learn to communicate with them. Cats meow or vocalize to get our attention, or express discomfort or pain.

Your cat may have learned that if they meow, people will talk back to them, play with them, feed them, or even yell at them. Remember, for some cats (and kids!) negative attention is better than none at all.

Some people love to "talk" with their cats. If you've brought home an adult cat, it is possible that this behavior was encouraged by a prior owner. This is often how behavior patterns start and you now have a very "chatty" kitty.

In order to decrease this habit, first start by not talking back, providing them with food, or whatever they are asking for. Ignore them when they meow, especially when this happens in the middle of the night. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try earplugs and close the door to your bedroom. You will have to be strict for a few nights, because if that behavior has worked in the past, your cat will try harder for a few nights before giving up.

Additionally, pay close attention when they are being quiet and immediately reward them for the moment of silence. This should be the backbone of your plan to fix this issue. Also try an alternative option for food such as timed automatic feeders and interactive food-dispensing toys in various rooms of your home.

Make sure your cat is healthy and all their daily needs are met. Ensure their diet is adequate and they have a clean litter box and fresh water at all times. If your cat receives a balanced diet but continues to seem excessively hungry, consult a veterinarian as they might have a medical condition.

Provide them with a regular daily routine. Cats like routine and will often meow excessively if their routine is changed. Cats need attention and interaction, so make sure you allot times for scheduled play sessions. It helps to give your cat a good play session before you go to bed.

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. Even a cat with access to the outdoors will want and need interactions with people. New toys (bought or made), food cubes that make cats work for food, and the occasional catnip toy help keep them from getting bored. Interactive playtime is the best kind of playtime for cats.

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