Why is My Cat Meowing?

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 can learn to use vocalization to communicate with humans. Certain breeds, such as Siamese, are even known for their chattiness. Many different feline vocalizations exist, and experts have tried to classify the different acoustic variations.

Most people know when to give their cat attention or when it is time to feed (at least in the cat's opinion). Also, most people can tell when a cat is happy, and some of us have heard a very angry or distraught cat. Those emotions are differentiated by the different tones, pitches, and noises.

Some owners love to "talk" with their cats. If you've brought home an adult cat, it is possible that this behavior was reinforced by a prior guardian.

Cats vocalize to get attention and to express many emotions such as discomfort or pain, agitation, and in some cases, territoriality. If you have a very "chatty" cat, one way to stop this habit is to simply not reward the behavior by talking back. Ignore them when they meow. Do not talk to your cat 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 to your cat when they are being quiet and give them attention to reward to reinforce that silence.

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

Cats need plenty of attention and interaction, so make sure that you allot times for scheduled play sessions daily. 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-similarly to their natural hunting hours. Indoor cats need to be entertained and encouraged to play and exercise. 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.

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 their diet is adequate and they have a clean litter box and fresh water at all times. If your cat seems excessively hungry, consult a 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 experiencing cognitive dysfunction.

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

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