It’s a fact of life – cats meow. It is one of the ways they communicate their needs to us. If you believe that your cat’s meowing is excessive, you need to understand why your cat is vocalizing in order to change his behavior.

Overnight Meowing

Cats, especially young ones, are naturally most active late at night and early in the morning.

Ignore the behavior. Rewarding your cat with any kind of attention will reinforce this behavior. Many times people will get up to feed their cat, play with him, or chase him out of the room if he is up meowing, thus teaching him that disturbing you works. 

Exercise your cat earlier in the evening. Tire your cat out by providing him with a few sessions of interactive play early in the evening. 

Manage your cat’s environment during the night. Confine your cat in a cat-proofed room overnight with a litter box, water, bedding, and some toys. 

Awaken during the day. Cats who sleep all day while their families are at work have more energy to use at night. Set wind-up alarm clocks to wake her a couple times during the day. Put out a special toy that she only gets when you are gone (remember to put it away when you get home). “Hide” Kitty Kong toys with a couple treats in them around the house. Play a DVD with birds, fish, and other visuals designed to entertain cats. If possible, have a friend or pet sitter visit her in the middle of the day (even if it’s only once or twice a week, your cat will appreciate it).

Change of Routine

Cats like stability and predictability. Changes, whether major (moving, a new pet or person in the home, altered schedule) or minor (rearranged furniture, new litter) can upset some cats. Excessive meowing can many times be a reaction to this stress.

Provide a new toy and offer some quiet cuddle time with your cat. Doing so should help to reduce his stress and get his mind off what is worrying him.  

Provide as much consistency and stability as you can. For instance, if you have moved, keep feeding him at the same times as you did before the move. It is also helpful to decide from day one where the litter boxes and pet beds will be and put them there, rather than moving them as you unpack. When he is more comfortable with the change the meowing will stop. 

Illness

A sudden increase in vocalizing, especially in an older cat, may be an indication that he is sick. Cats do a good job of hiding their illnesses; often a behavior change is the first sign that there is something wrong. 

Take your cat to your veterinarian for a thorough physical examination to make sure he is healthy.

Seeking Attention

Cats often meow in order to get attention, and much of the time they are successful. This can become a vicious cycle: you pet your cat to make him be quiet, he learns that being noisy gets attention so he meows more, so you pet him more…. 

The cure for this type of meowing is to ignore it. Any type of attention, including telling him to be quiet, reinforces the behavior. Walk out of the room if you must, but don’t give in to your cat’s calls. Do give attention when he is quiet or engaged in another behavior that you find acceptable – sitting in the window or rubbing against your leg for instance. For more information, read our article on Improper Attention Seeking. 

Breed Tendencies

Some breeds, such as the Siamese and Tonkinese, are predisposed to being talkative. This can be modified somewhat by not giving attention during meowing.

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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