Many guardians enjoy cats that are vocal. It can be endearing to get a meow back after speaking to them. Your cat may not know exactly what you said, but they understand that you are talking to them. Cats don’t meow to each other as a natural behavior. Your kitty learned to meow as a way to communicate with humans. To each other they use body language and the occasional hiss, growl.or mating related sounds.
Some breeds are more vocal than others. Siamese kitties always have a lot to say as do Peterbald, Sphynx, Cornish Rex and a few others that are known for being particularly talkative.
The point of excessive vocalization comes when it becomes disruptive to you. This could be because they’re meowing in the middle of the night, or crying for constant attention that doesn’t stop until they get what they want. This could be for petting, food, being picked up, etc.. Your cat continues to meow because they’ve learned that it works successfully. You have become very well trained. To work on this behavior issue, it will involve retraining the humans.
There is only one way to solve the problem of excessive vocalization. You have to ignore it. The cat has to eventually learn that meowing no longer gets her what she wants. This will likely be very difficult for the guardian. A cat’s cry sounds child-like and we certainly all want to make our babies happy.
For cats meowing in the middle of the night, or at least at a time that you’re sleeping, try and determine what the cat is looking for. Are they hungry? Maybe it’s the weekend and you’re sleeping past their usual breakfast time. This can be helped with timed feeders. These devices can be programmed to open at set times with food placed inside compartments. The critical component here is that you should not be getting up and giving them food. That only reinforces the behavior. It may seem like an quick fix to quiet the noise, but you want to make it stop permanently. Leaving out a bowl of food for free feeding overnight may also help.
For other times of day, the it’s the same principle. If your cat is meowing relentlessly for some type of attention, it has to be ignored at that moment. If it’s petting or playing you think they want, initiate that activity before they start meowing and include a treat with it. If you’ve learned what time this may occur, initiate the behavior a few minutes before.
It may not seem like it at first, but eventually that attention-seeking meowing will stop. This is what’s called the extinction of the behavior. It is critical that you ignore the meowing consistently. If someone gives in every other, or even every 5th time, this will actually make the problem worse. It’s the whole philosophy behind the gambling industry. The idea that a win coming, but we don’t know when,makes us try more and more to get it. Your cat will react the same way with possibly more ways to try and get your attention.
It is common for a cat to have an extinction burst during this retraining period. They are starting to learn that the usual method of getting you to do what they want isn’t working. So, they try and find other methods. This could include knocking things off a nearby shelf, or walking on your head while you’re sleeping. Be prepared for this to happen after a few weeks and know that is is temporary. When your cat finally learns that nothing will work, they will stop the attempts. I will reiterate, everyone in the household must be in on the game plan and not give in. Any inconsistently will slow your progress and possibly make things worse.
If you have an older cat, CDS (Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome) could be the problem. This is a similar condition to dementia. Your cat may be confused, not realize it’s not meal time, and be looking for you. If your cat hadn’t been especially vocal previously, but it started recently or as they’ve aged, please speak with your vet. Other signs can include staring into space or litterbox issues (they may forget where the box is). Your vet can help determine if this may be the problem and work on ways to improve their quality of life.