Why do cats meow? The reasons change as they grow from kittens into cats. Kittens meow to their mothers when they’re hungry, cold, or scared. But once cats get older, they use other vocalizations -- such as yowling, hissing, and growling -- to communicate with each other. Meowing is reserved for their communications with people.
Of course, the amount of meowing varies by breed and even cat. Oriental breeds, especially Siamese cats, are known as great “talkers,” so anyone who doesn’t like meowing probably should steer clear of these breeds.
And some cats just seem to like to hear their own voices, while others seem to want to carry on a conversation with their owners. If your cat is talking a little more than you’d like, try to figure out the cause first. Once you know the reason, you can then work to get your cat to meow less.
Why Does My Cat Meow So Much?
Cats meow for many reasons, from the serious to the attention-seeking. They include:
- Illness. The first step is a thorough checkup by your veterinarian. Numerous diseases can cause a cat to feel hunger, thirst, or pain, all of which can lead to excessive meowing. Cats of all ages also can develop an overactive thyroid or kidney disease, both of which can result in excessive vocalizations.
- Attention seeking. Despite what some people think, cats don’t like being alone a lot. Cats often meow to initiate play, petting, or to get you to talk to them. If you want to cut down on attention-seeking meows, stop responding when it happens. Only give her attention when she’s quiet. If she starts to meow again, look or walk away. But don’t ignore your pet. Spend quality time each day with her, playing, grooming, and talking to her. A tired pet is a quieter pet.
- Wants food. Some cats meow every time someone walks in the kitchen, hoping to get a bite. And many cats become very vocal when it gets close to their feeding times. If this is your problem, don’t feed your cat when she cries. Wait until she quiets to put down food, and don’t give her treats when she meows. If this doesn’t work, get an automatic feeder that opens at set times. Now kitty will meow at the feeder and not you.
- Greeting you. Many cats meow when their people come home, or even when they just meet them in the house. This is a hard habit to break, but look at it as kitty saying she’s happy to see you.
- She’s lonely. If your pet spends too many hours a day alone, think about getting a pet sitter to drop in during the day, or find other ways to enrich your pet’s life. Put a bird feeder outside a window she can watch. Leave foraging toys out with food inside. Get her a kitty condo and rotate different toys that you leave out for play.
- A stressed cat. Cats that are experiencing stress often become more vocal. A new pet or baby, a move or changes to the home, an illness or the loss of a loved one can turn your cat into a talker. Try to discover what is stressing your pet and help her adjust to the change. If that’s not possible, give your cat extra attention and quiet time to help soothe her.
- Aging cats. Cats, just like people, can suffer from a form of mental confusion, or cognitive dysfunction, as they age. They become disoriented and often cry plaintively for no apparent reason, especially at night. A nightlight sometimes can help if your cat becomes disoriented at night, and veterinarians often can prescribe medications that help these symptoms.
- Cats that want to breed. If your cat isn’t spayed or neutered, then you’re going to hear a lot more noise. Females yowl when in heat, and males yowl when they smell a female in heat. Both can be maddening to live with. Getting your pet spayed or neutered will prevent this.
What Not to Do
- Don't ignore it without making sure there’s no problem. Although you don’t want to reward meowing, sometimes cats meow for good reason - they can’t reach their litter box, they’re trapped in a room, the water bowl is empty. Check on them when they meow to determine if it’s something you can safely ignore, or a problem that must be corrected right away.
- Don’t punish a cat for meowing. Hitting, shouting, and spraying cats with water rarely work to quiet a meowing cat in the long run, but all those actions will make your cat distrust or even dislike you.
- Don’t give in. If your cat is used to getting what he wants from meowing, he’s going to meow more, and louder, when it quits working. In other words, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Just keep rewarding quiet behavior and ignoring meowing, and eventually he’ll get the idea.