Most cats like to chat, but some loquacious kitties never seem to quit. They meow in the morning, cry in the afternoon and yowl at night.
“If you live with a cat, he believes you must live by his rules — and the rules are communicated through demanding meows,” explains Jim Humphries, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Dallas and author of Dr. Jim’s Animal Clinic for Cats and Dr. Jim’s Animal Clinic for Dogs.
Some cats simply appear to like the sound of their own voices, adds Carin Smith, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Leavenworth, Washington, and author of 101 Training Tips for Your Cat.
But if his catcalls are too much for you — or your neighbors — to handle, here’s what experts recommend.
Show ’em the door. Some cats, like people, can never make up their minds: When they’re inside they ask to go out, and when they’re outside they beg to come in. “Put in a kitty door,” suggests Dr. Smith.
Dozens of pet doors are available, with prices beginning at about $25. In most cases they’re easy to install yourself. “That’s an easy solution,” says Dr. Smith.
Feed him regularly. Rather than feeding your kitty only when he cries for food, try feeding him at the same times every day, suggests Deborah Edwards, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Largo, Florida. Once he understands the meal schedule, he’ll be less inclined to give you reminders in between.
Extend the dinner hour. If you trust your cat not to overindulge, keeping his food bowl full will eliminate at least one cause for complaints, says Dr. Humphries. If he starts putting on the pounds, however, you may have to try another strategy.
Give him extra strokes. Frequent meowing is often a gambit for attention, says Dr. Smith. Spending a little more quality time with your pet — petting him, playing with him or even going for walks — will probably help keep him quieter.
Draw the line. While most cats will cool the chatter once they get what they’re asking for, others rarely quit. Whatever you do, says Dr. Smith, don’t encourage him.
“Even if you hold out as long as you can but then respond, what he’s learned is that the longer he meows, the more likely it is he’ll get your attention,” she says. “Be strong. Simply ignore him.”
Reward good behavior. Just as it’s important to ignore him when he’s talking, you’ll also want to praise him when he’s quiet, says H. Ellen Whiteley, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Guadalupita, New Mexico, and author of Understanding and Training Your Cat or Kitten.
“Wait until he’s being quiet, then say, ‘ Oh, what a nice kitty!’ ” she suggests. “Then give him a tidbit of tuna or pet him and play with him.”
Take tough action. The next time your chatty cat goes into his meow cycle, try giving him a blast from a squirt bottle, suggests Dr. Smith. “They soon realize it’s no fun to meow if every time they open their mouths, they get squirted.”
Help him relax. Constant crying in cats could be a sign of boredom or stress, says Alan Parker, Ph.D., a veterinary neurologist and chief of staff of the Small Animal Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana-Champaign.
He recommends introducing him to some new toys, preferably the kind that will keep him mentally challenged. A cat track with an enclosed ball is always a good choice. “You want to make his life more interesting,” he says.
When to See the Vet
While most meowing is a cry for attention, in some cases it means your pet is sick or in pain and needs a veterinarian’s care.
Noting what your cat is doing when he cries can provide valuable clues as to what the problem is, says Jim Humphries, D.V.M., a veterinary consultant in private practice in Dallas. If he meows when eating, for example, he could have tender teeth or difficulty swallowing. Similarly, meowing in the litter box could mean he’s constipated or is having trouble urinating.
“A change in the tone of your cat’s meow typically means an upper respiratory or lung problem,” adds Dr. Humphries. Excessive meowing can also be a symptom of a hormone imbalance called hyperthyroidism.
Don’t take chances if your formerly quiet feline has suddenly joined the choir. Get him to a vet, Dr. Humphries advises.