Cats meow for several reasons and the reasons change from kittenhood to adulthood.
When kittens are hungry, cold, or scared, they meow to their mommies. When they grow older, they use other vocalizations. They yowl, hiss, and growl to communicate with each other. Meowing is reserved by cats for communicating with people, said Sandy Eckstein in “Cats and Excessive Meowing” in pets.webmd.com as reviewed by Dr. Amy Flowers.
The frequency and length of meowing varies by breed and depends on the 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,” Eckstein said.
Reasons for excessive meowing
Eckstein enumerated the reasons for this, from serious causes to attention-seeking:
Illness. The first thing an owner should do is to have the cat checked by the vet. Hunger, thirst or pain can lead to excessive meowing. These are caused by diseases which only a vet can determine through tests for proper diagnosis and treatment. The cat could also have developed an overactive thyroid or a kidney disease, both of which can lead to excessive vocalizations.
Attention seeking. It is not true that it is okay for cats to be alone a lot. “Cats often meow to initiate play, petting, or to get you to talk to them,” said Eickstein. To minimize attention-seeking meows, stop responding when it happens. Give the cat attention only when he or she is quiet. “If they start to meow again, look or walk away. But don’t ignore your pet. Spend quality time each day with them, playing, grooming, and talking to them. A tired pet is a quieter pet,” Eikstein said.
Wants food. Some cats meow when you walk in the kitchen and they want a bite of food. Many cats become very vocal when feeding time is near. Do not feed the cat when he/she cries if this is the situation. Wait until they are quiet to put down food, and don’t give them treats when they meow. If this doesn’t work, get an automatic feeder that opens at set times. Now kitty will meow at the feeder and not you,” Eickstein said.
Greeting you. Many cats meow when their humans come home, or when they meet them in the house. “This is a hard habit to break, but look at it as kitty saying they are happy to see you,” Eickstein said.
They are lonely. If your pet is alone most of the time, think about getting a pet sitter to enrich your pet’s life. “Put a bird feeder outside a window they can watch. Leave foraging toys out with food inside. Get them a kitty condo and rotate different toys that you leave out for play,” Eickstein suggested.
A stressed cat. A cat who is stressed becomes 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 them adjust to the change. If that’s not possible, give your cat extra attention to help soothe them,” Eickstein advised.
Aging cats. Cats, like humans, can develop 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,” Eicksten said.
Cats that want to breed. A cat who is not spayed or neutered will make lots of noise when in heat. “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,” Eickstein said.
What Not to Do
Never ignore excessive meowing unless you are sure there is 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,” Eickstein said. “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.”
Never 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,” Eickstein said.
Never give in. If your cat knows she will get what she wants if she meows, she will meow all the more, and louder at that. “In other words, it will probably get worse before it gets better. Just keep rewarding quiet behavior and ignoring meowing, and eventually, they’ll get the idea,” Eickstein said.