Tip 67 – Cat vocalizations – talking cats – excessive meowing
Cats produce various types of vocalizations. These range from the common meow, to cat calls, to hissing etc. When cats meow several times in a row or for an extended period we humans call that talking. Different breeds “talk” more than other breeds. Most notably the Oriental breeds such as the Siamese, or mixed breeds with some Oriental heritage are known to be good vocalizers.
Cats usually vocalize because they want something like food, rubs or a good brushing. Often though what they want is for you to pay attention to them. Occasional meowing throughout the day is cute and part of many cats’ normal behaviour. It does become a problem however in the middle of the night when you are sleeping. The rule of thumb is this: Any type of attention or response to a cat’s meowing or talking, is a reward for the cat. Scolding, yelling, or shushing can equal reward times three. The best way to discourage the behaviour is to give no reaction when it meows and EXTRA attention and reaction when it’s quiet. If the problem is in the middle of the night get a pair of earplugs but never react. If you’ve tried the silent treatment and the cat still over meows at inappropriate times you can try squirting it with a water bottle from under your bedroom door. This should work well as long as the cat does not know that the punishment is coming from you. The goal is for the cat to associate meowing at your door with a squirt.
There are circumstances when you should be more considerate if you cat is vocalizing more than usual. Cats can become vocal when they are in a transitional phase like a move or the death of someone in the family or another cat. Try to provide extra love and support during these times by giving the cat more attention along with a few extra cat toys or treats. Again, give this extra attention when the cat is quiet, not while it’s actually doing the vocalizing.
Extra tip: Cats often hide illness until they are extremely sick. This is due to the fact that in the wild, a sick cat (weakened) is an easy target for other predators. If your cat is not a regular talker and has recently started meowing excessively, this could well indicate a serious physical problem or illness and a vet visit is in order.