Your furry friend has always been chatty. He meows when he sees you, when he’s hungry, or when he’s feeling lonely. But now the frequency has changed. He’s meowing all the time — over the course of the last few days, or just for a few minutes. But it’s got you worried. Could something be wrong?
Or maybe he’s just too loud, whining at every meal and whenever you leave his side. Sometimes you just wish he could be quiet.
If you think your cat meows too much, you need a quick course in what all that meowing actually means. Let’s break it down.
YOU TALKING TO ME?
The first thing to know about the meows your kitty makes is that they’re generally for your ears only.
Cats do talk to each other. They hiss, growl, screech, purr, and chirp. Each vocalization can have a different meaning, from greeting to a warning. But rarely does cat-to-cat communication include a meow — that familiar, open vowel sound every cat owner knows by heart.
When they’re young, kittens meow to get the attention of their mother. But as cats mature, they communicate with their fellow felines in other ways. Unfortunately, we humans can’t pick up on the scents cats emit to send signals to each other, and we’re pretty clueless when it comes to body language, even when we notice it.
We are, however, acutely attuned to sounds.
While feral cats are mostly silent once they reach maturity, their domesticated cousins maintain the meowing habit into adulthood. That’s because our kitties need everything from affection to food from their human owners, and meow is often the only way to get our attention.
MEANING FROM MEOWS
So what exactly do those meows mean? It’s not always easy to tell. While a vocal cat might want to be fed or let into a room, he might also just want to say hello when you get home from work.
Then again, he might be expressing his state of mind. Longer, drawn-out meows might mean your pet is perturbed, annoyed or upset about something. A shorter mew sound might mean pet me or feed me. Younger cats will often make those meows sound like a question, with an upward inflection on the end that says “can you help me out here?”
Meowing patterns also change with age. An aging cat with diminished movement and senses may meow more as if expressing confusion about slowing down and getting old. Meows at this stage of your cat’s life are normal, but may also be treatable. Try a nightlight if the vocalizations are more common at night, and see your vet. Medications are available to help treat the symptoms of aging.
But meows may also signal that something serious is wrong.
How much meowing is too much? There’s no clear answer — but the good news is, you are the best person equipped to know. That’s because no one knows your cat better than you do.
The chief thing to watch out for is a change in vocal behavior. Your cat might be a meowing machine. If that’s always the case, there may not be much to worry about.
Some breeds, typically the short-haired and Asian varieties, are instinctively chatty and tend to vocalize more than others. And sometimes, a long series of meows can just be your cat’s way of trying extra hard to get your attention.
But if there’s a sudden change in the frequency of your cat’s vocal pattern, you should definitely pay attention. Excessive meowing could mean your cat is sick or injured — and that could mean a trip to the vet.
Cats are susceptible to diseases of the thyroid and kidneys that can increase hunger, thirst or pain — all of which can lead to constant vocalizing. Make sure to get your pet checked out if you’re concerned.
KEEPING THEM QUIET
If an illness isn’t the answer, and you just wish you had a quieter cat, there are ways to get your wish. The trick is to find out exactly what’s behind your feline’s mews and meows. Remember, your cat is mainly trying to get your attention.
If he constantly meows when he wants to be fed, try to train him out of the habit. Wait until he’s quiet to put out his food, or get an automated feeder. That way the machine, not you, will have to hear his crying.
If he’s lonely or bored, give him more to do. Find toys he likes and put a different one out every day, or put a bird feeder outside his favorite window to keep him occupied.
If he’s stressed out and wants attention? Don’t ignore his pleas completely, but reward his silence. Shower him with affection when he stops the constant meowing, and walk away if it starts up again. Remember, too, that playing with him for a few minutes each day can wear him out — and he won’t meow if he’s asleep.
Above all, make an attempt to understand what your cat is trying to tell you. Responding appropriately can help keep his meowing more manageable. Whatever you do, don’t try punishment as an answer. Hitting or yelling at a cat rarely solves the problem, and can damage your relationship with your pet.
Instead, be persistent in training out the negative behavior. It may take some time, but if you’re consistent and don’t give up, you’ll soon have a quieter kitty.