My dear friend has a seven-year-old rescue cat that never stops meowing. She tried using a collar for this purpose to no avail. She loves her cat, but the meowing is driving her crazy. Can you offer any advice to stop the constant meowing?
– Marilyn, via email
Cats use “meow” and its many variations to communicate with people, not cats, so it’s great her cat wants to “talk” to her. But too much feline vocalization can drive some cat parents crazy. Here are some reasons for the excessive vocalization and how to handle it.
If the vocalizations have increased over time, ask your friend to take her cat to the veterinarian to rule out health issues or hearing loss. Also, older cats sometimes develop cognitive issues (similar to Alzheimer’s or dementia) that can make them more vocal – although seven-years-old is still young for a cat to develop these problems. If anxiety is the suspected culprit, your veterinarian can recommend supplements or treatments to reduce the excessive vocalizations.
Next, some cat breeds, like Siamese, Burmese, Turkish Angora, Maine Coon, and Tonkinese, can be very vocal, and even downright “get yourself some coffee and sit a spell” chatty. And, mixed breed cats may have some of these breed traits. These cats have opinions on such things as how long you have been gone from home and when and how often they should be fed. They are smart and love stimulating conversation but are easily bored. Tell your friend to buy toys that make a cat use its hunting behaviors, and rotate the toys every two days, so the cat stays active. Simply put, keep the feline mind and body busy, and he or she won’t chat as much.
Cats may also use vocalizations as attention-seeking behaviors. Just like dogs, cats can train their humans to feed them, pick them up, and pet them on demand. Anyone who has ever had a cat meow to go outside knows it’s tough to outlast a cat who is determined to get his or her way. But outlast her cat, she must. Tell your friend to schedule meal times to reduce demands, call the cat to her before the cat asks for attention, and wait for the moment when the cat stops meowing to pet or pick up. This basic training will help her cat learn that quietness equals attention and reduce the cat’s need to constantly educate her owner about proper feline etiquette.
I am not sure what you mean by “using a collar,” but please ask your friend to never scold or punish her cat. It’s ineffective and only turns a sweet, good-natured, friendly feline into an ornery and annoyed companion.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal