Meowing is a cat’s primary mode of communication. Aside from purring, it’s the most common noise a cat makes. However, cats don’t meow to each other aside from kittens.
Our Cat Behavioralist, Katenna Jones, chimes in: “Kittens naturally meow to their mothers or other adults when they need or want something. As cats mature, meowing at each other typically goes away but meowing at humans can be retained for similar reasons why kittens meow at adult cats.”
Since cats don’t meow at each other, then why do they meow?
Katenna continues, “With time and practice and human reinforcement, cats can learn to develop a repertoire of meows that mean different things. For example, one meow might mean give me food, while another might mean give me attention or play with me. This is why you don’t see meowing among non-human-socialized feral cats. If you have a pet cam, you will see that most meowing is for humans. Cats in heat meow less when humans are not home vs. when their humans are home.”
The talkativeness of cats can vary based upon personality and breed. Siamese are one of the most vocal cat breeds! While meowing is normal, it can become an issue when it becomes excessive.
How do you know when meowing is excessive?
Excessive vocalization is uncontrollable, excessive meowing or crying at inappropriate times of the day or night. Simply, it’s a cat meowing more than usual. While this can be annoying, rest assured there is a reason for it. However, you know your cat best. If your cat is normally chatty, there may not be a reason for meowing. If there’s been a change, it would be wise to investigate.
Reasons why your cat might meow a lot and how to stop it
Cats will meow excessively while in heat, a noise called caterwauling. However, what possible reasons would a cat meow all the time when not in heat? Katenna Jones, Cat Behavioralist, lists these as the top reasons:
The top reason for a cat to meow excessively is to seek attention. We’ve already established cats meow almost exclusively to communicate with humans. It’s the best tool in the repertoire to get our attention.
Cats can become lonely or bored despite common belief. Cats will meow to initiate play, pets, or ask for something else. An attention meow will be loud, and sometimes cats will do it in an area that echoes.
If your cat is meowing for attention, you must figure out what they want. This is the surest way to decrease or stop the meowing. Some cats will want you to follow them, leading you to the issue. You can also see whether they’ve brought a toy or are rubbing against you for pets. Another strategy to stop it is not to reward the behavior. Don’t respond when they are meowing, but when they are quiet. However, be sure not to ignore them completely.
The secondary reason for a cat meowing is to signal you that something is wrong. Many cats’ first instinct is to hide away when in pain or sick. But it can also let you know something is wrong. If your cat is suffering from hunger or other needs, they may meow excessively due to illnesses exacerbating these issues. Additionally, cats with an overactive thyroid or kidney disease may meow excessively.
The best action is to watch your cat closely for any other signs of illness or pain. If you notice anything, it would be best to contact your veterinarian to ensure nothing is wrong.
Your cat can be stressed or frustrated, just like humans. However, their signs of stress or frustration don’t quite emerge similarly. For cats, it may seem like behavioral issues are the cause. If they suddenly meow excessively, check to see whether there have been any environmental changes.
It would be best to soothe the source of your cat’s frustration or stress. To help these feelings, you can find ways to destress your cat. You can provide enrichment activities during the day while you’re at work. Additionally, pheromone sprayers such as Feliway reduce your cats’ anxiety.
While there are band-aid solutions, it would be best to meet your cat’s needs. However, it may not be easy to figure out at first. If your cat is bored or wants to go outside, try stimulating them. If you cannot find a solution, you can always communicate with your vet to find a potential solution.
As cats age, they experience a decline in function. This can manifest in different ways. In some, it results in deafness or blindness. If your cat is going deaf or blind, you may notice them not responding to your voice or bumping into things. Additionally, cats can experience cognitive decline similar to dementia in humans.
If your cat is having these issues, you may be able to use a nightlight for blind cats or move things out of the way. For deaf cats, don’t startle them. If you’re concerned regarding cognitive issues, contact your vet for advice.
In most cases, your cat is meowing for assistance. If you’re still unable to figure out the reason for meowing, it might be best to get the advice of your veterinarian to ensure nothing is wrong.
Should I be worried if my cat meows a lot? When should I see my vet?
Most of the time, it shouldn’t worry you if your cat meows a lot. Cats meowing may vary based on the breed and personality. However, if you see other issues, contact your vet. This would be important if you think your cat is sick or in pain.
Does excessive meowing mean my cat is in pain?
Excessive meowing doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is in pain, but it could. Watch for other signs of illness if you are concerned.
What if my cat’s meowing has become excessive all of a sudden?
This can indicate a change in the environment, making your cat either stressed or frustrated. Additionally, it could mean your cat is in pain. If there is a behavior change, this is something you should investigate.
Why do cats meow at night?
Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk. During this time, most humans are asleep, but your cat is wide awake and ready to play. This can create a scheduling issue as your cat may want attention or something else while you’re sleeping.
If your cat is active at night and you’re night, they may cry because they want attention.
To prevent nighttime meowing, you shouldn’t reward nighttime behavior with attention. You should play with your cat during the day and feed them too. Over time, your cat may shift their schedule to sleep with you if they’re active during the day.
What you shouldn’t do to stop it
The most important lesson here is don’t punish your cat for meowing or crying. While the sound may be annoying, you shouldn’t spray them with water or anything else harmful. Negative reinforcement will harm the relationship between you and your cat.
The best thing to do is address the need and ignore the behavior. This will incentivize your cat if you only respond when they are quiet and calm. If you give them attention, the behavior will increase.
However, it can feel like it takes forever for behavior to stop. Your cat will meow for hours and hours until you can’t take it anymore. However, an extinction burst increases the frequency or intensity of unwanted behavior before it stops. Extinction bursts are common with cats who exhibit meowing behavior.
Why won’t my kitten stop crying?
Your kitten may be crying because this is how they used to communicate with their mother. If you have recently adopted a kitten, they may be confused or need something.
Why does my cat walk around the house meowing and rubbing against things?
Your cat may be walking around meowing and rubbing against things because they are excited or wants attention. Cats rub against things to put their scent on them and mark them as territory.
Why is my female cat suddenly meowing a lot?
Your female cat is likely primarily meowing because she is in heat. Felines are in heat between February to October. If your cat isn’t fixed, she will go into heat every two to three weeks. During this time, she will try to mate with available males. She may meow a lot to signal she wants to go outside.
Do cats get more vocal as they age?
A cat’s personality is pretty set as they become an adult. However, senior cats may meow more than before. This is usually because their hearing declines. They may become noisier to help compensate or try to find you.
Why does my cat follow me around and meow?
Your cat may follow you around and meow to either talk to you or signal they want attention.