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Too Chatty? How to Train Your Cat to be Less Vocal

March 27, 2012

In case you haven’t heard, most house cats meow for one purpose: To get your attention.

Photo courtesy tunaboat

It’s a behavioral trait they pick up once they realize meowing for pets, food or anything else they may desire usually gets them what they want. But what happens when your cat becomes a bit too vocal? Don’t worry, there are ways to (hopefully!) re-train him.

First, you need to understand a few things. For example, the several reasons why your cat may be meowing to get your attention. Also, some breeds are simply more prone to being vocal, including the Siamese.

Once you understand those things, you’ll be better equipped to figure out the best way to help cut back on your cat’s meowing. For example, does your cat only meow when it’s time for a meal? What does it take to get her to stop? Try to identify a pattern of behavior.

Your cat meows the moment you come home: If your cat meows the instant you walk in the door, odds are she’s simply saying hello. This is most likely the case especially if you respond back with a greeting. I wouldn’t worry too much about this, as it simply means you have a friendly cat!

Your cat meows for attention: This will require a bit of training, as you’ll have to teach her you’ll only pay attention to her when she’s quiet. Once she settles down, immediately pet her and play with her. If she begins to meow, walk away and only return when she’s quiet again. Behaviorists say that if you’re consistent, she’ll figure it out.

Your cat cries when she’s lonely: If your downstairs neighbors clue you in that your cat cries during the day, you may want to take a few measures to make her feel more comfortable. If you’re out of the house for long periods of time, is there any way you or a friend can stop by during the day? Perhaps you can consider adopting a companion for her. Also look into different cat toys that may keep her entertained while you’re gone.

Photo courtesy rainbowcave

Your cat meows at meal time: Most often, this translates to “when your cat *thinks* it’s meal time.” If you notice your cat becoming bossier and bossier whenever she’s feeling hungry, simply stick to a schedule so she knows that she’ll only be fed at certain times — and don’t give in. Otherwise you’re rewarding negative behavior. If you can’t feed her at the same time each day, some suggest investing in an automatic feeder.

One last suggestion is to get your cat checked out by your vet. If you have a patterned history of meows, all the better. Sometimes a medical condition will be the root of excessive meowing, so depending on the situation you may want to get it checked out.

No matter what, don’t ignore your cat when she cries, but rather try to figure out why she’s crying. She’s likely trying to communicate something to you, whether one of the things above, or something more urgent — like she’s trapped somewhere or her litter box needs to be cleaned.

Be open minded and patient, and odds are you’ll be able to find a solution that makes the both of you happy.

Does your cat meow constantly? Have you found ways to train her to be less vocal? Please share in the comments!

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 6:33 am

    I haven’t even bothered to try…
    Worrals has a voice like a Siamese and likes to tell me all about it whenever she comes indoors; she stops when she’s been petted. It’s all she wants…. and it’s a sight better than the half-hour yowling sessions hanging on the back of the door saying ‘WOOOW!WOOOOWW SCREEEEW MEEEEE NOOOOWW II NEEEED A MAAAAAN!’ when she had her first – and last – season. [She was already booked in for spaying]. I kept fearing the neighbours would ask how many cats we were torturing to death in there….
    Some cats make a lot of noise as self stimulation when bored – the same phenomenon could be observed in the Romanian orphans of the Ceaucescu era who would make quite animalistic noises at first as part of the reaction to being tied in cots all day long. More toys or another kitty is the answer there! Cats are rarely vocal to each other, only to the staff. And I guess a lot depends on how chatty the staff are happy to have their kitty, but please! don’t have them devocalised, it’s a terrible thing to do.

    • March 28, 2012 7:53 am

      Oh I agree — I hope no one de-vocalizes their cats. I met a basset hound who had his voice box removed and it was heartbreaking. Hopefully if a cat’s vocalizations are too much, these tips will help 🙂

  2. AFStracuzzi permalink
    June 16, 2012 6:52 am

    I have a cat with CH who meows excessively. In the morning, he starts around 03:30 and 04:30. That time its food related (I think) there are cat crackers always available and he DOES eat them. On and off throughout the day he’ll wander around the house meowing like crazy. I’ll sometimes go and pick him up and bring him to where I am. He’ll stay for a bit and then leave, only to sit in the middle of another room or wander around again, meowing. I don’t think its a lonlieness issue, as he leaves our company or the company of our other cat to continue meowing.

    We rescued him a couple of months ago and this behaviour started about a week or 2 ago. My husband and I are trying to get pregnant and when we have children THIS CANNOT CONTINUE. I have enough problems sleeping without being woken up every morning by a hungry cat. Is there anything that can be done to remedy this situation?

    • June 16, 2012 6:09 pm

      Hi — and I’m sorry to hear about your recent troubles! A change in behavior like this can be very frustrating, especially when you’re trying to relax or sleep! To figure out a solution, I’d highly recommend taking your cat in for a vet appointment as well as analyzing your behaviors.

      Often, a sudden change in behavior can reveal a health issue. If it’s not that, think about why your cat may be meowing at those certain times. Are you encouraging the behavior by waking up and feeding him or giving him attention? Perhaps he can’t sleep through the night because he’s not getting enough exercise or attention throughout the day. Maybe he’s lonely — is he an only pet? You may want to consider adopting a companion for him so he can transfer all of that attention to the other cat.

      Either way, your cat is trying to tell you something. Right now it’s your job to figure out what the issue is and what you can do to help. Good luck!

    • AFStracuzzi permalink
      June 17, 2012 7:05 am

      He’s not an only child. He has an older brother from another mother (only a few years older). We’ve had him for a couple of months, but as of the last couple of weeks this has been going on. When we ignore him he meows louder (very similar to the pound cats).

      I understand that his CH is neurological and that there are certain issues that accompany the condition. However, I’m not so sure about his current “meow-fits” because they only started a couple of weeks ago and not as soon as he arrived.

    • June 18, 2012 8:01 am

      You’re right, his “meow-fits” wouldn’t be connected to his CH. I would suggest giving your vet a call and at least discussing the issue with him, and perhaps set up an appointment. He may be able to help.

  3. Danielle C. permalink
    November 1, 2012 4:11 am

    Your post is very helpful and mirrors many of the articles we have been researching in order to get our chatty cat to pipe down a bit. He is only 7 months old now but he is very stubborn. We are trying to dissuade him from his constant meowing for food in morning and night. Part of it is his “omg food-time-yay!” meow, but it’s also part “feed-me-human!” meow. If we ignore him or leave the room, he will meow less loudly and frequently, but as soon as we walk back towards the kitchen door or through the hallway, he will start right back up again. We don’t want to reward this annoying and constant meowing behavior but we cannot get near him without him starting back up again. Would you advise we withhold his food and ignore him until he’s quiet and allows us to walk and get his food without another outburst? I should also mention, when we prepare his food he has already been meowing at us for about half an hour before our alarm goes off in anticipation of food-time. That’s what we want to nix from his schedule the most.
    Thanks for the article and any feedback!
    -Danielle

    • November 1, 2012 8:03 am

      Hi Danielle,
      Sounds like you’re going through a tough time! I would suggest speaking with your vet about this, since he knows your cat best and can recommend the best options for you. But, one thing does come to mind that you may want to bring up with your vet and consider. Does your cat have access to dry food? Leaving some out for him, even if it’s a measured amount, may take the edge off his hunger (and meowing) especially in the morning.

      As for the other times of day, you may want to change your routine, where he eats/where you prepare the food, etc. Right now it sounds like he associates the kitchen with food, so he’ll probably meow even if you keep the same routine but just delay when you feed him. Does that make sense? I think changing the routine a bit may also catch him off guard so he can’t have time to have another outburst.

      Good luck!

  4. Eric permalink
    July 8, 2013 12:18 pm

    They can’t be trained. If they are vocal, you are stuck with it. I have decided to just pick up my cat and smother her with petting, stoking, and demonstration of her actions… yes… meowing at her annoyingly. She is forced to endure the petting and then when I release her, she runs under the couch. I think in those moments, she thinks… “oh, yeah, I guess that could get a little annoying.”

  5. January 29, 2014 9:00 pm

    haha, to the tlast response. yes, my cat meows for all these reasons and besides. he clearly meows for food (human/my food mostly) and when iam feeding him his meows will actually increase in volume and frequency as the food approaches his bowl, ive gotten into a habit of only giving him any food when he is quiet but this doesnt work at all, and also as i am giving the food and he sees that, hell meow.
    then he will just meow at me pretty much all day for no apparent reason, hell have food and water and at times attention. sometiems ill pick him up in case thats it and because it affords me a couple moments of silence,and adores it (hell knead and purr and headbutt me) but i dont think its what he meows for since i wait for him to le tme know he wants to get down, at which point he will just continue meowing.

    it drives me crazy.

  6. Raffy permalink
    February 2, 2014 2:00 pm

    I have an Arabian Mau, bold social very vocal and demanding. Very loving. He was a rescue. He used to drive my husband and I crazy all day with meowing for food. He would trip us towards his food cupboard or meow for hours in front of his food cupboard. I finally figured out a way. Every time before I feed him I snap my fingers to signal I’m getting up to feed him. It has taken a couple of weeks, but he is much less vocal now. He never meows for food in front of his cupboard. The snapping is a trigger that it is food time. And I am very strict with his twice a day feeding schedule. I feed him at the same time. Much happier cat and us too now!

  7. Brandy permalink
    November 10, 2015 2:48 pm

    I understand people don’t feel like vocalisation is a problem. But my ragdoll – he’s different from my two other cats. He can keep meowing constantly to get outdoor (I don’t let him out at night and in rainy days) and that’s a real problem. You have no idea how annoying it is especially you are trying to get some sleep or get work done.

  8. Michelle Lyons permalink
    April 9, 2016 2:00 pm

    My cat is 15 1/2 years old and recently diagnosed with a thyroid condition. Hypothyroid condition. I don’t have any idea how long ago this started but his crying at night was getting so bad. Every hour on the hour was the night that I decided to take him to the vet. He cries when I get home. He cried at the food dish. He cries at the litter box. He cries in the middle of the night. He cries at around three in the morning. I get up at 3:45am to go to work, so I really need my sleep and at that time in the morning aren’t we supposed to be in REM sleep? I am exhausted! I really don’t know what to do.I’ve tried ignoring him and he just gets louder. I am thinking very seriously about getting his vocal cords snipped or whatever they do but just don’t have the heart. He is the only pet but it didn’t start out that way it just ended up that way. He’s been traveling with me and my husband the entire time that I have owned him (6 weeks old). He’s very good in the car and doesn’t cry at all in the car until he can sense that we are close to our destination. Smart cat. All of this cry that he does is still going on and its really starting to wear on me. Any suggestions?

    • Milanka permalink
      August 15, 2016 1:30 pm

      Michelle, I can totally relate to your problem, except that my cat is perfectly healthy 13 y. old, black, domestic- short hair. She is indoor cat. I got her when she was 6 weeks old, and she has been like this since the day one. My nights are nights of terror. I can’t take it any more. I tried all given tips, NOTHING works. My Miki keeps meowing, day/night. Day time is OK, I can “chat” with her, but, I NEED TO SLEEP during the night! O boy! I love her, but I”m seriously considering giving up on her….

  9. Tammy permalink
    June 5, 2016 9:53 am

    Michelle Lyons,
    Have you had your cat treated for the hyperthyroidism? That should help with the problem.
    You can give them a daily pill or get a radiation treatment done.

    My 6 yo cat is extremely vocal. I have worked with a feline behaviorist about the problem to no avail. Part of it is me, when my cat YOWLS of course she gets attention (it’s negative attention but still attention) but that’s because I live have neighbors and I rent and I can’t leave her to meowing all the time! My cat was diagnosed with anxiety basically. She does better with Feliway infusers but not always. Right now we are trying a supplement called Zylkene to see if it helps. My cat is extremely intelligent and gets into trouble easily, I consider her to have a feline version of ADD. I’ve tried a set schedule, training (she is clicker trained), play time all to no avail. It’s extremely frustrating but I love her to pieces so we’ll stick it out. She has 2 cat-sisters (unrelated) that aren’t so vocal. I should mention all my cats are spayed and have been since kittenhood, they’ve also all had vet check ups and bloodwork so that is no the problem. I know this is an old thread so thanks for letting me vent!

  10. Sarah permalink
    January 10, 2017 7:54 am

    I always thought it was cute when my 6 year old male cat would constantly meow for our attention. I’d always say, have you ever seen such a vocal cat?! Yeah… Not so cute now when he jumps onto our bed and meows loudly and our one year old is sleeping in our bed. (yes yes he’s suppose to be in HIS bed… Maybe there’s another forum I can post on for help with that matter 🙂 Anyway, Milo will jump up and meow loudly. He’s trying to get my attention and he’s saying PET ME NOW WOMAN. I would then pet him and he’d lay down with us. I’ve also tried shushing him or blowing at him, which stops him for a second or 2. I’ve tried completely ignoring him. That might work except that he will keep it up, more loudly as he gets nearer. If I lock him out of the room he’ll cry at the door and scratch. Hunger and thirst are ruled out. He just does it for attention and I don’t know how to nicely break him of it. He’s 6-7 years old now. Very nice kitty. But this loud, CONSTANT meowing has to stop. But HOW? Any suggestions?

  11. July 19, 2017 9:32 am

    I have a cat that is my baby. He picked me out at the rescue. He’s verrrry vocal, a person can hold a conversation with him. This wasn’t a problem until my fiancé moved in and the meowing wakes him up when he’s trying to sleep. We’ve tried ear plugs, retraining the cat with the above suggestion in the article. We’ve also put him in our laundry room, closed the door and closed the door to our room but this isn’t comfortable for any of us. I’m at my wit’s end trying to find a solution! Help!!

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