Look who’s talking!
It’s normal for cats to vocalize, and some do it much more than others. Particular breeds, such as Siamese and other Orientals, are particularly talkative, whereas some cats may barely utter a peep. Cats relate to us as their surrogate mothers (whether we’re male or female) and learn to communicate with us to get their needs met. If a particular meow, chirp, or chortle elicits a desired response, they will learn to do it more. Some cats are genuinely social, and probably enjoy “talking” with us for companionship. They may develop a special language just for us.
Of course there are times that a feline monologue is just not the cat’s meow. What’s charming in the middle of the day can be infuriating at 3 AM. Is your cat just lonely and bored? Or is something wrong?
Most chatty cats just want your attention. A cat will learn that if she meows long enough, you will feed her, play with her, or wake up and let her into your bedroom. What begins as a simple demand becomes a self-perpetuating habit. Here are some ways to discourage this type of behavior.
- Stop reinforcing it. Hard as it may be, refuse to respond when your cat meows relentlessly at your door. At night, consider closing your cat along with food, water, litter, and toys, in a separate room where she’s less likely to disturb you. If you consistently ignore her unreasonable demands, they will eventually stop. In theory.
- Environmental enrichment. Consider that your cat may be lonely or bored. Many cats spend long hours alone at home with little to do. Introduce regular daily play sessions with your cat. The game must be interactive and should last 15-20 minutes. Use a laser pointer, a feather toy, or similar interactive game that really gets your cat moving. Later, she’ll be too happy and tired to yowl at your door.
- Reward good behavior. Give your kitty the attention she craves ONLY when she is acting calm and quiet.
- Get another cat. An age-appropriate feline playmate may be the answer in some cases. Younger, more playful cats will often welcome a new companion. It may not be the right choice if your cat is older, fussier, or more set in her ways.
- Consult your veterinarian. Excessive meowing may be sign of separation anxiety or even a medical problem. If simple solutions fail to help, it’s time to consult your veterinarian.
But what if something’s wrong?
Most cases of excessive meowing are habitual and benign. But when this behavior develops out of the blue, it may be a sign that something is wrong. A young female who yowls, purrs and rubs incessantly may be in heat. A male cat who cries, howls and then strains to urinate may have a urinary blockage, and this is a medical emergency.
Howling and yowling at all hours of the day and night is a common complaint of older cats. It is linked to several common old-age conditions. If you notice any of the following problems in your older cat, consult your veterinarian right away.
- Hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid, common in older cats, may cause increased hunger, wakefulness, and excitability, making your cat meow more. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, and weight loss.
- High Blood Pressure. Cats, like humans, can develop high blood pressure as they age. Cats with this problem usually have kidney disease or hyperthyroidism as well. Humans with high blood pressure sometimes have headaches or ringing in the ears. It’s thought that kitties may also experience these uncomfortable sensations, causing midnight yowling.
- Dental disease. Painful, infected teeth may make it hard for your cat to eat. Mouth pain and hunger may make her clingy and meowy. Symptoms of dental disease also include difficulty chewing, dropping of food, and bad breath.
- Arthritis. Older cats can develop arthritis just like dogs and people, and they may not seem to complain. Arthritic cats usually just move less, and do so in a gingerly fashion. However, midnight yowling in older kitties is sometimes attributed to achy joints.
- Deafness. Elderly cats who are hard of hearing may become louder and more meowy if they simply can’t hear themselves talk!
- Feline Dementia. Also known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, this is a gradual decline in mental ability that affects some feline elders. Symptoms can include disorientation, altered sleep cycles, house soiling, and bizarre loud vocalizations. If you notice these symptoms, consult your veterinarian right away. There is no cure for feline dementia; however there may be treatments that can help dramatically.