Veterinarian-written / veterinarian-approved articles for your cat.

How to Teach Your Cat Not to Meow to Go Outside

You can teach your cat not to meow to go outside.

Is your cat always yelling at you about his desire to go outside, but you've decided he should stay inside where it's safer instead? This can be a big problem for some people, who may give in to their cat's incessant cries to go outside, even though they really want to keep him in. There are some ways to tone down the meowing and teach your cat that inside is great too.

Consider Training Your Cat to Walk on a Leash

Walking your cat outside on a harness and leash can be a great compromise on the issue of outside vs. inside. A walk means your cat stays safer from outside dangers like cars, toxins, and other animals, and your cat still gets to enjoy the enrichment the outdoors has to offer. The different sights, sounds, smells, and feelings encountered outside can help your cat stay mentally active and help reduce stress.

It can take some time to teach a cat to walk on a leash. Leash walking isn't intuitive for cats, and they might fight against it or lie down, freeze, and refuse to move. The key is to start slow and give your cat lots of time to get used to wearing the harness before you try going outside. You can find a step-by-step how-to guide with lots of information on this subject here: "How to Train Your Cat to Walk on a Leash."

Once you've taught your cat to walk on a leash, you can use a walk outside as part of your training efforts. Take a look at the next section to learn how.

Reward the Behavior You Want, and Ignore What You Don't Want

The basic tenet to remember when you're training your cat to do or not do anything is that cats learn better when they're taught using positive reinforcement. That means that you give a reward when the cat does what you want.

In contrast, negative reinforcement is punishing behavior you don't like, and it doesn't work nearly as well. In fact, it can cause a cat stress which, in turn, often leads to other undesirable behaviors or worsening of the behavior you're trying to modify.

In the case of meowing to go out, positive reinforcement looks like this:

  • When your cat is quiet or engaging in indoor enrichment like using his scratching post, give him lots of petting, praise, or a treat. You could also start a play session with a wand toy to reward him and help reinforce his patient behavior.
  • When your cat is meowing to go out, ignore him. Don't respond in any way.
  • If your cat knows how to walk on a leash, never take him out when he's meowing to go. Instead, use it as another reward for good behavior and take him when he's being quiet or engaging in some type of positive indoor play.

Make Sure Your Cat's Indoor Environment Is Exciting

You can't expect your cat to be content staying mostly or entirely inside if the environment there is boring for him. Make sure there are plenty of enriching activities available for him to engage in. Here are some ideas:

  • Use puzzle toys to keep your cat busy.
  • Break your cat's daily food ration into multiple sections and hide them around the house for him to "hunt."
  • Add a variety of good quality scratching posts, pads, trees, and angles to your cat's indoor environment. Make sure at least some of these provide high points from which your cat can watch what goes on below or outside, which is a favorite stress-relieving pastime of cats.
  • Provide catnip, honeysuckle, valerian, or silver vine routinely.
  • Play with your cat daily using an interactive toy like a wand to help him practice his predator moves and keep him mentally sharp and happy. Wand toys should only be brought out when you can supervise your cat because they usually have string or wire that could entangle limbs or strangle a cat if he gets caught up in it.
  • Rotate toys, so your cat doesn't get bored.

Engage in Routine Cat Training

Working on training helps you and your cat bond, teaches him more about positive reinforcement, and provides enrichment that can help him stay happy when he's inside.

Clicker training is a great way to teach cats to do tricks or respond to commands. You can spend a little time each day working on training your cat to do things like come, fetch, lie down, and high five.

The more content your cat is inside the house, the less he will meow to go out. Make sure you're spending quality time interacting with and cuddling your cat every day.

You May Also Like These Articles:

Clicker Training for Cats: An Overview

Clicker Training for Cats: Sit

Clicker Training for Cats: Come When Called

How to Use Clicker Training to Keep Your Cat off the Counter

Can You Make Your Cat into a Lap Cat?

Cat Training: Know the Basics

Trained Cat Does Amazing Tricks: VIDEO

How to Train Your Cat to Let You Sleep

Disclaimer: This website is not intended to replace professional consultation, diagnosis, or treatment by a licensed veterinarian. If you require any veterinary related advice, contact your veterinarian promptly. Information at CatHealth.com is exclusively of a general reference nature. Do not disregard veterinary advice or delay treatment as a result of accessing information at this site.