Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD
Cats are often thought of as quiet, reserved animals who keep to themselves. And for many pets, that’s the case. But, as many cat owners know, a lot of cats are very vocal and very loud, and all of them make sounds at some time or another. Similar to dogs, felines often like to let you know they are there and make themselves heard for a number of possible reasons.
Reasons for Meowing Cats
The causes of cat meows vary from animal to animal, and as they age. As kittens, most pets will meow when they are hungry, cold, or feeling frightened. In other words, young cats make sounds when they want their mom. Older animals, on the other hand, will develop a wider range of vocalizations for a number of different situations. In addition to meowing, these sounds may include growling, hissing, howling, yowling, and a number of others, depending on their mood.
The amount of “talking” a cat does also depends on their type. Oriental breeds, in particular Siamese cats, meow quite a bit and always enjoy letting you know that they are in the room.
Your Furry Friend Wants Attention
Many meowing cats are making noises because they are bored and want you to play with them. Similar to dogs who bark to be let outside or to have the ball thrown to them, many felines are just signaling that they want some attention. The trick to helping this is to ensure your cat gets enough exercise, you play with them a bit every day, and you don’t always respond to their excessive meowing. Train them that they don’t always get their way by yelling at you. Reward their silence and their patience.
Cats Meow for Food
Odds are, your cat likes to eat. Just like dogs, your feline will often learn to meow by their food bowl, when anyone enters the kitchen, or just whenever they feel the hunger pangs. Many cats will even meow to wake you up in the morning when they feel it’s time for breakfast and that you’re staying in bed a bit too long. Some animals will take a further page out of their canine friend’s book and meow for human food. If this meowing bothers you, you simply have to not reward the behavior and only feed them when they are calm and patient.
Your Cat May Be Sick
As most cat owners will know, our pets are slick and very good at hiding illnesses or injuries. However, they often won’t be able to control the urge to meow if they are suffering from certain conditions. Constant cat meowing might be an indication of kidney disease, problems urinating, an overactive thyroid, and a range of other health conditions.
Cats Are Loud When in Heat
For animals that aren’t spayed or neutered, loud noises are the norm when they are in heat and want to find a mate. If your cat is fixed, then you probably have never heard the types of sounds that they can make when their bodies are telling them it’s time to mate. You can expect all types of howls and moans.
Meowing Cats May Be Stressed
Stress can be another cause of cats meowing more than normal. If they are vocalizing much more than they typically do, it could be the result of a change to their routine or life. A new animal brought into the household, a new baby, an illness or death of a family member, a child moving out, or anything else that alters their day to day life can deliver stress and cause them to become a “talker”.
Your Cat Might Be Getting Old
Just as with humans, older cats are likelier to become confused and disoriented. Excessive meowing is a common symptom of the feline version of Alzheimer’s Disease, as the excess stress and fear of confusion can cause them to become more vocal. This type of meowing is even more likely to happen at night, when it is easier for them to be disoriented.
What to Do about Meowing Cats
Whatever the reason, it’s important to not ignore your cat if they are meowing excessively. Although you don’t want to reward bad or annoying behavior, increased noise making could be an indication of an underlying health problem. They may also have a legitimate need like water or food, they might be trapped, there could be an issue with their litter box, etc.
First determine whether the issue is dangerous or life threatening, then decide what to do next. You most likely will not want to discipline your cat (like you might with a dog), as yelling or spraying them with water will only lead to distrust and damage your relationship with them. You also don’t want to give in, as this will only encourage the meowing. Your only real option is to attempt to reward quiet behavior and ignore or not reward the loud behavior.