Cats and Dogs
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Should you ignore cats meow?

Excessive Meowing

Cats can be very vocal, and certain cats are more vocal than others. Cats learn to use vocalization to communicate with humans. Certain breeds, such as Siamese, are even known for their vocal demeanor. Many different feline vocalizations exist, and experts have tried to classify the different acoustic variations.

Most cat owners know when to give their cat attention or when it is time to feed (at least in the cat’s opinion). Most people can tell when their cat is happy or when they are angry or distraught — many emotions are differentiated by the different tones, pitches, and noises.

Some caregivers love to «talk» with their cats. If you foster or adopt a cat when they are an adult, it is possible that this behavior was reinforced by a prior guardian.

Cats vocalize to get attention. They also vocalize to express emotions such as discomfort or pain, agitation and in some cases, territoriality. If you have a very «chatty» cat, you can stop this habit by not rewarding the behavior and talk back. Ignore them when they meow, do not talk to them or provide them with food or play-especially not in the middle of the night. This should be the backbone of your behavior modification plan. Also pay close attention when your cat is being quiet and give them attention to reward and reinforce that silence.

Always ensure that your cat’s needs are met on a daily basis and before your cats demands it. In some cases, it is beneficial to provide your cat with an alternative feeding option. This can be an automatic feeder or food-dispensing and interactive toys in a different room of the home.

Cats need plenty of attention and interaction. Make sure that somewhere in your daily schedule you allot times for scheduled play sessions. Cats like routine and will often meow excessively if their routine is changed. Provide your cat with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Cats are most active during morning and evening hours-similar to their natural hunting hours. Indoor cats need to be entertained and encouraged to play and exercise. Toys, food cubes that make cats work to get the food, and the occasional catnip help keep them from getting bored. Interactive playtime is the best kind of playtime for cats.

Some cats have a difficult time adjusting to a new home. You may notice excessive meowing if you have just moved to a new home or have just brought a cat into your home. It is normal, especially for an adult cat, to be disoriented and unsure in a new environment. Introducing your cat to the house gradually may help prevent some agitation. This behavior usually takes a few weeks to resolve.

Pay attention to environmental changes to see if something could be bothering your cat, such as a new stray cat coming by your back door.

Make sure your cat’s diet is adequate and they have a clean litter box and fresh water at all times. If your cat seems excessively hungry, schedule a check-up with your veterinarian.

If a normally quiet cat has become very vocal, your cat could be in pain. Make sure there is nothing medically wrong with them; schedule a check-up with your vet. If your cat is getting older, they could be going deaf or displaying cognitive dysfunction.

This document created by the San Francisco SPCA with a grant from Maddie’s Fund ®

Train Your Cat to Stay Quiet in the Morning

Alert cat on bed

Our cat wakes us early every morning by meowing and yowling outside of our closed bedroom door until we get up and serve her wet food for breakfast. We leave a bowl of dry food out for her, but it doesn’t seem to tide her over. We’ve tried ignoring her but she just doesn’t stop! Is it possible to change her morning routine so we can get some sleep?

Your kitty’s clock is clearly not synchronized with yours. She may be waking early in response to internal cues, like hunger, or external cues, like sunlight. But it is also possible that your cat’s tactics are a learned behavior driven by desire for a tasty meal, companionship and attention. Whatever the cause, the behavior has become a habit and is unlikely to stop unless you implement some changes. Your first step should be to talk with your veterinarian. Your cat’s behavior may be caused by an underlying medical issue. Some conditions, like thyroid disease, can cause excessive vocalizations, restless behavior and changes in sleep and eating patterns. It’s important to rule those out before making any other alterations to her routine. Once your cat has a clean bill of health, though, there are several ways to address her early rising.

Breakfast is Served — But Not By You

It sounds as though your cat is willing to eat dry food but is waking you because she’s finished what you’ve left out and is ready for more. In that case, a good place to start would be by giving her a last meal of wet food before everyone goes to bed at night. You should also check to be sure she’s getting enough to eat during the day — if she’s eating the dry food you leave out at night and waking you early for another meal, she may simply need more to eat. Since it sounds like your cat is willing to eat dry food, another good option may be an automatic feeder. This would enable her to wake early and have her breakfast but not rouse you. Start by familiarizing your cat with the device by feeding her normal meals from the dish. Once she’s comfortable eating from the dish, set the automatic timer and give her a chance to get used to the tone or sounds. She will quickly come to associate the feeder’s noise with mealtime. Once she is used to the automatic feeder, set it to go off in the morning just before the time she normally starts crying at your door. If you would like to have her wake later, you can try to reset her internal clock by moving the feeder’s timer back a few minutes each day until you reach a more ideal feeding time. Another option is to leave one or two food puzzles filled with dry food or treats for her at night. Both strategies offer the possibility of meals being delivered independently, which should mean that everyone gets a little more sleep.

Ignore and Reward

One of the main reasons your cat wakes you is because, quite simply, it works! Your cat has learned that if she is persistent, you will eventually get up and feed her. Even if you only occasionally give in to her crying, your response still reinforces your cat’s behavior — in fact, an infrequent response can result in behavior that is more resistant to change than behavior that is regularly rewarded, because your kitty learns to be persistent. Ignoring unwanted behavior requires the will to withstand all unacceptable draws for attention, like yowling, meowing or pawing and only rewarding quiet, calm behavior. Be aware that deciding to ignore a behavior can cause an extinction burst, a period where the bad behavior gets even worse before it fades. It may take just a few days or several weeks for the early morning crying to end, depending upon how ingrained the habit is for your cat. Be patient and don’t give in. Of course, ignoring the behavior isn’t practical in every situation. If you have kids who are trying to sleep, for example, it may be difficult to ignore your cat’s early morning cries. If this is the case, try building on increasingly longer periods of quiet before getting up. Mark a moment of silence with a marker signal, like “good,” let the cat in your room and reward her. It’s OK if she meows after you mark and reward — it’s important that she begin to associate the reward with quiet behavior in order for the yowling to stop. Wait to deliver meals until your cat is sitting calmly and quietly. Over time, work up to longer periods of quiet before you reward, moving from what may initially be a couple of seconds up to a couple of minutes, for instance.

Rethink the Environment

Your cat may be waking you not because she’s hungry but because she’s bored. Encourage independent behavior and help her fill her time by providing a variety of mentally and physically fulfilling activities for her. Create outlets for species-specific behavior like climbing, scratching and hunting. Replicate the hunt by serving your cat’s meals in food puzzles or by dividing meals among multiple bowls in areas she frequents. You can also challenge your cat by hiding treats, food puzzles, catnip or toys in various locations, like on perches and cat trees, for her to find on her own. Your cat’s environment may also trigger her early waking. She may have learned to associate sunrise with mealtime. You can subtly change your cat’s sleep/wake cycle by using blackout blinds to keep her sleeping area dark. Your cat may also be responding to the sound of you stirring (even if it’s in your sleep). Consider adding a soothing nighttime background noise, like waves or a gentle fan, to drown out any noises that might wake her. Finally, consider giving kitty her own enclosed space, away from your bedroom door. Stock it with essentials like food, water, resting spaces, toys and a litterbox. Ideally, if she continues to be an early riser, she will learn to entertain herself in her room until it’s time for you to get up and join her. More on Vetstreet:

  • Your New Pet: When It’s Not Love at First Sight
  • Is it Bad to Let My Cat Eat On the Counter?
  • Tips to Stop Your Cat From Clawing the Furniture
  • 5 Odd Cat Behaviors Explained
  • 7 Best Breeds for First-Time Cat Owners
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