Does your cat sit outside the bedroom door in the morning, meowing to let you know that he is hungry? Perhaps he even meows at you when you come home and rubs up against your leg. Meowing is a common form of communication that cats use, but have you ever noticed how rarely cats meow at each other? Meowing is a type of communication cats typically reserve for humans. Why do cats meow and what can you do to keep them from being too vocal?
Why Does a Cat Meow?
Just as you use different forms of communication to talk to the people around you, cats also communicate in different ways with their pet parents and with other cats. When it comes to communicating with other cats things like scent, facial expression, and body language play a key role. If your cat is trying to communicate with you, however, he is more likely to use his voice. A simple meow can mean a variety of different things, such as:
A general greeting. Your cat might meow at you when you walk in the door or he might respond with a meow if you speak to him.
To get your attention. If you don't notice more subtle clues, your kitty might meow to get your attention. A meow could mean that your cat wants to be petted or he could simply want a little bit of attention after being left alone all day.
Asking for food. Many cats meow at their pet parents when they are hungry. Some cats can become very demanding, meowing and scratching at the bedroom door until you get up to feed them their breakfast.
To find a mate. Female cats in heat will yowl to let male cats know that they are receptive to mating and male cats might yowl to get the female's attention.
Asking to be let in or out. If your kitty is an indoor/outdoor cat, he probably meows at the door when he wants to be let in or out. Even if your kitty is exclusively an indoor cat, he might still meow at doors and windows, especially if he sees something outside that he wants like a bird or a squirrel.
To tell you something is wrong. In many cases, cats do not display obvious signs of illness or injury because signs of weakness could make them a target for predators. If your kitty suddenly becomes more vocal than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
How to Make Your Cat Less Vocal
A few meows here and there are unlikely to be a problem – you may even enjoy it when your cat speaks to you this way. If your kitty spends half the day yowling, however, it can quickly become annoying. The first step in dealing with excessive vocalization is to identify the underlying cause. Some cats are simply more vocal than others are, but an increase in vocalization is often a sign that something is wrong. You should observe your kitty for other changes in behavior and take him to the vet for a check-up to make sure that he isn't sick or injured. In some cases, older cats start to meow more frequently as they become increasingly confused and disoriented.
If your kitty seems to be meowing for attention, you should teach him that he will only receive it when he is quiet. Stop reinforcing your cat's meowing by ignoring him, rather than speaking or paying attention to him. If your cat learns that meowing does not work to get your attention, he will be less likely to do it. The same is true of meowing for food – only feed your cat when he is not meowing at you to teach him that making noise will not get him fed.
In addition to teaching your cat that meowing won't get him what he wants, you should also consider having him neutered (or spayed if your cat is female), assuming he isn't already. Intact male and female cats tend to be more vocal than cats that have been fixed. Keep in mind that spaying and neutering a cat is best done before the cat reaches six months of age to prevent the development of problem behaviors (like excessive meowing and roaming) and also may reduce your cat's risk for developing certain health problems.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.