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Why Do Cats Meow?

Do you live with a cat who meows quite a bit? Interestingly, when it comes to cat-to-cat communication, meows are not high on the list. Cats use their other highly developed communication skills (such as scent marking and body language) much more often than carrying on the cat version of a conversation. The meowing behavior is something cats exhibit mostly toward humans.

Cat Talk

The typical cat-to-cat vocalizations are exhibited most commonly by kittens trying to communicate to the mother cat that they are in distress or hungry. With older cats, vocalization is heard most often during hostile encounters or when females are in heat.

Are You Talking to Me?

The meow is something that cats learn is most effective when it comes to getting a human's attention. We don't seem to be nearly as good at reading cat body language and we certainly are lacking in our scent communication skills but we can't ignore a well-timed meow. The cat usually gives other signals to indicate that she wants to play or is hungry but we don't pick up on those. Humans typically reward the meow by offering food, petting, or any other form of attention. That sends a message to the cat that the meowing method is most effective. Animals are smart and they only repeat behaviors that offer results.

Attention Please

Ironically, even if you don't care to hear a stream of meows, kitty will continue to offer them when she's rewarded with attention, regardless of whether it's positive or negative. Any attention sends a message to the cat that meowing gets results.

Find the Cause

There are some breeds of cats who are naturally more vocal (such as Siamese). If you have such a cat, you might as well resign yourself to the daily chatter. Invest in some ear plugs. If, however, your cat is displaying a change in behavior and has become more vocal than normal, have her checked by the veterinarian because there may be an underlying medical cause. Some elderly cats often become more vocal as a result of cognitive changes or diminished hearing.

Reward Silence

If you don't like to hear so much meowing, reward and acknowledge your cat when she's quiet. Even if that silence is very brief, let her know that meowing doesn't get her want she wants – being quiet does.

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Watch & Play

About Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant and best-selling author of seven books on cat behavior and training. Pam is one of the most well-known experts on cats and a pioneer in the field of behavior consulting. Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, LLC, a veterinarian-referred behavior practice in Nashville, TN. Her website is

More about Pam

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