Humans may not be adept at cat speak, but cats use their language to communicate with us and other animals. Some “talk” more than others, but cats make noise at least some of the time and they expect us to know what they are saying. We are familiar with the meaning of hissing and growling, but cats make other sounds and noises and have many reasons for vocalizing.
If your cat’s behaviour changes suddenly, immediately take her to the veterinarian for a thorough health examination. Cats tend to hide symptoms of illness until they are seriously ill, so any changes in behaviour can be an early indication of a medical problem. New vocalizing behaviour may indicate physical discomfort stemming from an urgent medical problem. A normal vocal cat who stops talking may also need a medical check-up.
Asian breeds (i.e., Siamese) are known to be vocal. If your cat has a pointed face and long, lean body, they may have Asian heritage and “talking” may be in their nature. If your cat’s chatter bothers you, avoid giving them attention when they are vocal and give them attention when they are quiet to reinforce that attention is paid when they are quiet.
Cats may “talk” because they know they will get a reaction. People may talk back, put out food, pick up and soothe the cat, or pick up the animal and temporarily lock her in another room. Responses only encourage an attention-seeking cat. To discourage “talking,” ignore your cat when she is vocal and when she is quiet, pour on the love, feed her or give her treats. This will teach your cat what behaviours you would like her to continue.
Your Cat Wants to Go Outside
If your cat was previously an outdoor cat and you plan to keep her inside, then good for you! The following are some suggestions to help make the transition easier:
- Spay or Neuter Your Cat. Spaying or neutering rids your cat of their hormonal urges to go out and seek a mate. This will result in a calmer, friendlier cat.
- Create a Play Schedule. Schedule play time during the times your cat normally would be outside. This will distract them from the normal routine and establish another safer routine.
- Provide a Window Seat. Be sure your cat has a view of the outdoors and a sunny place to lie down. Cats like watching birds, so put a bird feeder outside your window to make the window seat a favourite spot for your cat.
- Run a Scavenger Hunt. Give your cat a game to play by hiding bits of dry food around the house. Hide the food in paper bags, boxes, and behind open doors. This will give your pet exercise and keep her busy so she does not think of going outside. This is especially good to do right before the family leaves the house for the day.
- Pay Attention. Try to give your cat extra love and attention during difficult transition times.
- Try Aversives. If your cat still will not stop meowing by the door, try an “aversive.” Leave a strong citrus scent by the door to make it an undesirable area to your cat. Remember to totally ignore vocalizations. Whenever your cat is quiet, be sure to give her food treats and to encourage her to play or cuddle.
After the death or departure of a person or animal in your cat’s life they may vocalize their grief. The best thing is to keep her schedule the same (or as close as possible) and spend time cuddling and playing with her. It is important to comfort each other during this difficult time because both you and your cat have suffered a loss. With time, the problem should take care of itself. If your cat doesn’t return to her normal self, consult your veterinarian.
If your cat is new to your home or has gone through changes (i.e., a person or animal moving into or out of the home) and has just started talkative behaviour, be patient. This may be happening because of the transition and will stop on its own if the behaviour is not encouraged. Remember, even scolding can be perceived by your cat as attention, and thus encourage the behaviour.
Adapted from the Humane Society of the United States, 2009.