How to stop a cat from meowing all the time

Is your cat meowing all night and all day? It really can get on your nerve, ruin your sleep, your wellbeing and even your relationship with your beloved pet. You are not alone and excessive meowing is a very common complaint of people who seek a professional cat behaviorist help and, in most cases the solution is just around the corner. In this article you are going to learn about possible causes of excessive meowing in cats, and, most important, how to stop a cat from meowing constantly.

Why does your cat meow so much?

Cat meowing
Is your cat meowing constantly? Photo by David Sutterlütti, CC BY-SA 2.0

Before planning any solution to excessive meowing, you must first find out what causes the problem. It’s normal for a cat to meow at many occasions, but if the meowing happens too often, likely something is bothering your cat. Let’s find out what it could be. For many cat owners, the exact reason may be obvious, while some may be clueless about why their cats meow so much.

Most common causes of excessive moving in cats:

  • Attention seeking. This is a wide group of possible causes, but it also is the most common, because your cat wants attention. There may be different forms of attention, like begging for food, for petting, playing or simply for an acknowledgment of his presence.
  • Pain and other medical causes. Does being in pain makes you want to cry? Yes it does, and saying: “Don’t cry” is not helping. What you really want is for the pain to go away, that will make you smile.  Before trying to modify your cat’s excessive meowing, it is wise to visit a veterinarian for checkups. You should understand that cats usually try to mask their weaknesses, and, if your cat is meowing due to pain, it may be that the pain is very severe. You can learn to recognize your cat’s pain here.
  • Territorial. Cats can vocalize excessively if their territorial needs are not met, for example, if one of the other cats are blocking his access to a certain area or is creating a stress in him/her. Please note that cats of both genders may be territorial, and it’s not only about other cats in your household. Your cat can also have territorial issues with your kids, dogs, physical objects and even outdoor cats that he or she sees through a window.
  • Hunger and thirst. It’s not the same as begging for food mentioned above. Cats may constantly beg for food for various reasons, and hunger is just one of them. Here we mention the real, actual hunger when your cat is not getting enough food. If your cat is not underweight, and if you are feeding the amount that is listed on package, you can rule this one out. Fresh drinking water has to be accessible at all times, too, but you have to remember, if your cat is not drinking, maybe it’s not because he doesn’t want to, but there may be something wrong with the water, the bowl or the location of the bowl. You can find how to encourage cat to drink more here.
  • Sexual behavior. Do male cats meow when they want a partner? Yes, but no one matches female cat cries when one is in heat. In such case you do not have much options. Number one – spay or neuter your cat. Number two – try to soothe your cat, which will reduce, but won’t eliminate the meowing.
  • Neurological causes. Excessive meowing may also appear to be for no reason and exhibited as a compulsive behavior. In such cases, a veterinary help must be sought.

How to make a cat stop meowing constantly

Cat sitting on toilet seat and meowing.Now that we have identified possible causes we can work on a treatment. Remember, you are not looking to stop your cat meowing completely. Meowing is a natural behavior for cats and, while for talking to each other they mostly use scents and postures, meowing in the vast majority of cases is directed to humans.

Meowing is a way your cat tells you something. All you have to do is to listen.

IMPORTANT: Below steps are applicable for cats exhibiting attention seeking behaviors, and may be useful to assist in territorial and hunger related meowing. If you suspect your cat may be meowing due to pain or other medical cause, a professional help should be sought. For territorial cats, spaying and neutering may help to reduce the problem.

  1. Remove the cause of excessive meowing if possible. That is, if your cat is territorial and aggressive towards other cats, make sure you do what you can to reduce the tension and, likely, spaying or neutering your cat will be helpful. If your cat is underfed, start feeding an appropriate amount, if your cat is stressed from outdoor cats, try to block the outdoor view or deter foreign cats off your yard. In many cases solving the cause of excessive meowing will be enough to make it stop. However, sometimes, if the meowing has also become a habit, below steps may be necessary, as well.
  2. Ignore your cat’s meowing. What is the easiest way to stop a cat meowing? Giving him what he wants. But it’s a very bad solution, because the cat will soon repeat the behavior again, simply because it had the result. What you need to do is to ignore your cat’s meows (unless he needs something that is important). Don’t even scold or discourage your cat, because it’s still an attention and attention is a reward. A complete ignorance of meowing is the only way to stop it (of course, after you have checked that there is nothing dangerously wrong with your cat).
  3. Playing is by far the most effective method of reducing excessive meowing in cats.
    Playing is by far the most effective method of reducing excessive meowing in cats. Photo by Melissa Lynn, CC BY-SA 2.0

    Provide activity to your cat. Your cat is a hunter and his energy levels are high. If this energy is not expelled, your cat can jump on things and people, destroy apartment or, if you are lucky, just meow all day. Fastest way to get your cat moving is to have two or few play sessions per day. Take a toy on a string or a wick and let your cat release his hunter instinct. Let him stalk, follow, jump upon and bite the toy. This, and not wiggling a toy back and forth, is what releases the most of your hunter’s energy. If you think you can go for more creative solution, we have a list of several more ways to provide an activity to your cat.

  4. Provide meals on a strict schedule. Especially if your cat is begging for food all the time, you should (at least initially) provide meals with a rocket science precision. Set a mobile phone reminder, but try not to fluctuate meal times for more that 15 minutes in either way. Your cat wants predictability. Make three to four meals per day, leaving the final meal just before you go to bed. Cats naturally tend to take a nap after a meal, and, if it happens to be that your cat meows all night, you will finally get at least some sleep.
  5. Reinforce quiet behavior. If your cat’s meowing ceases, but it’s not quite there, you can try to reward your cat’s bad behavior. Since it’s very hard for your cat to understand the difference between meowing and being silent, a clicker training may be useful here (you can read what clicker training is here). What you need to do is to issue a reward every time your cat is quiet for longer than between two “meows” on average. This reward can be a treat or a regular food. In either case, make sure to subtract what you feed from your cat’s daily feeding amount.

Above steps should give you a significant improvement to reduce or even eliminate excessive meowing of your cat. If it didn’t you should consider visiting a veterinarian for finding a true cause of your cat’s meowing. For solutions to other cat mis-behaviors check this page.