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Excessive Vocalization in Cats

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Treatment

 

A plan must be created which is customized to suit your cat and your personal living conditions, your household, and the type of problem, being sure to attempt to resolve the underlying cause before behavioral modifications are begun.

 

Do not reinforce the vocalization. This means not picking your cat up when it is meowing, but also includes not punishing the behavior, which is still regarded as attention. Instead, positively reward your cat when it is calm and quiet and lead by example by remaining calm as well. Also, counter-condition your cat to calm down when stimulated. Training your cat to be quiet on command will be the priority.

 

To prevent your cat from becoming accustomed to the attention received by barking or crying, a quiet response can be reinforced using disruptive devices such as alarms or water sprayers. Becoming more attentive to the triggers that cause your cat to meow excessively will help you to distract your cat before it becomes excited or anxious.

 

Medications might be indicated if there is real anxiety, conflict, excessive responsiveness to stimuli or a compulsive disorder:

 

  • Benzodiazepines on a short-term or as-needed basis when situations of anxiety might be expected or for inducing sleep
  • Sedatives may be effective for tranquilizing the cat prior to exposure to stimuli (e.g., car rides, fireworks), but will not decrease anxiety
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for long-term therapy for excessive and chronic anxiety, combined with behavior modification can be useful for some cats
  • SSRIs or clomipramine may help when combined with behavior therapy for compulsive disorders.

 

Living and Management

 

You may need to return with your cat to the veterinarian or to a behavior specialist to modify the program based on your cat's particular response. Obedience training and quiet command training are often effective in cats. Cats should be habituated and socialized to a variety of stimuli and environments throughout development, including to other people and pets. This desensitizes the cat to novel experiences, reducing anxiety, and over-excitation.

 

Image via Shutterstock

 

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