You may have not noticed how often your cat meows, or exactly what it sounds like, but lately it seems like suddenly they always have something to say. Even when your cat is sitting all alone, they start belting out the meows.
It seems like it’s nonstop now, and you’re starting to wonder if this is normal. Let’s take a look at what might be causing these changes and when you should be concerned.
Why Does My Cat Keep Meowing?
But if your cat is starting to meow a lot more than normal, there’s a reason behind it, and a little detective work will often help identify the likely possibilities.
Some of these include:
Pain: Cats that are uncomfortable will often be restless and meow. If something is significantly painful, it might be a sharp, ear-piercing cry.
Urinary issue: Although some cats will “announce” that they have successfully used the litter box, other cats will only meow in or around the box if they are uncomfortable while urinating or defecating.
Kidney disease: This is not a common cause of excessive meowing, but some cats with kidney disease do sometimes seem more restless and vocal than other cats, especially on the “bad days.” These cats often also have a decreased appetite and increased thirst.
Hyperthyroidism: This is a common condition in senior cats. Cats with an overactive thyroid are often on “high drive,” and they can have secondary hypertension in addition to thyroid disease. These cats can be exceptionally vocal as well as restless. Often, they will eat more than normal but will still lose weight.
Feline cognitive dysfunction: As cats age, they can develop syndromes that are similar to Alzheimer’s. These cats can develop odd behaviors such as excessive, very persistent meowing.
Deafness/losing hearing or sight: Many cats that previously relied on vision or hearing as part of their communication process will become increasingly vocal when they lose these senses. Many deaf and blind cats will meow loudly and repeatedly.
Hunger: Cats that are hungry (or think they are hungry!) will try to get your attention with meows, sometimes trying to “lead” you to their bowl or food storage area.
Empty/dirty water bowl: Likewise, thirsty cats—or those that want the faucet turned on—will meow at the water source. If the bowl needs cleaning, they will meow to alert you of this.
Lonely or bored: Although it isn’t as common as dogs that bark when lonely, some cats will meow if they are lonely or feeling bored and want attention.
Stressed or scared: It is very common for cats that are stressed or frightened to meow, especially if they are in your car on the way to the veterinary hospital. This is sometimes accompanied by hissing.
Mating habits: Animals in heat can be extremely vocal, particularly during mating season. While mating, cats can let out some ear-piercing screams, commonly known as caterwauling.
Attention/saying hi: Meowing is a sure-fire way for many cats to get attention, so they will use it as a greeting and expect you to respond.
Learned behavior: Sometimes, we unwittingly teach our cats to talk. When they meow, they often get what they want, so it becomes a learned behavior. They’ve trained their humans to jump at a meow!
Wanting to go out: Indoor/outdoor cats will often meow at either side of the door, hoping it will magically open and let them in … and then out … and then in again!
Dirty litter box alert: Although simply finding a puddle on the floor is a more common dirty litter pan alert, some cats will come and notify you with an annoyed meow that the box needs to be scooped/dumped/washed.
Wanting to play: Many young cats will present a toy to their favorite person along with a happy meow as a friendly request to play.
Hypertension: Cats with high blood pressure (commonly secondary to kidney disease or thyroid disease) will also meow more, and more incessantly, than healthy cats.
Why Is My Cat Meowing at Night?
Most cats prefer to be active at night as opposed to the daytime, and they really don’t understand why their humans aren’t particularly interested in interacting!
Many cats will meow at night because they are bored, frustrated, or want something, such as food, snacks, or attention. Unfortunately, many pet parents will get up and give their cat what they want just to quiet them, which rewards the behavior. Cats learn that meowing gets them what they want, so they continue doing it. This is an example of cats successfully training their people.
Health reasons can also cause cats to meow excessively, especially overnight. Some of the more common reasons for this include hypertension, an overactive thyroid, and cognitive dysfunction.
In some cases, it may also simply be true that we notice our cats’ vocalizations more at night since the house is quiet.
Why Is My Kitten Meowing So Much?
Kittens often meow more than older cats, in part because they are still developing their communication skills, and vocalization is an important thing for them to practice.
Most of the time, kittens are trying to communicate a need or want, like food, attention, or playtime. A frightened or angry kitten may also vocalize more than an adult cat. If your kitten seems distressed and isn’t soothed by providing food/water/attention/play, consider having them checked over to be sure they aren’t in pain or trying to communicate that they are sick.
Why Is My Cat Always Hungry and Meowing?
Cats that are always hungry and meowing for food may have a medical condition called hyperthyroidism, particularly if they are also losing weight. These cats are usually middle-aged to older and may also have other conditions such as hypertension or kidney disease. Cats that show these signs should have an exam and laboratory testing to see if their thyroid is the underlying problem.
Why Is My Cat Meowing Differently?
You may notice that your cat’s meow suddenly sounds different, often taking on a hoarse sound. There are several reasons this could happen, but the most common reason tends to be an upper respiratory infection.
Just like when you have a cold, cats can get a scratchy, hoarse-sounding voice. In most cases, these kitties will show additional signs, such as runny eyes and nose, sneezing, and loss of appetite. In some cases, the larynx can be inflamed, resulting in laryngitis or the loss of a meow.
Other more severe causes of voice change include laryngeal paralysis, where the nerve controlling the larynx is not working properly; tumors; and other concerning diagnoses.
For this reason, any cat that has a different-sounding meow should be examined by a veterinarian to try and determine the underlying cause.
Why Is My Male Cat Yowling?
Most commonly, male cats will yowl when they are looking for a mate. This is primarily a hormone-driven behavior that generally stops once an animal has been neutered.
Occasionally, a female will also yowl, most commonly to advertise to the male that she is available. Likewise, spayed females are much less likely to do this. It is to the benefit of all parties, particularly those trying to sleep at night, to have your cat spayed or neutered.
What to Do if Your Cat Won’t Stop Meowing
If your cat won’t stop meowing, the first step should always be to look for the cause. Is there something that your cat needs or something specific they are trying to communicate?
Check that all of the basics are present—food, clean water, clean litter pan, and so on. Also make sure that there is no reason that she would be distressed or in pain. However, if your cat is just meowing for attention, you probably do not want to reward the behavior by giving in to it.
Teaching a cat to meow for something they need as opposed to something they want is possible, but it does take patience and a careful monitoring of what they are trying to communicate.
Once you are sure your cat is only working the system for attention, and you are certain that all of their needs have been met, do not scold them for meowing. Instead, simply do not reward the behavior. Look the other way, engage in some other activity, and do not give your cat attention until they are quiet.
At no time should you ever hit or scold your cat for meowing. This is a communication from your cat to you, and you always want to keep those lines of communication open. Scaring or hurting your cat will never teach them how to meow when they need something. Instead, it will teach them to fear you.
If kitty’s meow has changed in tone or frequency, or there are additional signs, like poor appetite, weight loss, or attitude changes, ask your veterinarian to examine your cat as soon as possible.
Questions to Ask If Your Cat Keeps Meowing
When is your cat meowing? Is there a trigger, like someone coming home from work? How about after dark? Once everyone is in bed? Timing can give valuable clues to the cause of the meowing.
Where is your cat meowing? Is there a specific location that gives a clue, like in the litter box, near a toy, or at the door when someone has left? Or is your cat sitting in a corner, looking at the wall? All of these provide clues.
Is your cat spayed or neutered? Hormones certainly can trigger a cat to be much more vocal—and sometimes intensively loud!
Is your cat a breed or mixed with a breed that’s talkative? Quite a few breeds of cats, such as Siamese, are known to be “talkers.”
Is your cat’s litter box clean? Some cats can make their displeasure at a dirty litter pan quite clear. They might even meow after each time they use it.
Does your cat have food and a clean, full water dish? A hungry or thirsty cat will often work hard to communicate their needs to their human family. Remember that a bowl of dry food can seem “empty” to cats if they can see the bottom of the bowl at all.
Does your cat want to go outside? This can be indicated by meowing near the door or attempting to “lead” you to the door. Ditto for coming back in!
Is your cat in “play” mode? Cats will often meow as they present a toy to play with, or as they play and hunt even alone.
When to Go to the Vet for Constant Meowing
Making the decision of when to make a veterinary appointment can be difficult, so here are a few guidelines:
If your male cat is meowing and straining to urinate, have him examined immediately.
If your kitty seems to be meowing out of distress or pain, or is open-mouth panting while meowing, it is time to head right to the emergency vet.
If you notice additional symptoms such as weight loss or changes in appetite, attitude, or urination, make an appointment for the soonest opportunity.
If you can’t determine a possible cause for the excessive meowing or change in meow, call your vet. When your instinct says something is wrong, follow it.
How Will a Vet Diagnose a Cat That’s Meowing Constantly?
Because there are so many potential underlying causes of increased meowing, veterinarians will likely vary in their approach to the diagnosis. In most cases, your veterinarian will ask you a lot of questions, including those listed above.
They will also compare your cat’s current weight and vitals to those from previous visits. If there’s reason to believe that a medical cause is at play, it is very likely that bloodwork and a urinalysis will be recommended.
If it seems that a behavioral cause is likely, your veterinarian may still recommend lab work in addition to looking at behavioral treatment options. Once your vet determines a working diagnosis for the excessive meowing, forming a treatment plan will be much more straightforward.
Featured Image: iStock/cunfek
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