Saturday 26 September 2020

Is your cat meowing too much?

An author on the website asks whether your cat is meowing too much. My first thought was that a domestic cat cannot meow too much. It's impossible to envisage that situation. For a start off, domestic cats are not, in general terms, that vocal. Some cat breeds such as the Siamese are more vocal in others. The Siamese' rather raucous and harsh voice may grate sometimes but when you adopt a Siamese cat you know what you're getting. You are adopting a loyal, vocal creature and you like it. So no complaints. Cats start to meow at around 4 months normally. And they only meow at humans. Feral cats don't meow at each other.

The only time that a cat can meow too much is not when they're meowing but when they're howling at night at midnight in the morning! Yes, cats can be too vocal but it will be when they are vocal at times which are undesirable from a human's perspective.

Image: PoC

The reason why this should happen is because cats are essentially nocturnal hunters. Or to be more precise they are crepuscular creatures. They like to be active when we like to be inactive and fast asleep. The vocalisation aspect of this behavioural trait is an adjunct to the more important behavioural trait as described.

Howling at night, can be caused by a cat who is elderly and who may suffer from early-stage dementia and is therefore confused. The howl is a call for company. The response should be to provide them with company even if it is highly inconvenient. If you're awake because of the howling then it is not much of an added burden to get up and deal with it. We should be very sympathetic and sensitive to our cat's emotional problems.

However, if your cat wants to wake you up at four in the morning by meowing and you don't like it, the classic treatment is to ignore it. For the immediate future your cat will try harder and then eventually she will give up. That is the argument. The argument is to ignore demands that you don't want to meet because if you respond to demands you feed them and encourage more. Personally, I don't subscribe to ignoring requests from my cat. Maybe that's just me but if he is asking for something there's good reason for it and I feel duty bound as his caregiver to do something about it.

The cat's meow may irritate some people some time. This is because it is a demand or polite request depending upon your viewpoint for food. And sometimes cats can linger around your feet as you walk around the kitchen meowing at you and rubbing their bodies against you. They can get in the way. Cats are persistent and they will go on until they get what they are asking for. As I said, this may irritate some people if they are not in the mood to respond. The best response is to respond! Cats get their way. It's an example of the cat training the human rather than vice versa.

Caterwauling is rarely heard in my opinion. It is described as "an aggressive, threatening sound made by sexual or territorial rivals.... It may be heard at any time when two or more cats are fighting and may, on occasion, have nothing to do with sexual encounters". I am quoting Desmond Morris.

The author on Catster says that an indoor cat when seeing an outdoor cat may vocalise their frustration or excitement. My experience tells me that under these circumstances the indoor cat is normally quite silent. They may look intently and wish to get out side and do something about it. If they are allowed outside they will go but this is more about action rather than vocalisation. It's like the hunt: cats are silent when in pursuit.

If a cat owner is going to complain about meowing it will normally be because their cat is not meowing enough. And on this subject, some cats produce silent meows. If a person wants to adopt a cat and wants that cat to be relatively quiet then they should consider seeking out a cat who likes to meow silently. This happens when the cat opened their mouths as if to meow but no sound comes out.

My conclusion is that domestic cats can never meow too much. They can never vocalise too much and if you are irritated and consider their noise-making too much then I think you should look at yourself and ask whether you might be unreasonable.

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