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Friday, November 24, 2006

Excessive Meowing

Dear Maggie,

Why does my cat meow all the time? My vet says she is healthy.
Worried in Contra Costa

Dear Worried,

The single most common reason a cat will meow excessively is because she has been trained to do so. Kitty has learned that all she has to do is meow and she gets whatever she wants - food, attention, affection. Often, what starts out as a demand for attention soon becomes a self-reinforcing habit. Now kitty will meow all day just for the fun of it. This situation becomes even worse if the cat is lonely or bored. The first step in breaking this habit is to exercise your cat daily with active play sessions. Don't expect kitty to exercise herself. Many cats will swat at a ping-pong ball or a catnip mouse once or twice then lose interest. You must get involved in the game. Tie a string to the mouse and pull it slowly, temptingly and repeatedly across the floor. Secondly, pay attention to kitty and give her what ever she wants, but ONLY when she is quiet. Ignore her whenever she begins her vocal blackmail. Don't give in. Each time you give in to your cat's verbal demands, you are teaching her to meow even more. If you wait until your cat is quiet, she will soon learn to associate silence with rewards. Some cats enjoy talking and some owners enjoy their cat's chatting to them. But if you want a few moments of peace, you can teach your cat to be quiet on request. Gently ask kitty to "Shush." If the cat ignores you, immediately shout, "BE QUIET!" or squirt her in the face with water once or twice. After a few repetitions, kitty will get the idea and obey the gentle request of "Shush," rather than get screamed at or doused with water.

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