Have you ever wondered what behaviors are normal for your cat, and which ones indicate he's unhappy? Sometimes it can be tricky to identify which is which. While cats meow to communicate with us, they might also meow if they feel stressed. It can be hard to tell when the behavior crosses the line and becomes stress-related. If you're wondering, "Why is my cat meowing?" a better question might be whether he's meowing too much. If he's meowing because of stress, you can help him feel more secure with playtime, diffusers, and other confidence-building activities.
Cats Meow to Communicate with Us
Cats meow as a way to communicate, and it's not always stress-related. Cats have learned that humans respond to vocal communication, so they meow at us more than at each other.1 They might even use different pitches and cadences to communicate different messages. A short meow could just be a greeting, while a drawn-out meow might be more of a command. A low pitch could be a complaint, while a higher pitch might mean anger or pain. Your cat might also change things up a bit and trill or chirp to communicate.
Excessive Meowing Can Be Related to Stress or Other Factors
Not all meowing is just communication. Sometimes meowing becomes excessive, such as if your cat meows a lot in the middle of the night. Here are a few scenarios that can cause your kitty to be extra vocal.
In some cases, you may have inadvertently taught your cat that you react to excessive meows. If you ever get up in the middle of the night to play with or feed your cat because of meows, then you've taught her that meowing brings results. To stop this, you need to "untrain" this concept. Let some time lapse between the meow and your action. If you feed your cat in the morning, don't give out the food immediately after she meows, but wait until she's quiet. Or use an automated feeder so her focus is on the machine rather than on you.
Cats might also meow a lot because of a health issue. If your cat's behavior has recently changed, visit your veterinarian for a checkup. If your cat hasn't been spayed or neutered yet, then the meowing might be hormonal.
Sometimes excessive meowing can be related to stress.2 Your cat might feel nervous because of changes in the house, like moving to a new home, adding a new pet or baby, putting him in a carrier, or moving the furniture around. Even changing your cat's schedule—such as feeding times—can leave your kitty feeling confused and needing to meow.
Cats can also meow more from the stress of being bored and having too much pent-up energy. Not having enough mental stimulation during the day can leave some cats uneasy, especially more active breeds.
How to Help a Stressed Cat Meow Less
If your kitty is meowing because of stress, you can do a lot to help.
Calming Diffusers Can Help
To reduce tension and conflict between cats, the Comfort Zone Multi-Cat Diffuser dispenses a synthetic pheromone that mother cats produce to help their kittens feel safe and secure. This pheromone is different from the one used in the Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser, and the two products can be used together.
Play with Your Cat More
If your cat is simply bored, spend more time engaging her in activities that stimulate her brain. Get a feather wand or a red laser toy and encourage her to run around the house. Put a treat in your hand and get her to chase you. Invest in a window perch she can sit on for some "cat TV."
You can even take things one step further and start clicker training her. Cats can be taught to sit, high-five, jump over items, ring a bell, or even run through an obstacle course.
Invest in Items that Build Confidence
Cats feel more confident and less stressed if they have items they can call their own. They're naturally territorial and need to have their own spaces to feel comfortable. Try setting up cat trees and condos around the house, along with cat scratchers. A cat scratcher is a great way to relieve tension and stress.
Meowing Isn't the Only Stress-Related Behavior
While some of your cat's actions might be more ambiguous, here are a few that are typically a reaction to stress, just like excessive meowing:
If you find your cat spraying urine on vertical surfaces (as opposed to squatting and urinating on the floor or carpet), he's marking territory. This is usually a reaction to some stressful disruption in his routine—a new pet, a new home, visitors, or even just a rearrangement of the furniture.
Cats scratch for a lot of reasons, including claw maintenance, stretching, and marking turf. But cats tend to scratch more when they're under stress.
Cat Urinating Outside the Litter Box
Cats do this for a lot of reasons. If she's squatting and going on the floor or carpet, it could be because the litter box is dirty, in a noisy location, blocked by another animal, or because of some health issue. But if she's spraying (marking vertical surfaces), it's very likely stress-related. Even pooping outside of the box or not covering it could be stress-related.
Stress can cause a lot of issues for cats, including excessive meowing. Investing in some items your cat can "own," setting up calming diffusers, and spending more time with your cat can decrease stress and grow your bond.
1. Pierce, Jessica. "Why Do Cats Meow at Humans?" Psychology Today, 5 September 2018, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-dogs-go-heaven/201809/why-do-cats-meow-humans.
2. Best Friends Animal Society. "Why Does My Cat Meow So Much?" Resources.BestFriends.org, https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/why-does-my-cat-meow-so-much.