My Cat Meows Constantly. Why?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, shares tips on how to help keep a cat busy while an owner works.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

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Q: Smokey, my 9 year-old rescue cat, meows constantly. Literally, 24/7. I work from home, and if I am not playing with him or feeding him, he whines and caterwauls like a newborn all ... day … long. This wouldn't be a huge problem if he wasn't so destructive at the same time. He rips and tears up any scrap of paper he can find. How can I keep him entertained during the day while I work, so he's not vocal and destructive?

A: Your cat's constant meowing and paper shredding might be behavioral or may be caused by a medical problem. Before approaching this as behavioral, rule out any medical conditions that could be causing pain or discomfort by having a veterinarian examine him.

Because I do not know Smokey's history, I will make assumptions about the triggers for your cat's behavior. Most likely Smokey is bored and needs more mental and physical stimulation. Additionally, you are probably reinforcing the behavior by paying attention to him when he acts out. Smokey has figured out that when he vocalizes and mangles paper he will get what he wants — your undivided attention.

Modify the behavior by giving Smokey other more appropriate activities to do while you simultaneously ignore the destructive behavior and place items he likes to destroy out of his reach.

Start by enhancing your cat's environment with interactive toys and vertical territory. Toys such as ball and tract toys and puzzle boxes will keep your cat busy. Tall cat trees, shelves and window perches will allow him to climb and perch. Engage him in multiple play sessions a day; imitate the hunt when you play with your cat. Treasure hunts will also keep him active and mentally stimulated. Every morning, hide treats throughout the house, on the cat trees, shelves, in the puzzle boxes and ball and tract toys. Smokey will enjoy interacting with you and hunting for treats.

In addition, put paper and other objects Smokey would enjoy shredding into drawers and out of his reach. The last part of the equation is not reinforcing Smokey's annoying behavior. Do not interact with him in any way when he starts whining or howling. Give him time outs: Leave the room and close the door. Smokey will soon learn that when he whines and howls his favorite person leaves. When he stops the annoying vocalizations, come back into the room and reinforce his good behavior with attention.
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My Cat Meows Constantly. Why?

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Reader Comments

brooke    International

12/3/2014 8:50:25 AM

My 14yr old rescue never shuts up. I try playing but shes uninterested in toys apart from a bit of laser pen. She has all the food she wants and sits on us for cuddles...she doesnt know hat she wants, speshly at around 4am! X

Shirley    Tucson, AZ

7/5/2012 2:53:18 PM

Good luck, this would be difficult to correct.

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