Your cat’s meow can be cute. But if your cat meows constantly, and meows louder and louder to get your attention, boy howdy can it be irritating too. So why do cats get loud, and can you do anything to stop them?
Why won’t my cat be quiet? Cats can be noisy for one of many reasons. Cats can meow loudly to beg for food or to demand affection, because they were bored while you were asleep, or can yowl because they’re in heat. Cats can also be loud and defensive when they’re in pain. If you’re not sure why your cat is loud all the time, and it seems to be in ill health, talk to a vet. If you want your cat to stop being so loud, don’t reward its noisemaking behavior with attention, and instead try to train better behavior (like sitting patiently near the food bowl when hungry).
The guide below first looks at all the reasons why cats can get loud—and there are lots of them. We’ll also cover a few different ways to get your cat to be quiet, so that you can finally destress after long days at work!
Why Will My Cat Not Be Quiet?
The purpose of every noise a cat makes is to communicate something. That could be something positive like contentment and trust, which are shown through purring; or, it could be stress and defensiveness, which are shown through hissing. So, whatever noise your cat is making, it’s making that noise to communicate something either to you or to other cats.
What Does It Mean When a Cat Is Quiet?
Some of these noises have origins in your cat’s evolutionary history. They are so ingrained that most if not all cat species make similar noises for the same reasons, hissing being an example. Other noises, though, are unique/almost unique to domestic cats and are specifically made by cats to get human attention, such as meowing.
As such, the reason your cat is being loud could either be because it is experiencing an overload of a feeling such as stress, or because it has a want or need that it feels you aren’t attending to.
What all of this means is that when your cat is quiet, it’s probably content. There’s no pressing want or need that it feels the need to ask for through meowing; there’s no imminent threat that it feels the need to yowl or hiss at. Rather, it’s happy enough to sit or lie where it is and take some well-earned rest. At most it might purr a little!
1) Your Cat Wants Food, So Meows for Attention
What many owners don’t realize is that cats are a lot like children. If you consistently pay your cat attention when it does something, it will continue to display that behavior because you gave it attention. That applies both for positive attention (praise and rewards for behaviors) and negative attention (scolding, shouting and punishing your cat). If you consistently pay your cat attention back when it meows at you, whenever your cat wants to get your attention—like when it’s hungry or when it wants affection—it will display that behavior because it knows that it works.
Take begging for food as an example. When your cat is hungry, it might come up to you and start meowing loudly to get you to feed it. If you’re like most cat people, there will have been times when you give in just to get your cat to shut up. But buying a few moments of peace by giving in only backfires in the long run, because your cat learns that meowing loudly is a good way to get you to give it what it wants. It will then repeat the behavior in the future.
This applies even if you give your cat ‘negative attention’. This is when you react negatively to it like by raising your voice, or picking it up and/or putting it somewhere that it won’t cause as much trouble. Your cat recognizes that at least you’re responding, even if you aren’t giving the ‘right answer’, exactly like how children ask over and over again for something even if you say no. What all of this means is that your cat’s constant meowing might be related to food. It might be begging you for extra food or extra snacks.
2) Your Cat Wants Affection, So Meows for Attention
In the same way, your cat might have learned to meow at you when it’s in need of affection. Some cats like giving affection just as much as receiving it, which really is a blessing for a cat person. In the same way as described above, you may have accidentally taught your cat to meow for attention if it wants you to pet it.
3) Your Cat Is Nocturnal (Why Won’t My Cat Shut Up At Night?)
Something else that owners may not appreciate is that cats are supposed to be active at night. Wild cats hunt and stay active at night and rest during the day. Some domestic cats make the switch to daytime activity so that they can spend more time with their owners, but many don’t, and even those that do won’t sleep eight hours through the night like we do. As such, you can expect any cat to make some noise at night.
There are a few reasons why a cat might make noise when you’re trying to sleep. If you have more than one cat, then they might interact by fighting or playing at night. Or your cat might meow in the hopes of getting your attention or some food even though it’s nighttime.
4) You Have a Cat In Heat Yowling at Night
The other reason your cat might be loud at night is that it’s yowling. ‘Yowling’ can refer to lots of things, but in the context of owning a cat, it refers to the noise that a female cat makes when it’s in heat. This noise is loud, and for a good reason: it’s so that male cats can hear the female cat from miles away. The female will yowl over, and over, and over again until it finds a mate. This repetitiveness coupled with the volume of the noise can drive any cat person crazy.
The trigger for this behavior is for the female cat to be in heat. Without going into too much detail, being ‘in heat’ is when the female is ready to mate and reproduce. It goes through periods of being in heat and periods of not being in heat, with each period of being in heat lasting six days or a week. Cats typically start yowling in the evening and go on through the night, the reason being that this is when cats are most active, so yowling at that time is most likely to attract a mate.
5) Cats Can Be Loud When They’re In Pain
Another reason why your cat might be loud is that it’s in pain.
Cats react to pain in a few different ways. Their main ‘tactic’ is simply to pretend that they aren’t in pain. This is an evolutionary adapation, one that cats developed so that they don’t appear weak to potential predators. Unfortunately, today’s housecats still do the same thing, which makes it difficult for cat people to tell when their cats are unwell.
However, cats can also be louder than usual if they’re hurt. What can happen is that since the cat is hurt, it feels more defensive; therefore when you go to pet it or spend time with it, it reacts defensively. It can do this by hissing, yowling or meowing at you loudly as if to say Leave me alone!
If a cat is in so much pain that it gets defensive when you’re near it, it almost certainly has other symptoms that you can spot too. These could include physical injury either internal or external, signs of ill health like fever, and too many other symptoms to name. Needless to say, in such a scenario, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.
6) Why Is My Cat So Loud in the Morning?
Some people find that their cats are particularly loud in the morning. Yours might hop onto your bed and start meowing at you to get you to wake up. There are a few interconnected reasons why your cat might do this:
- Your cat is saying hello. Some cats greet their owners in the way that other pets do.
- Your cat ran out of food in the night. Your cat recognizes you as its sole source of food, so it’s asking why you aren’t up feeding it yet.
- Your cat missed you. Some cats clearly enjoy being around their owners, so yours might just be happy to see you.
- Your cat has been bored all night. As above, cats are largely nocturnal, and there’s not much happening at night (at least for an indoor cat).
Some people find noisy cats endearing (and I’m certainly one of them). But sometimes all you want is a little peace and quiet, or some space to decompress after a long day… And instead you get a cat begging for food, or for attention, or just being loud for what seems like no reason. So how can you get your cat to be quiet?
How Do I Get My Cat to Be Quiet?
Getting your cat to be quiet is tough. Cats can be trained, but aren’t as eager to please as dogs are, so doing so isn’t as easy. There’s also the fact that noisemaking behaviors are ingrained both by owners and evolutionary history. So, is there a way to get your cat to be quieter? If so, what is it, and how well does it work?
1) Talk To a Vet
If your cat’s behavior changes suddenly, and it starts meowing or yowling loudly for reasons you don’t understand, you should talk to a vet. You should do that any time your cat’s behavior or demeanor change quickly for no apparent reason. There may be a subtle health problem your cat is experiencing.
This doesn’t necessarily apply to cats that have always been loud. Rather, it applies to cats which are normally quiet but which suddenly start meowing constantly. This can indicate that a cat is in pain, for example.
2) Stop Responding
The more attention you provide to your cat when it’s loud, the more likely it is to be loud. As such, the first step you should take is to stop actively responding to your cat when it tries to get your attention.
This is easier said than done. Your first instinct is to respond, whether that’s to give it the food it’s asking for, to pet it, or to get annoyed at it. But your cat doesn’t understand the ideas of positive and negative attention; all it knows is that it wanted to get your attention and that it did.
This rule does have exceptions. If your cat is yowling because it’s in heat, then it’s going to do that regardless of whether you pay it attention or not. But if your cat is meowing for food, meowing for affection, or just ‘talking’ to you, then this can work. It doesn’t work immediately because it takes time for your cat to learn that its old method of getting your attention doesn’t work any more. As such, you have to stick to your guns and expect long term rather than short term changes.
3) Training a Cat to Be Quiet
It is also possible to actively train your cat to be quieter. You can do so using a method known as ‘clicker training’.
Clicker training relies on something called ‘positive reinforcement’. Positive reinforcement is where you encourage your cat to do something by giving it a reward of some kind whenever it displays the behavior you want it to. Over time, the cat comes to equate the positive behavior with the reward that you offer. It will then come to understand that when it shows that behavior, it gets something in return; it will then display that behavior of its own accord or on command.
The trouble is that cats don’t have the best grasp of cause-and-effect. It can therefore be difficult for a cat to learn that the treat is associated with the behavior. That’s why the clicker is necessary. Here’s a rundown of how it works:
- You pick a behavior that you want your cat to display. This could be anything from getting your cat to beg on its hind legs to not meowing as much. Teaching your cat to do something is easier than teaching it to not do something with clicker training, but it is possible. Focus on something your cat may do of its own accord, such as sitting next to its food bowl without meowing.
- When your cat displays the behavior, reward it. In this example, you can reward your cat by giving it the food it’s asking for.
- Click the clicker at the same time as offering the reward. This helps your cat associate the reward with the click, and the click with its behavior.
- Repeat. Repeat the training until your cat heads to sit quietly next to its food bowl when you click the clicker.
Again, it can be difficult to train your cat not to do something by using clicker training, although it can be done. If it doesn’t work for you, there are alternatives…
4) Other Ways to Stop Your Cat Begging for Food
There are two other options available to you if the core problem is that your cat is begging for food. These both involve changing the way you give your cat food so that it doesn’t have to pester you.
One way is ensuring that your cat always has food available in its bowl. This is known as free feeding. People are discouraged from feeding their cats this way since they think that cats which can free feed inevitably gain weight, but this isn’t necessarily true. Some cats, especially those that free feed from an early age, are able to self-regulate their intake of food so that they don’t gain weight. If your cat always has food available to it, then it won’t need to beg.
The obvious drawback of this method is that not all cats can self-regulate their intake. Your cat could therefore gain weight if you fed it unlimited amounts of food. This happens regularly to cats which start their lives on a regular meal-based diet but subsequently switch to free feeding. Talk to your vet before you make any changes to your cat’s diet.
The other way of stopping your cat begging you for food is by buying a cat feeding system rather than just a normal bowl. These can automatically feed your cat a set amount of food at a certain time of day. This could break the association your cat has between you and its food, meaning that it won’t beg you to feed it anymore—as far as it knows, you aren’t the person who feeds it anyway. These have their own drawbacks, like when cats break into them and gorge themselves on as much food as they like, but are worth considering.
5) How Do You Get a Cat in Heat to Be Quiet?
If your female cat is yowling because it’s in heat, there’s no way to train it out of that behavior. It’s yowling because its deepest evolved instincts are telling it to find a mate and reproduce. You could do anything from pay no attention, tell it to shut up to its face, or even mistreat it in one of a million ways (obviously not recommended) and nothing you do would make a jot of difference. Your cat is going to yowl regardless.
The only thing you can do is get your cat spayed. Spaying is the surgical removal of your female cat’s reproductive organs like its ovaries and fallopian tubes. Not only are these organs obviously critical to reproduction, but they are the source of the hormones that make your cat yowl. With them removed, your cat will stop getting in heat and stop yowling.
The surgical procedure for removing these organs isn’t a simple one, no matter how simple it’s made out to be. That’s because the organs the vet has to remove are internal organs. Recovery from similar surgeries is expected to take a long time in people, is painful, and is certainly not taken lightly. As such, ensure that you keep your cat very comfortable after the surgery and that its surgical scar heals correctly.