Posted on: April 17th, 2015 by Dr. Dale Rubenstein

Vocalizing in cats can occur for a variety of reasons. And while sometimes it’s cute, other times it may be annoying.

Siamese cats are noted for being more vocal than other breeds. Hormonal reasons include estrus (cats “in heat”); cats who vocalize more may be bored, stressed with a change in environment or they may have a medical condition. Sometimes we reinforce attention-seeking behavior when a cat vocalizes and we “answer”. “Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome”, similar to dementia in people can also be a cause for vocalizing.

Simple things to try to discourage vocalizing, in an otherwise healthy cat (eating normally, maintaining normal weight, showing normal behaviors and litter box habits):
1. Give your cat attention more when she is quiet and ignore her when she vocalizes. Also, try to re-direct her attention by tossing a toy to chase or a sound to distract her (hairdryer).
2. If Kitty is waking you in the middle of the night, discuss with your veterinarian, but you may want to feed a protein “snack” before bedtime, so you know Kitty isn’t hungry. In some situations, leaving dry food free-choice overnight and keeping Kitty out of the bedroom may be helpful.
3. Is Kitty bored? This is more common in single-cat households where the cat is alone during the day. Environmental enrichment is important; make sure there are things to do (climbing toys and window perches can keep Kitty busy) and some time for interactive playtime with you every day. In some situations, adding a second cat can be helpful.
4. If there is a change in environment that may be stressful (remodeling project, moving, visitors, new pets), using Feliway ® diffusers may be helpful, as well as ensuring that Kitty has safe places to hide. You may need to move food, water, litter boxes and bedding during this time.

If the above suggestions aren’t helping and/or if your cat is sick, please schedule an exam with your veterinarian, since night-vocalizing can be due to a medical problem. (See Part II next time – Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and Senior Cats)