Banzai is the most vocal Siamese I’ve ever had, and after Mao, that’s saying a lot. Sometimes it’s helpful–for example, when he wants to come in the house or is ready to eat. When he was younger, he would joyfully announce when he was laying pipe in the litter box. Mostly it’s just an incessant serenade during daylight hours to be let outside. (Starting late in the afternoon we don’t let him out because he is thoroughly in love with the skunk and tries to engage her in play. One memorable time, that did not end well.)
So what do we do–take him back to the shelter and ask for a new, quieter model?
It’s a quandry. We love him to death and would never for a second consider rehoming him. But an hour or two of straight yowling wears thin.
Fortunately, the house is big and pretty soundproof, so I can go close myself off in a room or put in the earphones and wait it out. Many people don’t have that option, or perhaps have upstairs cat-hating neighbors who are threatening to call the landlord.
First, the degree of vocalization is largely determined by breed. Orientals are chatty; Persians are not. Know this before you adopt a cat.
Abyssinians, British and American Shorthairs, Persians, Maine Coons, and Cornish Rex all tend to be “quiet” breeds.
Usually, the shelter or rescue from whom you adopt your cat can help you choose one whose vocal style meshes with your preference.
Unspayed females–even if otherwise quiet–will vocalize excessively when in heat. If they are indoor cats, they will continue to come into heat every 18-24 days year-round (unless bred). The sound of a cat in heat is worse than nails-on-a-chalkboard, Tuvan singing, a six-year-old practicing the bagpipes, and bad accordion music all rolled into one.
Intact males will yowl incessantly when they detect a female in heat. Having your cat fixed while still a kitten will still the song of love and give you peace and quiet.
They’re Talking to YOU!
Kittens meow to let their moms know they’re hungry or otherwise need attention. As a cat ages, he will no longer meow to communicate with other cats. Growls, yowls, hisses and body language are the primary means of feline-to-feline communication, while meowing is reserved for feline-human communication. If your cat is meowing, he’s trying to talk to you. Figuring out what he’s saying will help you determine how to quiet him.
It’s not what they say, but how they say it
Know your cat’s meow style. If she tends to be quiet and rarely meows to you, but then starts vocalizing out of the blue, there’s a problem. If you can’t figure out what’s wrong, a visit to the vet is in order.
Mao was extremely vocal and had a wide range of vocalizations. There was one he used to greet us, one to locate his little buddy, one to be let in the house, and a barely audible cranky huff he’d give when he wanted to get in the last word. I could list a few dozen more. Here’s his LET ME IN! voice:
During the final months of his life, a new vocalization emerged as his eyesight and hearing faded. It was not a call of distress, but one of disorientation, as if he didn’t quite know where he was or why he was there. Sensory deficits and cognitive dysfunction are common in geezer cats, but you should have your vet take a look for underlying medical conditions like hyperthyroidism or kidney disease. Often, medications can help.
Tripper, on the other hand, is quiet– even on trips to the vet. If he were to meow as loud and often as one of the Siamese, I’d know immediately that something was amiss. Sometimes it’s just a neighbor cat in the back yard, but I’ll always investigate.
Pay close attention to your cat and learn her vocabulary and delivery style. Most hard-core cat people I know will agree that cats have no trouble whatsoever communicating exactly what they want.
Attention Deficit Disorder?
If you chose a cat as a pet because you thought they didn’t require much work, think again. They are emotional, sentient beings who need attention and affection as much as you do.
If you aren’t providing enough attention and sensory stimulation to your cat, she may meow to get some quality time with you. To reduce the cries for attention, play with her (young cats need more playtime), but don’t do it as a reward for meowing. Wait for a moment of silence, then give the attention. If she starts meowing again, walk away, returning when she’s quiet.
Sometimes it can help to train your cat to have a consistent play time each day. Once trained, she is less likely to vocalize at other times.
The same routine goes for food. Don’t reward her with food after excessive meowing. Wait for moments of quiet before putting down the food. Or, it might help to switch to an automatic feeder. Auto feeders can be especially helpful with cats who wake you up yowling at 5am. They will learn to focus their attention on the feeder and wait for it to open. They sure don’t want to be tormenting you in the bedroom while the feeder is opening up in the kitchen!
If you work long hours at the office and the cat is home alone during the day, consider getting him a playmate. Some cats need to be only-cats, but most thrive having a buddy with whom they can play and plot. Added bonus: fewer behavioral problems that stem from boredom.
Are you the doorman?
If your cat is indoor/outdoor and is yowling to come in and out, consider getting a cat door. Even better, build a catio outside the cat door to ensure your cat is safe while enjoying some outdoor time.
It is a cat’s true nature to want to be out-of-doors. Butterflies! Birds! Squirrels! Interesting smells on fire hydrants and telephone poles! But too few people live where it is safe to allow cats outside. Consider harness training him or buying a pet stroller. A short walk or ride each day can sate the outdoor adventurer that lurks within him.
What you should never do
Do not discipline the cat, don’t kick, slap or scream. None of that will do anything but turn your cat into a fearful back-of-the-closet beast who only comes out (hopefully) to poop and eat.
Has Banzai shut up, yet?
Not quite. But it’s getting better. Leaving the room and ignoring him has helped the most. But we are religious about playing with him — long, frantic sessions — after dinner at night. He’ll only meow if we forget about playtime. And it gives me something to blame hubby for — he’s the one who wanted to get a vocal Siamese, and he scored the most vocal Siamese on the planet with this one.
How vocal is your cat? Does he have an extensive vocabulary?