QUESTION: Why does my cat constantly meow?
Dixie and Peter adopted Random when he was four years old four years ago. At age eight, Random adores 15-year-old Danger Grrl and follows her around and tries to sleep next to her, but she avoids him and hisses if he snuggles up to her. Random was at veterinarian for shots and checkup last week and was deemed very healthy, very active 15-pound feline (though he does need to lose 2 pounds).
Peter says Random's behavior issue started as soon as he came home from Every Creature Counts. "Random mews almost constantly, just walks around mewing," he says. "He runs fearfully if the door bells rings or anyone knocks on the door, if phone rings (even on TV), or if he hears a man's boots walking." Peter asked but the shelter didn't know of any history of abuse.
"We have tried paying extra attention to him, petting him more, brushing him (he loves being brushed), giving him treats (which of course added weight!!). We have toys for him--he even ran away from a wind-up mouse. He is a big boy but scared of nearly everything. Our Vet says some cats are just talkers and that perhaps he was abused in his first family."
Cats' vocalizations can result from pain, fear, or frustration, and sometimes is health related. The cat's physical and emotional health, as well as traits of instinct, must be considered to help figure out the cause. Think of this as the H.I.S.S. Test, which stands for health, instinct, stress, and symptom solvers.
Meowing is the way cats communicate with humans. When they feel bad, the meow-demands may increase. Deaf cats tend to meow more because they can't hear themselves, and have trouble hearing where owners may be. Also, increased meowing has been linked to heart conditions and high blood pressure.
Cats instinctively repeat behaviors that benefit them. For instances, cats often cry to wake owners up in the morning, and are rewarded by being fed.
Stress of any kind prompts cats to seek attention and comfort. Meowing is the most common way cats seek attention from humans.
S=Symptom, Signs & Solutions
Based on what you've described, I have to agree with your veterinarian's assessment. Some cats simply "talk" a great deal. My own cat Seren will continue long, drawn-out "conversations" as long as we answer her. These cats are rewarded with attention-when they mew, and you give in with petting, brushing, treats or other response, that reinforces the cat to repeat the action.
With rescue cats it's usually impossible to know if they've been abused in the past. While we often assume shy behavior springs from some traumatic event, many cats inherit the "shy gene" without ever suffering abuse or neglect. They're simply wired to be more cautious of strange people, places, noises and anything out of the ordinary.
If the mewing doesn't bother you and the veterinarian has deemed Random to be healthy, there's nothing to be done. But if you'd like to tone down the mew-ings, you can use the tips found in this article about meow wake-up calls.