Peace in my apartment please!
February 4, 2012 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Any way I can get my cat to stop his howling meows when I get home? Yes, I have a second cat.

I have a four year old tabby, who is seriously awesome. However, he's very very talky. He meows in the morning, he meows at dinner time, he meows when people are over. When he was little he would meow when he was eating. Every time I leave, he meows when I close the door, and meows when he hears me outside. Even when I've only gone to take out the trash!

It's kind of stressful after a long day to come home and hear him meowing urgently on the other side. I thought getting him a brother would help the situation, but the meowing continues even after I got a little orange kitten a few months ago.

Is there anything I can do to try to curb this? I don't yell or punish him in any way, because I feel like the little guy is just hungry and happy to see me, especially when I come home after a long day. No idea what's going on with the meowing when I'm only outside for a minute. It's just a little stressful to hear the meowing outside the door and the "now now now" treatment the minute I walk in. Give me some space dude!

I love both cats to bits, they're generally well behaved, both recently to the vet with clean bills of health, so no issues there.

For picture fans: Screamer, Screamer's quiet orange baby brother.
posted by sweetkid to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
He's just excited to see you! It might help for me to tell you that I get home before my husband, and the cats are happy to see me and all that, and then sit quietly/lie about like usual until they hear him coming up the walk, when they start up with the insane happy meowing. So I don't think your cat is freaking out all day long when you're gone or anything.
posted by something something at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2012

Best answer: My cat was a talker. My son told me that she always ran to the front window several minutes before I could possibly have been within sight or smell of my house and waited there until I actually arrived. She talked to me about every change, when I was leaving, or arriving, or a workman had been in the house, her food, her litter box, my changing rooms, going into the kitchen, bathroom, watching television, everything. I used to worry because I never knew what she was carrying on about but finally came to accept that she was just a chatty cat and I was her person and she liked to talk to me. I just started answering her in a reassuring way and saying things like, "Yes, it's really good to be home; I'm glad to see you, too."
posted by Anitanola at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: He's happy to see you and is telling you about his day is all, some cats are just chatty, there isn't a lot you can do about it. I had a white oriental cat that loved to tell me all about his day when I came home, the only way I could shut him up was to sit down and talk to him for a few minutes. Pat him and go "oh yes, oh really and then what happened?" after about 2 minutes he was all done and I'd feed him and then I could go about my business. I rather liked the greetings but I can see how they could be annoying.

I suppose it would be possible to train him with a squirt bottle or something to not do it, but it would be a bit like training a dog not to wag its tail when it saw you, you'd just end up with an unhappy cat.

Also you have 2 very handsome cats.
posted by wwax at 4:55 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: nthing - your (adorable!) cat is a talker

my cat Sookie (youtube) is also a talker. When she's hungry, right after she's eaten, when I get home, when I am halfway down the hall from my apartment when I am coming home, but usually when she is just sitting around with nothing happening. It can be really irritating and loud but usually, it is just nice to have someone(thing) that is SO SO EXCITED that I am around.
posted by zingiberene at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Haha, zingiberene, I just clicked on your clip of Sookie meowing, and my two cats went completely nuts looking for the noisy kitty :-)

Nthing that some cats are just generally noisy and excited to see their people. Not much you can do to break the habit in my experience, though giving him some extra cuddles might soothe him momentarily (but also might encourage more noise in the future).
posted by mesha steele at 5:10 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Zingiberene, I must complement you on your matching (sweet) cat and blanket!
posted by jvilter at 5:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh dang, I love talky cats, but I am a crazy cat lady who immediately goes into babytalk mode with any and all animals so I might be in the minority here.

When Screamer begins to talk with you, do you engage with him or do you ignore him?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2012

It's just your cats personality. The cat probably quiets down very quickly when it realizes you aren't coming back. My little girl flips her shit when I take the trash out.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 5:27 PM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: These answers are making me feel better -- I realize part of my stress is worrying that I haven't cared for him in some way -- the meowing makes me feel like I am doing something wrong, I guess. It's not so much that it's loud or annoying.

When Screamer begins to talk with you, do you engage with him or do you ignore him?

Depends -- some of the time I talk to him, but if I've just gotten home from work I ignore him for a few minutes, then feed them both.
posted by sweetkid at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2012

Best answer: One of the joys of cat ownership is the opportunity to have long and nonsensical conversations with them. Your cat's just chatty.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:48 PM on February 4, 2012 [11 favorites]

Yorvit shouts at me when I first get home, and will chastise me if I don't play string with him within the first few minutes.

Roswell is particularly talky when I'm in the shower; I imagine he's telling me to be careful, all that terrible water is attacking, am I okay, etc.
posted by rtha at 5:50 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Even when my husband has been home all day, The Mogget still yowls like a banshee when she hears me opening the door. So I yowl back and we have a long conversation and she drools and sheds hair all over me and then we're all caught up for the day and it's all good.
posted by ninazer0 at 5:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have one cat(out of 2) who talks a lot. The only way to shut him up is either to feed him if it's the right time, or cuddle with him and talk to him. Usually I pick him up and he starts purring immediately so that's what he wanted.

Sometimes he also walks around the house with a toy in his mouth, meowing through it. That means he wants to play.

Sometimes he meows because he wants me to come to bed - yeah he meows incessantly, I go see what he wants, and he goes and jumps on the bed while looking at me expectantly. Then I pet him a bit and go back to whatever I was doing.

So yeah, engage with the cat.
posted by fromageball at 6:17 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, my Mom has a cat who's a talker. Sometimes she's hungry, sometimes she wants attention, sometimes god only knows why she's meowing! It is fun to either make weird noises at her or have one-sided conversations with her though. So I really don't think you need to worry that you're doing something wrong. Just mutter some nonsense to him, and go on your way.

Also, they are so adorable!
posted by grapesaresour at 6:27 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that some cats are just chatty. But if you really want to stop the urgent meowing, the key is to ignore your cat when you get home and for 10 minutes after that (and for 10 minutes before you leave). My guy had some separation anxiety when he was little, and this did the trick. I also ignore my cat for 10 minutes when I wake up - so now I have a cat who does not wake me up for food because he does not associate me getting up with receiving his breakfast.
posted by analog at 7:30 PM on February 4, 2012

Response by poster: Aagh, analog this is what I've been trying! I don't feed them right away in the morning or first thing when I get home. I wait a few minutes and Screamer (not his real name) just yells the whole time!

Also, thanks everyone for saying they're adorable. They totally know it.
posted by sweetkid at 8:00 PM on February 4, 2012

My girl cat Luna talks to me all. the. time. I feed her as soon as I get up in the morning, and as soon as I get home from work, which takes care of the most urgent and annoying bitching and moaning.

The only other time her self-expression really bothers me is when I open the door to the bedroom where my husband is sleeping and she zooms in, then meows continually at top volume because she is just SO EXCITED to be in the bedroom where she knows she is not supposed to be.

Most other times I talk to her in English or meow back at her, which she seems to enjoy. The other day she followed me into the bathroom, and for some reason I got a weird shooting pain in my face and said "ow!" She immediately answered, "ow?"
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:54 PM on February 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

HRH Miss Lady Qu'Appelle, RIP, was also quite the talker - with a Siamese streak to boot. She'd talk at every opportunity, to everyone, about everything. This includes howling at the door when she knew that I was headed home.

So, I'd talk to her back. One day, she solved the conflict in Afghanistan. Another day, she solved the Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. On a weekend, she found a cure for cancer. And then, she became the newest UN Ambassador to Uruguay - after she colonized the Moon! She was a very busy cat! It was great to just sit and make up these outlandish stories and tell them to her, and just have her chirp back. After she was confident that you got what she was trying to urgently and earnestly communicate to you, she'd settle down for another round of napping, satisfied that all was right in her little kitty world.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:44 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Whenever my cat meows at me, I meow back in the exact same tone. Maybe it's just because I'm a musician & I'm used to mimicking sounds. I also pay attention to them when they're paying attention to me - usually anyway, we humans do have other things we need to do.

I've found that clicker training one of my cats gave us a new dimension of communication & I have another cat who seems a bit... disconnected - he's affectionate and friendly, but he doesn't seem to understand me the way the other cats do & I'm hoping doing clicker training with him will also give us more common ground so that if his behavior is inappropriate I can train him to stop it - not out of some nefariousness on my part, but because his reaction is based on faulty assumptions. If that makes any sense - he gets anxious if I'm about to leave & I want to show him that I don't always leave all day.

Which is another thing - contrary to popular belief, cats are social creatures & if you're really gone all day, they probably do miss you.

Rather than ignore their behavior in an attempt to stop it, you should initiate a new behavior instead through something like clicker training.
posted by MesoFilter at 11:21 PM on February 4, 2012

If you get an automated feeder then you'll remove the "you = food" part of the equation... Just in my experience, the loud, whiny meowing is usually food motivated, so that might be sufficient to tone it down to chatty, non-annoying meowing.
posted by anaelith at 5:17 AM on February 5, 2012

This may help you feel more special: cats don't really meow much at each other; they use more subtle indicators like body language and scent to communicate. Meowing and solicitation purring are used like a pidgin version of "human talk" to get human attention. Kinda like the kitty equivalent of trying to bridge a language barrier by saying "HELLO DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH" very loudly and slowly. Pretty cool. So your takeaway from this is: Screamer is likely NOT being loud and annoying the neighbors while you're gone,  and all this loving attention is for you, you, you!

Some cats are just naturally chatty, and Screamer probably will always be to some extent. But there's a learned element to it also, same as with dogs barking, that gets strengthened by intermittent reinforcement. Lonely, bored dog barks: humans come: dog gets exciting attention! Even negative attention is still attention. And if it takes two hours for the humans to come, the dog just learns that human company requires two hours of barking. It's not so different with cats. Cat meows: human gives food: cat meows when it has a craving whether it's hungry or not. If the meowing is truly unbearable, I know a few methods used to train dogs not to bark that may or may not work for cats:
- Ignore the animal totally while it's noisy, giving it no attention/reinforcement. Same logic behind letting a baby "cry it out" and learn to soothe itself. The noise will get worse before it gets better!
- Distract the animal immediately from whatever it's yowling at until it calms down.
- Train the animal to "speak" on command for a reward treat. Then use that to train it to NOT speak unless given the command with treat.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:33 AM on February 5, 2012

Yep, you have a talker. Nothing but smarts in that guy. Embrace it cause you'll miss it when it's gone. My long ago kitty came without a name for a couple of months till she went to the vet and stayed overnight. I missed her conversations. Thereafter, her name was officially: Chatter.
Chatter taught me much, as she was multilingual. I learned to roll my R's from her. We used to play chase and hide-n-seek and talk about the goings on and other things she deemed important. Her only fault was an unfailing internal clock and dislike of failure to adhere to her schedule. And, as you can guess, she'd let me know about it. She lived to 18 years old and still I miss her conversations.
posted by mightshould at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2012

This little heathen will wail at my apartment door when I come home unless we immediately instute a session of a little activity he created which I call Mandatory Post-Employment Feline Worship Sessions. He will also hold my computer chair hostage until he is snuggled and talked to in a normal, conversational but attentive tone of voice. I don't mind that, but I do NOT believe him for a second when he tells me he is following the rules about not having parties while I work.

(Sorry for the old pic, he wasn't in the mood to pose tonight and my phone's camera sucks. His majestic mane is back and he is looking like a nanolion for sure.)
posted by Samizdata at 10:35 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

- Ignore the animal totally while it's noisy, giving it no attention/reinforcement.

This sort of worked with this guy who demanded to be fed at the top of his lungs. ("Oh!" exclaimed one electrician, " That's a cat?! I thought you had a screaming baby in the other room!") It took about three years. Now, he bellows once in the kitchen, then goes out of the kitchen to the living room and oh-so-quietly waits (sometimes coming back into the kitchen every 20 min or so to again bellow one time) ...up until we say "Okay!" which means we're about to put food into his dish. Then he gallops across the living room HOWLING WITH JOY.

Not quite what we were aiming for, but it's easier on us and guests than the constant nagging he did before.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:07 AM on February 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Screamer appears to be sick. I'd give anything to hear him yelling at me now :(
posted by sweetkid at 6:22 PM on February 16, 2012

Aw. Healing vibes to Screamer.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

sweetkid, is he better now?
posted by analog at 4:59 PM on February 19, 2012

Response by poster: *slightly* better. I'm really hoping everything turns out ok in the next few days. Thanks for asking.
posted by sweetkid at 9:26 PM on February 19, 2012

Oh no. I hope Screamer feels better soon!
posted by grapesaresour at 10:39 PM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: He is on the mend! Still not back to super meowy proportions but a much happier cat.
posted by sweetkid at 2:06 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Something's up with my car's brake system but I...   |   How often do you finish a bottle of lotion? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.