Cat Constantly Meows and Drives Owner Crazy

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Cat in shoulder bag carrier

Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
1968-2014 R.I.P.


My cat has always been a talkative animal, but her insistent meowing has been worse recently than ever before. Sami has always been much quieter when living in a household with another cat, but now Sami cries constantly, anytime my boyfriend or I are home. It’s not a talkative friendly cry, it’s a desperate sounding cry for attention. She follows us around and cries at our feet until we pay attention to her. She cannot handle not being held or petted and always needs to be sitting on my lap. I’ve tried so many different things….I’ve tried giving her attention first thing in the morning, playing with her, cuddling with her, but even if I play with her for 30 minutes I have to get ready for work and she cries the whole time I’m getting ready. As soon as I come home from work it starts again. I have tried to give her tons of attention and when she cries I pick her up and talk to her…but it always continues, she always wants more and more….and I just don’t have time!!! Now I’m trying to ignore her when she is crying, I’m not making eye contact, not talking to her, and I walk away when she is crying. When she is being quiet then I try to give her attention….but it’s so hard! She will be sitting there quiet and I’ll walk toward her or say one word to her and she will start crying!! So then I have to walk away again. It’s so frustrating, I just don’t even know what to do anymore.



Erin, the problem is that by giving Sami attention to get her to be quiet, you’ve actually spent months rewarding her for meowing! It’s even worse if you ignore her for a little while and then finally give in because then she learns that she has to meow longer and harder to get your attention. Now that you’re ignoring the meowing and trying to reward quiet behavior, you’re on the right track, but you’ll need to tweak it to get it to actually work.

First, you’ll have to find a better way to give her the message that sitting quietly is what earns her your attention. The quickest way to do this in cats is to teach them to sit using food. Use her regular kibble instead of giving it to her for free in a bowl, or use canned food on a spoon, or small treats. Getting her to work for her kibble or regular food is best since if you can reward quiet behavior 100x in a day, you’ll change the behavior much faster than if you used treats which can only make up about 10% of her diet. Also make sure the treats or kibble are small enough so she finishes each one in just one or two bites.

To train sit, as soon as Sami sits, get the food reward up to her face in a manner that allows her to remain seated. Once she eats it give her one or two more for remaining seated. At first if she’s meowing, it’s ok. But after she gets the idea that she should be sitting, then only reward the sit if she’s also quiet. She should be on this step by the end of day 1 or 2.

Once she can sit quietly for several seconds to receive a treat, then work on giving her treats for remaining seated and quiet. The goal is to always give treats before she starts meowing or getting up. For instance you may start by giving treats every 3-5 seconds for 5-10 treats, and then increasing the interval to 7 seconds and then 10 seconds and then 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds. If you increase in this systematic manner and have her earn a large portion of her meal this way, then within several days you’ll have longer bouts of quiet.

It’s also a good idea to teach her that the word “quiet” means she gets no attention. You can do this once she is starting to understand that sitting quietly gets treats and can hold still and quiet for at least 5-10 seconds. Then, when she meows at you, say “quiet” in a calm but clear voice and immediately turn your head away from her. Once she’s quiet for a second or two, reward her with a treat and then give several more frequently enough so that she remains quiet for another 30 seconds but gradually space the treats further and further apart.

You can also then train her to follow you when you walk around the house, when she catches up so that it’s easier to reward quiet sit behavior, or you can train her to sit quietly and stay in one spot away from you. To train her to follow you, take a few steps. When she follows and sits then reward the quiet, polite behavior. To train her to stay, give her a treat for sitting on a chair or stool. Give her a “halt” signal with your hand. Then back up one step but hurry and return to her and reward her with a treat before she gets up. When you can do this 5 times, then switch to taking 2, then 3 and then more steps away.

By approaching this problem in a systematic manner so Sami can understand that quiet behavior is what earns attention, you’ll be able to turn the meowing noise off in just several days.

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29 responses to “Cat Constantly Meows and Drives Owner Crazy

  1. One other thing to consider, an increase of meowing and crying behaviour can also be due to a condition called hyperthyroidism. A visit to your veterinarian and a bloodtest can rule this out as a contributing factor.

  2. Good point! Although it appears that this cats meowing has probably been reinforced, when animals show a major and sudden change in behavior, medical conditions should be considered.
    Sophia Yin, DVM

  3. Dr. Yin,

    How can this technique apply to a cat who meows and claws at our bedroom door for food and attention at 6am – 7am in the morning while we’re still in bed?

    Background: Zoe is 2 years old and gets 3 meals a day (one before nighttime) and a good amount of day exercise

    We ignore her and have been using ear plugs, but have not been consistent with getting up after she stops meowing to feed her and get ready for work.

  4. The trick is that you must be consistent. Every time you give in, especially if you do so on a variable schedule, you strengthen the behavior exponentially. That is, if you rewarded her every time she meowed, and pretty quickly, and then stopped rewarding, that meow behavior might stop pretty fast. but of sometimes you get up quickly and other times you wait a long time, she learns that sometimes she might have to meow and meow a long time to get you to get up. And if you get up sometimes and not others you put her on a sort of a gambling rate of reward which makes it more exciting and makes the behavior really strong. Now she knows, even though she doesn’t get rewarded some times, if she tries really hard, she’ll get rewarded at other times.

    If you want to train her to be quiet, first reward a lot of quiet sits, meaning like 20-50 over the course of several days. And once she’s sitting continue to reward quiet sitting before she starts meowing again. Now she has an acceptable behavior that works for getting food (and attention–e.g. pet her if that’s what she wants as the reward). Now what I do at night is I use the MannersMinder, remote controlled food reward-dispenser ( I train her that she can get food rewards that I dispense if she sits quietly. Then, when she starts meowing in the morning, wait until she’s quiet and reward her via remote control. Dispense treats frequently at first to be sure she remains quiet. Then slow the treat rate down so she has to be quiet for longer and longer periods in order to get the reward. You can even teach her this patience ahead of time by having her eat out of the MannersMinder bowl during the day but with her kibble coming quickly at first but slowing down more and more such that her meal takes her a long time.

    Sophia Yin

  5. Thank you Dr. Yin,

    I have started feeding her wet food (3×20 spoonfuls) doing quiet sit. She starts to pay attention and be more patient after a couple spoonfuls.

    I am also going to look at Manner’s Minder for the morning!

  6. Hi Dr. Yin,

    As a follow-up on the progress I have been making with my cat Zoe. She does quiet sits no problem for lengthy durations. But, sometimes she would make a small “mrrr” noise and I am not sure whether I should count this as not being “quiet”. This is much softer than her incessant meowing.

    While I am preparing her meal (wet food) for training, she would meow incessantly and quite loud pacing around all excited and in a demanding demeanor.

    I am not sure in this scenario, what I should be doing in order to avoid reinforcing this behavior every night, where she would meow like crazy in the kitchen while i am preparing her food.

    Should I feed her a couple dry kibbles to get her to be quiet to start?

    Also, saying “quiet” now while I prepare for food has lost it’s effectiveness! She would be relatively quiet while I feed her! I guess I would have to get her to be loud in order to train quiet.

  7. Thanks for the update. The next step depends on what you want. If the soft mrr is ok, you can go ahead and reward only the soft mrr. Or you can wait until she’s completely quiet and then reward frequently when she’s completely quiet.

    And, as you suggested, you can also give her treats before she has a chance to “mrrr.”

  8. sir im so happy from your information.i am student of and also wants to be a good veterinaryan,i need ur sugestation please help me.

  9. This issue can be one of the hardest to break and most annoying for cat owners. I know that these great tips will help many cat owners to improve their relationships and interactions with each others.

  10. Whether you think it’s behavioral or not, still check for hyperthyroidism and kidney issues. Don’t go by what some vet is telling you on the internet. Unless she’s Theresa Caputo, get a blood test.

  11. I have 7 cats and a dog. Only one cat, who was born into the house, cries the whole time. He will come through the cat flap and screech until he sees me, he will screech all through the night until I get up to see him. I have tried te ignoring and treating system but it is impossible especially with all the others. Sleep deprivation is making us all very grouchy. Been to vet lots of times but nothing wrong.

    1. Unfortunately, we cannot diagnose behavior problems over the internet. We do recommend that if you are having these issues, you see a certified Animal Behaviorist. We recommend the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, or the AVSAB, American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior They do have specialists in cat behavior, which may be hard to find as many focus on dogs. Best of luck.

  12. I find your article extremely helpful. Currently my 4yo cat is confined to another bedroom at night when we r sleeping in our own mbr, but I can still hear his meows 1 hour before (or more) we wake up. We tried to ignore but his meows get louder and longer. So typically we would wake up at our usual timing and open his door then prep his food, which I now know is wrong…
    My question is, I know I’m supposed to ignore his meows before he gets his food, but what about opening the door to let him out of the room? Would it be considered giving him attention? Cuz he’s pretty persistent and can meow for hours, n in the morning I just can’t wait that long for him to stop in order for me to open the door as I need to leave for work. I can however open the door n ignore him until he quiets down. Is that advisable?

  13. Hello, I have a similar problem but different circumstances. A person I know gave me her cat and litter of kittens…after she decided not to keep her.
    The cat and kittens came to my apartment.
    Mum was already meowing all the time and wanted to go outside, my friend let her out all the time. I don’t let cats out because I live on the third floor, near a main road and bird sanctuary.
    Her kittens have gone to their new home, and sometimes the cries change to a deeper cry. This cry strikes me as a mum calling for her kittens , maybe? they were 10weeks old.
    She cries all the time I’m home, all night and I just need to sleep…. I don’t know what to do. Any help is appreciated.


  14. I have Rosie, a 10 year old diabetic cat who gets insulin injections twice a day and is regulated and seemingly healthy. She’ll get a complete 6 month exam very soon.

    I began giving her dental snacks once a day, which she loves and which my Vet recommended, to maintain her healthy gums. Because she is diabetic, she gets no other treats. She’s a good eater, asks to sit on my lap, kneads, sleeps above my pillow, enjoys catnip and likes to play (I could play with her more often).

    The problem I have is that for some time now she desperately meows and almost howls for her dental treat, which I try to give her in the evening. I do my best to wait for a quiet moment, but they don’t seem to come.

    I can’t train her with treats because of her diabetes. She can meow and almost howl for the entire evening for her dental treat. It’s sad and also drives me nuts. Sometimes she seems to be wanting it in the morning too, but the evening is worse. As I said earlier, it’s hard to find a quiet time to give it to her, her meowing is relentless. I plan to try to give it to her in the early evening before she begins begging for it, but I’m thinking she’ll just beg for a second one, which she cannot have.

    I was thinking it may be best to stop the dental treats all together, but I dread how long it will take until she forgets about them. What do you think? Thank you!

    1. I’d find a time you’ll pretty much always be home at and give the dental treat to her then. Cats are very consistant and mine always alerts me to his dinner time if I’m not watching the clock. Another option is to set it where she’ll find it when she’s not paying attention at about the same time [possibly by another person if she’s following you around]. Good luck!

  15. My cat cries when he wants out when he is hungry when he sees me but continues to yowl while im bringing him food walking to the door he just goes off really starting to get on my nerves but he is my little man any suggestions?

  16. Hi. I have a 4 months old cat. She meows day and night. I get no sleep and i work. Her food bowl is always full. I love her but her meowing is driving me crazy. Help?

  17. Hello, i have two cats, only one of whom has just started meowing a lot. I am happy to follow the rewards system described. My question is how do i do this without it affecting the other cat? She is extremely well behaved, so should i reward her at the same time as i do her brother?
    Any advice would be really appreciated!

  18. I know everyone’s stuck on behavior modification. But that’s not always the answer. I have a rescue cat about 18 months old who follows me around like a barnacle and meows ALL the time. Blood work is all good. He fits symptoms of OCD in cats and is totally insecure. Every night around 6:00 he turns into a vampire and starts howling. Wants to go out and when out, then wants to come back in. He looks confused and out of it. And I know he’s not comfortable. It’s out of his control. All I can do it put him in his carrier which contains him and calms him down. After an hour or a couple of hours he comes out purring. But this is EVERY NIGHT. It’s so very hard and I find all I can do is “manage” a cat. I’m going crazy myself. I’m wondering if he’s brain damaged or neurologically impaired in any way. H-E-L-P. I know behavior mod (psychologist) and it doesn’t work on him. Any input would be welcome. Thank You, Joy

  19. I am going absolutely mad! I have gotten to the point of almost hatred toward my cat…..I believe that it probably is a health issue but I can’t afford all of the testing that they want to do on Carla….she is about 14 yrs old and I am at my wits end…..ALL night in and out….I have to get up to let her in and let her out….I NEED REST! I need help!

    1. You need to go to the vet. This is common amongst senior cats, and if you already suspect that it’s a health issue, then this is a must! It is expensive, but to be frank, this is the cost of having a pet – they are your baby.

  20. I have a male cat he name is Bob..he is three yrs old and fixed..has plenty of toys and a sister/ mom(fixed) plays day n night with them as well..the past four months he been meowing reason…hubby has taken him outside with him.Bob stays with never runs off.He lays on the hallway railing all the time and just meows.I don’t want to run to a vet..any suggestions?

  21. My cat is driving me nuts. She whines Day and night. When she’s in my bedroom she cries to lay on me, then moves round and round and won’t keep still. If I take her off me she howls. If I put her outside the room she claws the door. The window is open so she can go inand out when she likes. But she just won’t shut up. She whines as soon as she sees me which sets her sister off. If I lock her outside the room, when I open it in the morning she goes “meow meow meow meow meow” with no break just a constant whine. I tell her “shhhhh be quiet” but nothing shuts her up. She whines whilst I’m getting ready for work, then as soon as I’m home it starts again. It’s constant whining and only way I can get peace is put her outside.

  22. My cat dallas meow a little .but after i got him fixed. He meows alot .. And as soon as i get up in the morning .he starts in meowing. And he follows me meowing to . when i go to the restroom he follows me and sits there meowing. He thinks every thing i open he thinks it’s his treats. And will sit there and meow. What can i do. This all happen after he was fixed. He is a Himalayan Siamese cat. And he was a stray to. He is 2 yrs old. And i have all kinds of toys for him.

  23. Hello Doc!
    I’m sending out this SOS because I´m going quite desperate with my siamese cat. Won’t stop meowing for nothing! He was born on April 26, 2017, so still a very young cat. He is one of the litter which my female siamese had. I’ve tried everything in and out of the book. Day long and night long he meows endlessly. Sometimes in a desperate tone and other times in a less desperate and quieter tone. He never stops wandering the whole house. I simply don’t know what to do anymore. he’s even driven me out of my mind once or twice to the point where I’ve lost my temper and ran after him or shouted at him. Nothing seems to work. I live next to an inn and live worried that his noises may disturb the guests. Up to now no complaints have reached my ears. He started this behavior some four or five months ago and I can’t fathom why. He is healthy, eats very well and apart from this (to me at least) strange behavior, is quite a normal cat. One thing I’ve noticed is that it seems he gets ‘revenge’ in scraping the nearest object. My couch is good for the trash container. Have you any thoughts on this situation which would help me deal with it or correct it? If I can’t correct this behavior I’ll have to give away for adoption. Something which I’ve been trying very hard to avoid. I just don’t know what a good night’s sleep is anymore. Can you give any advice? Thanks a million for any forthcoming answer.
    Your’s truly,

    1. Wow. It’s literally like you are talking about my cat. His behavior changed around the same time frame ad yours. We have tenabts upstairs and he just screams all through the night, All day, and all night long. He is healthy, eating the same as always, getting attention, exercise, play time, everything. We get no sleep at night.i literally sleep with a spray bottle in my hand and get woken up a legitimate 100+ times a night. He wanders the house screaming and never stops, and he is absolutely Shredding every piece of furniture in the house.and its all new. We are completely at a loss and being driven absolutely out of our minds.

  24. Hello! I have a 3 year old Calico who seems very jealous of my boyfriend. She would constantly meow when he would stay over and if we kicked her out of the room, she would claw the carpet. I tried pheromones, reassurance, ignoring her.. nothing works. It really only started when he came around. Now we have bought a house together and don’t know what to do. There isn’t much carpet for her to claw but we don’t want our new stuff destroyed. She doesn’t do it with other people, only him. I really need some advice. What can I do to get her to stop meowing.

  25. Hello! I have a 13 year old black indoor out door cat. With in the past 2 months his meowing has gotten so bad. He’s been talkative his whole life but now every morning at 3am he yells outside our bedroom window! I get up to let him in but he doesn’t come!! He goes quiet for a bit then starts again. (The neighbors have now asked if it was my cat) finally When he does come in he sleeps for an hour and yells to be let back out!! I’m at my wits end. Ugh…. for what it’s worth our other cat passed away recently. Not sure if that could be a reason. However they didn’t get along ever. Thanks in advance!

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