Dante Meows Too Much: How I Stopped the Incessant Meowing

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By Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

R.I.P. 1966-2014

Anyone who owns a Bengal cat knows that they can be Herculean meowers, and my Bengal cat, Dante, is no exception. He’s been known to hold a meow for what seems like 5 minutes.  When I first adopted him a couple of years ago, I just ignored his meowing and pretended he didn’t exist and then rewarded him with petting or treats for being quiet—hint, this works way better if you’ve first spent a day or so rewarding them 50 times for sitting quietly. He quickly learned to be quiet. But since meowing incessantly is in his genes, occasionally a sudden change in environment will bring his meow impulse back.

For instance, once when I was traveling, the pet sitter locked him out of the house. It took us several days to find him and when we finally caught him, he just wanted to escape again.  We could tell this was on his mind 24-7 because that’s how frequently he vocalized his feeling to us as he eyed the door or tried to dart out. I finally put him on the full-on Learn to Earn program for a day where he was actually on leash and harness and received all food and petting only when he sat or lay down. By the second day he wasn’t meowing anymore or trying to dart out. No need for a leash anymore and he went back to regular meal feeding.

But then, of course, as I stated before when there’s some big change his meowing habit comes back. So as a result, I finally have a chance to show what it looks like when you work on fixing the behavior.

Video of Dante relearning to sit quietly instead of meowing for what he wants

In this video, I wait until Dante’s quiet and then click and treat. Because he’s received a lot of rewards for sitting in the past, he’s choosing to sit even if he’s meowing. That makes everything easier because having his body in one calm position makes it easier for him to focus on what he’s getting rewarded for.  I’ve also had free-shaping sessions in the past where I’ve rewarded him for looking away. You can tell that he’s searching for the behavior that earns the click. Because he meows so frequently I have to reward him as soon as he’s quiet for just an instant. Then, in order to make sure he understand that I’m rewarding for quiet and not for meow followed by just one instance of quiet, I try to hurry and reward him for continued quiet before he has a chance to meow again. Then as he starts to get it, I reward longer intervals of quiet. It takes good timing and repetition, but when you get the timing right, they can learn quickly. In fact, although I thought I would need couple of days worth of sessions, after just this one session plus randomly rewarding quiet sit behavior throughout the next day, he was back to his polite, quiet behavior.

Do you have a cat who meows a lot?

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31 responses to “Dante Meows Too Much: How I Stopped the Incessant Meowing

  1. Thank you for this post. I have the same situation. I’ve already taught meowy Oscar to sit quietly for rewards twice in the last 3 years but it came back with a vengance when the cat sitter would encourage him to vocalize around meal times when we went away in August. Since then it’s proven harder to extinguish the behaviour, but after 2.5 months of consistently rewarding quiet we’re making progress again.

    One thing I’m worried about is that I’m creating a behaviour chain of meow-quiet-treat so I’ve been waiting for longer periods of quiet before rewarding. Any suggestions in that regard?

    Jackie and Oscar

    1. How nice that Dr. Yin is being honored by this website being maintained. Just noticed that she passed away a a very young age. She must have been a wonderful vet and lovely lady.

      1. Oh my god Jodi, I just saw this comment and then read the years at the top and realised she passed away years ago. And I was about to write a comment on how I am a little bit losing my mind during Covid – being at university and a boyfriend who works full time from home with such an attention seeking russian blue is stressful and distracting.

        But I see her instructions above on rewarding several times before the next miaow, that might do the trick. However…he tends not to listen without a treat. So that could be an issue.

  2. HI Jackie:

    Yes, I forgot to add to the article, that to avoid making it a chain, you must make each session long enough so that you get clearly longer periods of silence. For instance, the session above was over 15 minutes. (I made sure the cat was hungry!). If you end the session and he’s only quite slightly longer than he was before it will take a long time because he may not have clearly made the connection!

    Also as the article stated above, I reward for continued silence so that he gets longer interval of silence after he meows. The longer this interval of silence (even if you’re giving treats in between), the less likely he will be to remember that this all started because he first meowed. hence a chain of meow/quiet will not be formed (or will be broken).

    Tell me how he does after you make these slight revisions. If timing is right and you practice a lot (for at least 1/2 of his meal, he should get way better in just a handful of days.

  3. I enjoyed rneidag these stories, one because I think I know you pretty well, and two, as there are things which I agree with.You have done a good job in setting up this web-site. You have not only made it sound very interesting, but also fun and simple.By the way, what a great photo.

  4. Our cat Pipa usually goes in and out all day long, stays in at night. For 2 weeks , now, she will not stay in at all. She meows aggressively, needs to be coaxed to come in, eats for 30 seconds and then is frantic to leave. She is fixed. What could be going on?

    1. It’s summer? Wildlife wakes up at night maybe that’s why! My cat doesn’t go out she just NEVER shuts up. My ex made her meow more and now she meows from the time my feet hit the floor in the morning till i go to bed. I recently started keeping her out of my bedroom because she won’t stop vomiting on my bed. I’ve taken her to the vet, they have ran tests but cannot find anything wrong with her. She still vomits and still meows all the time. Good luck!

      1. I had a male Bengal who vocalized a lot. After 17 years and me just loving him talking at times. He wasn’t a constant talker as he would get affection from me regardless of the talk. But an empty food bowl meant talk he was on free feeding of dry food. He’d also talk for hey I can’t get to you and in the morning or if I was away for a protracted period. There was one yowl that he trained me on. If I eliminated that yowl he would have vomited on the bed. That yowl meant I’m about to vomit. It would wake me up instantly, I’d grab him and make it to tile/linolieum floors and put him down and put him gently as he vomited. Made it really easy to clean up. Only cat I’ve ever known to warn about vomiting, it occurred occasionally and sometimes frequently depending on conditions. He has a really sensitive stomach and things like strangers make him stressed as does not getting to see me often enough. When outside supervised, he would sometimes get out of sight of me in the back yard, sit down and start making a distinctive this situation only yowl. I can’t see, come get me. I never wanted him to be an outdoor cat, so this was also a very nice one.

        1. Our bengal also has a gutteral yowl when he is about to throw up. And the meowing starts when he wants me to get upor feed him

        2. So interesting to read because my Bengal has a specific pre-vomit meow too. He is my first Bengal and the only cat I’ve ever had that does this. I agree, it’s really useful.

      2. My senior cat vomited constantly until I began giving him 1/4 of a prilosec pill daily. I put a small plate in the freezer to chill, cut the pill in quarters and take a cold cube of salted butter (it melts more slowly) and shave off a very thin slice of butter to wrap around the pill and place it on the cold plate. Return plate to freezer for an hour then give to cat by kneeling on the floor, putting cat between you legs with kitty facing the same direction as you. Use your left hand to open kitty’s mouth while tilting his head to the ceiling. Use right hand to pop pill into back of tongue, close mouth and rub neck while holding cat,s nose to ceiling. The butter will melt and pill will slide down throat. The colder your hand is the easier it is to do this and the butter won’t melt and stick to your fingers. Takes practice. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to become skilled. I also get the generic tablets as they are less expensive. Good luck.

  5. Thanks so much! I thought I was going to lose my mind. It’s great to finally get some real answers and great solutions. Best of luck with your project.

  6. Yes. He’s 6 weeks old i rescued him.i think he’s spoiled. Cause every day i let him play w/ my neighbors adult katt!!!

  7. My cat is almost 3 and won’t stop meowing. No one has ever told me how to train her to be quiet. She meows at everything. She won’t even stop when she’s being pet. We have tried since she was a baby to give treats as rewards but she smells them and walks away. Doesn’t care about them. Now she pees by our bed if she doesn’t get enough attention. I think bringing another cat would help. HELP!

    1. A good first step in this case would be to have your cat checked out by a veterinarian just to rule out the possibility of any medical problems.. We would also suggest getting in touch with, or asking your veterinarian for a recommendation for, an animal behavior specialist. The behavior specialist would be able to assist you in helping to train your cat. CattleDog Publishing also offers a couple of DVDs via our website, https://drsophiayin.com, which may also help in the interim.

  8. I have two Bengals. Male & female. They are 5 years old and I’ve had them since they were 8 weeks. They both have their moments of howling, but the male is the worst. He’s waking me up early in the morning, sometimes in the middle of the night. I rarely get to sleep to my alarm at 6:40. We recently moved into a small apartment so there’s recent change which could be causing more vocalizing. It’s driving me nuts. He’s meowing for food, for attention, for play, for who knows what else. It goes on throughout the day and night when I’m home. Only peace I get is when they sleep after meals. I tried the click & treat training based on your video before we moved, but it was difficult with 2 cats. I’m getting desperate. Any advice?

    1. What part of training exactly is difficult about the two cats variable? I would recommend training them separately one after another in a different room. Then slowly increase the number of training sessions where they are together, gradually, until you are training them only together.

  9. Hello, we have three Bengals Memphis Mia and Jada , Memphis is three then 2and1 yrs Memphis has been Meowing for about two weeks . We recently got a German Shepherd puppy . Have had her three months they get along the most part . Memphis started getting out when I had ankle surgery because I’m not quick enough .when letting Piper out . He is non stop meowing . I’m going to try the treat remedy thank you . Let’s hope it works .

  10. Help I have a male bangle and he meows throughout the day and starts meowing in the early hrs of the morning . Sometimes starts at 1 am. I have to get up and close my bedroom door. This is driving me nuts.
    It’s not for anyone reason.
    I don’t know what to do…

  11. it seems you are rewarding your cat for meowing at you by treating it..He will eventually stop because he has has enough food

  12. I have a 9 year old Bengal. After coming and going daily, always home by 6pm, he disappeared, for no apparent reason, for 10 months. Turned out he was living in the next village, less than a mile away, for at least the last 6 months of that time. Eventually his feeders took him to the vet, to check his chip and the vet contacted me! Hooray!. Kept him in for 7 weeks, but after about 5 days of coming home, I had to collect him from his feeders, yet again.So now, when I keep him in for as long as possible (he yowls herculian style after 1st day in) I let him out and by day 2 he has gone back to the feeders, because they won’t stop feeding him! It’s a living nightmare! I have begged them not to feed him but they say he just steals their cat’s food anyway. Really they would like him for themselves and would be happy if i didnt collect him. Should I train him for quietness, which would be nice, or anything else?

    1. My Bengal doesn’t like treats either. And he starts being meowy from 11pm and doesn’t stop until 5am. I don’t remember the last time I had more than a couple of hours sleep. I’ve had to start sleeping as soon as I get in from work.

      1. Benny doesnt like treats either (2y.o bengal) he has dry food he likes and so I just feed that to him one kibble piece at a time – to be fair hes primarily wet food so his dry food is sorta his special food

  13. My Bengal is obviously overweight from treats from her previous owner i dont want to continue her weight gain. I’m gonna try giving her food at night before I got to bed and at 12pm to see if she stops meowing. I live in California so of course i have roommates and we all lose sleep. I hope this works. Pretty please work. I’ll check back in.

  14. If your cat doesn’t like a particular treat, don’t give up. Find one that he / she does like. Cats require a very high protein diet, but most kibble & canned food is low in protein.

    We feed our pets a 100% raw “species appropriate” diet, and we have learned from the many classes we have taken that cats LOVE chicken turkey & pork (raw, cooked, or deli meat (although you should not feed too much deli meat because of the preservatives in it.)

    If that is too much trouble for you, then your pet store sells 100% dehydrated chicken, turkey, duck treats, etc (but they are pricey.) I guarantee your cat will LOVE 100% protein treats … unless they have an underlying health problem.

    Just think … what did cats eat before we started to domesticate them? That hasn’t changed. They just adapted to the low quality food our pet food industry prepares for them, however, it only helps cats survive. In the long run … commercialized pet food doesn’t help our cats thrive (even the super expensive brands). FYI – I found my last 2 cats at a garage sale for free, & they both lived to be 22 and 23 (died of old age.) So, we must be doing something right.

    RE: Bengal cats
    We have two rescue Bengals & have learned that they need ALOT of attention, ALOT of intentional play & ALOT of snuggling time with you, etc. We LOVE our Leo & Lucky, however, from our experience we feel Bengals should not be bred and sold. They are just too high maintenance for most people. If your Bengal is talking too much & a lot of play and attention is not fixing the problem … google & learn how to feed a 100% raw species appropriate diet (w/ a little added organ meat like liver.) Its not hard. If that doesn’t work, then ask your vet to run the Hyperthyroidism blood test. This is very common in cats and can cause them to feel restless & vocal Don’t give up on your fur baby / babies !

  15. I have an 8 month year old beautiful snow blue eyed bengal with such a big heart but wild soul, he really is vocal at times and it can be exhausting to deal with, he doesn’t take snacks so this trick sadly won’t work:(

  16. We have a four yr old female Bengsl Phoebe . She is a constant newer and but doesn’t meow when sitting in front of us more like roaming the house. My husband is to the point to rehome her . I found some one. Then I couldn’t do it .She is treat crazy help

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