Dante Meows Too Much: How I Stopped the Incessant Meowing

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By Dr. Sophia Yin

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 hin 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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14 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

  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.

  5. 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!!!

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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 .

  9. 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…

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