Is your cat meowing because she's happy, mad, sad, or not feeling well? As with everything cat behavior and health—it's all about context.
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illustration of a cat meowing, setting in a contemporary living room; why is my cat meowing so much?
Credit: Grace Canaan

When a cat meows excessively, it's natural to wonder what they're trying to say and why your cat is meowing so much anyway. Meowing can basically be attributed to one thing: cat-to-human communication.

That's right—meows are typically reserved for conversations with humans and less commonly used for cat-to-cat communication. "Cat-to-cat communication revolves around body language, eye contact, growling, and hissing," says Sheena Haney, DVM with Koala Health.

If your cat is meowing excessively and it's just killing you that you can't crack the translation, here's your guide for decoding the cat's meow.

9 Reasons Why Your Cat Meows Excessively

If you've ever meowed back at your cat (guilty!), Haney admits what you likely already know—your cat has no idea what you're saying. But there's no harm in talking back to your cat. And, pro tip, scientists say talking to your cat in a baby voice can achieve the best results.

Language barriers aside, cats—much like humans—have a lot to "say" when they need or crave something. "Learning and paying attention to your cat's vocalizations and body language is a great way to bond with [and care for] your pet," Haney says. Some of the most common reasons for meowing include:

  1. Seeking attention: If your cat is extra chatty, it may be a sign they simply want your attention or to play. When it works, your furry friend notices and associates meowing with a positive feedback loop.
  2. Saying hello: It may not feel like an act of love when a cat is meowing excessively, but it's one of the best ways they know how to say, "Hi! I missed you!" (And "Where have you been? You smell weird. Did you bring me a treat?")
  3. Asking to be fed or to have another treat: While beckoning for more food is hard to deny, it's best to stick to a feeding schedule. "Offering a snack every time she meows may pave the way for weight gain," Haney says.
  4. Fear, anxiety, or stress: Some cats may become subdued or frozen in posture when stressed, while others become more vocal, restless, or agitated.
  5. Pain or discomfort: Anything from arthritis to an ingrown nail could put the "ow" in "meow." Usually a sign of contentment, your cat might purr when in pain, too. So, look out for clues such as your cat excessively grooming one spot or changes in mobility.
  6. A health condition: Unfortunately, there may be a more serious cause behind your cat's meowing. "A geriatric cat may vocalize due to confusion or disorientation. This can be the result of cognitive dysfunction, much like humans with Alzheimer's disease," Haney notes. She adds that an increase in meowing could also point to other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism.
  7. They're in heat: And in response, intact male cats will meow excessively if they hear or smell an intact female cat in heat.
  8. They're pregnant: Female cats could become more affectionate and talkative when expecting. They'll also meow more when labor begins.
  9. Your cat could just love to chat. Cat breeds including Siamese, Oriental, Balinese, Tonkinese, Singapura, and Japanese bobtail are known to be extra talkative, Haney says.

How to Stop Excessive Meowing

If your cat is meowing more than usual, the first thing to do is take her to the veterinarian. Let your vet know what time of day your cat seems to be meowing the most and if it's accompanied by anything else out of the norm, like accidents outside of the litter box or changes in sleeping habits or appetite.

If your veterinarian deems your cat to be healthy, then try these tips to reduce meowing. And if these tips and the trip to the veterinarian don't help, you can always ask for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist.

Enrich Your Cat's Environment

Cats should be played with every day, Haney says. Ideally, your cat should enjoy at least two 10-to-15-minute interactive play sessions, allowing her to stalk, pounce, and bite her toys like the predator she is. Enrichment also includes cat-appropriate furniture and toys that she can scratch, climb, and enjoy while you're away—like scratching posts, cat trees, and cat feeder puzzles.

Use Calming Pheromones

"Your new cat may be meowing because of the stress and excitement of moving into a new home," Haney says. To help a new cat or any anxious kitty settle in or adapt to a new family member, use calming pheromones in addition to providing an enriching environment with plenty of places to explore and hide.

Stick to a Routine

Cats crave routine. If they know exactly when playtime will happen, when dinner will be served, and when they'll be groomed—they'll be less inclined to meow for these things to happen. Plus, if your cat is stressed or anxious, clear expectations for the day will help calm her nerves and make her feel secure.

If you're introducing a new cat to your home, there's no better time to start a routine than on day one. But, of course, it's never too late to create a schedule for your kitty.

Spay or Neuter Your Cat

If you're wondering why your intact female or male cat is meowing so much, chances are they're looking for a mate. You might also spot a cat in heat meowing a lot and rubbing on everything. "This can occur as early as 6 months of age," Haney says. "Consider spaying or neutering your cat to eliminate the drive to find a mate."

What Not To Do

You don't always need to give in to your cat's request for food or attention. But Haney says not to ignore your cat's meows, either. First, rule out medical issues or environmental needs before chalking your kitty up to a chatty Cathy. No matter the root of the meowing, Haney adds, never punish your cat for their vocalizations. After all, they're just trying to communicate with you in the best way they know how—even if some mews and meows come out as bizarre jibber jabber.