Prompted by a question from Modern Cat Magazine reader, Emily, I’ve compiled a short list of tips for cats that are meowing at the door.
1. Don’t respond to his meowing by clapping, shouting, moving him away, or other negative reactions.
While you might feel like you are at the end of your patience with cat that meows excessively, negative responses like these teach your cat to fear you, and not the behaviour they are engaged in. This is an ineffective response because it doesn’t solve the underlying problem and in addition it can weaken the bond between you and your cat.
2. The first thing I would try is distraction.
Use a toy that your cat is highly motivated to play with (try the wand toys from Go Cat – they are a favorite with many cats). If he’s meowing at the door -or better yet, if you can tell he’s heading over there- proactively distract him with a toy and then play with him until he is tired out! This may take awhile because younger cats have LOTS of energy. To stop that pesky night time meowing it might be better to start playtime earlier in the evening to tire your cat out while you still have energy yourself! Indoor cats in particular need to spend time each day interactively playing to use up the energy they would have expended hunting if they were feral.
3. If you can, create a cat patio, or a ‘catio‘.
Keep your cat safe by enclosing your balcony with chicken wire or other screening material (or check out the ready-made kits from Cat Fence In). Make this outdoor space a cat oasis by adding a running water drinking fountain, a cat tree or steps to climb and perch, and plant some cat grass for your cat to graze. This access to the outdoors may satisfy your cat’s hunting instincts because he can safely watch and smell whatever is going on outside.
4. As a last resort you can try using a motion activated air can.
These cans spray a short and safe burst of air when they detect movement in the vicinity. This air burst is unpleasant and your cat will quickly learn to avoid the area, and soon just the sight of the can will be enough to deter him. This would not be my first choice response because like scolding or clapping, it’s a negative response that doesn’t fully address the underlying need of your cat. However if your cat is particularly stuck on meowing at that one specific location in conjunction with play distraction the air blast may be useful.
Jenna Cheal, Ph.D. is an experimental psychologist who loves cats and analyzing cat behaviour. She uses her extensive background in understanding the causes of behaviour to provide simple solutions to a range of cat behaviour issues. Jenna (aka The Cat Psychologist) lives in Toronto, Ontario with her partner and two best cat-friends, Andes and Bolivar.
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