If you have a cat who meows for everything and you’re wondering how in the world you can train him to be quiet, you first have to look at whether you’ve actually reinforced the unwanted behavior. Have you been giving him attention in any form whenever he meows? If so, you’ve let him know that vocalizing will get rewarded.
Rule out Medical Causes
To be safe, if this is a new behavior or if your cat is up there in age, have him checked out by the veterinarian to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical cause. It’s common for older cats who have some hearing loss or are experiencing age-related cognitive dysfunction, to start vocalizing more. You also want to make sure kitty isn’t meowing because he’s in pain or disoriented.
Train Your Cat to be Quiet
How do you do this? It’s actually very simple but it takes patience. Wait out the meowing and don’t acknowledge your cat until he stops. When he’s quiet, immediately reward him. At first, the time that he’s quiet will be very brief but if you only reward him when he isn’t meowing, he’ll eventually realize that silence offers a better consequence than vocalization. Gradually, you can increase the time you’re asking him to be quiet before offering the reward.
I’ve found the easiest way to do “quiet” training is with a clicker. I click when the cat isn’t meowing and immediately offer a reward. Clicker training is a very effective way to let the cat know what you want from him.
Be Patient and Consistent
If your cat has been used to getting his own way through non-stop meowing, it will take some patience on your part to do the training but since you’re dealing with a very smart animal, he’ll soon learn what behavior offers good rewards and what behavior offers nothing.
Consistency is extremely important in training so don’t reward him for being quiet half the time while you’re yelling at him or giving in to what he wants the other times. Inconsistency sends a very confusing mixed message to the cat and it creates frustration for everyone involved.
Need More Information?
For more specific help with training and behavior issues with your cat, refer to any of Pam’s books, including Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.