How can I train my cat to stop "demand meowing", but not "request meowing"?

  • By demand meowing, I of course mean that loud, aggressive, nonstop meowing.

    I understand that you can positively reinforce silence by rewarding a cat when it stops meowing (eg, "Training your cat to be quiet"), but I don't understand what amount of time to allow after a meow for the reward - if she gets a reward as soon as she is silent for one second, doesn't that still reward the meowing? I'm also not sure whether responding to a "polite request" reinforces demanding requests, or if these different meows can be treated differently in training.

    For example, we give her dry food throughout the day, but if we just top it up at various times, it may sit too long and not get eaten. If she tells us that she wants some biscuits, that is helpful. She also gets canned meat once a day, but lately she's started to become very demanding up to 2 hours before the usual feeding time. We always wait it out, and make sure to give her the food once there is a gap in the meowing, but it is a great distraction up to that point and so far hasn't diminished the behaviour.

    Similarly, we don't want to leave the door open all day; if she wants to go out, it's helpful for her to tell us. But if it is not convenient for us to let her out, because we're going out or to bed, she starts to get very loud and demanding. We do keep a clean litter box inside for her, and sometimes we'll place her in it in this situation, but it has never proven effective (maybe because she doesn't actually want to go to the toilet!). (NB she has never had any issue with using a litter box, and will use it no problem when it is the only option [after moving to a new house, for example], but she does strongly prefer doing her business outside).

    Is there a way to stop her from vocally demanding something without dissuading her from politely asking, or is this just too confusing for her? Will us waiting out the nonstop meowing eventually get her to stop doing it in general? Or is there perhaps a way to distract the cat into forgetting about what she so adamantly wants in the first place?

    One thing we have been trying is to "misunderstand" ours... that is, a soft meow or other requests-for-attention we will respond to as best we know, loud and repeated demanding meows *obviously* means she wants to be snatched up and slung over a shoulder, or held high in the air, or maybe just replied to - and not whatever she was trying to demand. The idea is to get across to her that demanding loudly cannot work, because the humans *don't understand*, and meowing more won't fix that. This is a comment and not an answer because it's an attempt in progress, so no proof it will work.

    I have an incessant loud meowing issue in the kitchen where we prepare the cat's meal. The issue is she meows like that everytime we're in the kitchen, which is often...! I'm currently training her to sit (and not meow) in the kitchen so that I can ask for that behaviour instead when she is meowing incessantly. I plan to lengthen the time she has to spend sitting quietly before she gets a treat so that eventually, if I have to cook a meal, I can ask her to sit and then reward her when I'm done! So far she can sit for about 10seconds

  • Zaralynda

    Zaralynda Correct answer

    7 years ago

    We have several Siamese (a breed known to be more talkative than normal), and when they want something WE KNOW (even when we don't know what it is that they want). We've also done some basic voice training commands.

    Is there a way to stop her from vocally demanding something without dissuading her from politely asking, or is this just too confusing for her?

    I'm not sure how you would differentiate this in the training enough to make it clear to her without being confusing. The difference is really just "don't meow enough to be annoying" and I (as another human) wouldn't know exactly where that line is.

    The only way I think it would work would be to instead train her to some behavior that

    • when repeated by an annoyed cat isn't going to annoy you
    • would serve the purpose of "asking"

    So, for example, sometimes our most bossy cat will just sit quietly by her food bowl when she's hungry and wait for food to magically appear. We laugh at her, but we could encourage that behavior since it's a non-annoying way for her to tell us that she's hungry.

    Will us waiting out the nonstop meowing eventually get her to stop doing it in general?

    In my experience, no. Eventually you'll learn to tune it out or get used to it (or lock yourself in the bedroom or turn the TV/radio up louder).

    Or is there perhaps a way to distract the cat into forgetting about what she so adamantly wants in the first place?

    Sometimes? It depends on what the cat wants and what you're trying to do. Usually Ginger yells at us for attention, so if I put her in my lap that's close enough to what she wanted that she quiets down for awhile, even if I'm not actually paying attention to her. If the cat is bored (which may be why she wants to go outside), try an interactive wand toy. If the cat is hungry, try a puzzle feeder with a small amount of food. I'm not exactly giving the cat what she wants, but I am giving her a small part of what she wants, while stimulating her mind and providing excitement. I think these things help a lot for a typical bored housecat.

    I've heard Siamese cats that literally would not shut up (and seemed to be yowling for no reason at all)! Yes, "don't meow enough to be annoying" is somewhat right (as is "don't meow at times that are annoying"), but it really is about the **nature** of the meow - the same way that a dog can bark once softly or bark continuously and loudly, and I have seen dogs trained to respond to a "quiet!" command. Not so easy with a cat though...

    @nxx On second thought I'm having some ideas about training, so I'll make an edit.

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