Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My year-old cat has been meowing ever since we let her take an adventure into the garage. She constantly wants to be in there, and if she can’t get her way she’ll meow more and more until we give in. I’m not sure what to do. My dad is saying if her meowing won’t stop, I’ll have to re-home her — which is NOT an option in my books. Please, help! She is my pride and joy.
Siouxsie: Wow, guys, we’ve gotten a lot of letters about cats crying all the time, haven’t we?
Thomas: We really have. Maybe there’s an epidemic going around. Even Bella’s getting into the game!
Bella: You know you love my singing voice, don’t lie.
Thomas: Well, it is kind of cute, I have to admit.
Siouxsie: Can we please get back to business here? I’ve got to take a nap and you two are keeping me up.
Thomas: Okay, okay. Ashley, the two most common reasons cats carry on and meow excessively. One, particularly with female cats, is that they’re in heat — that is, they’re ready to mate and have kittens. If your cat isn’t spayed, she may be calling out looking for suitors.
Bella: If she is spayed, then she’s probably crying and carrying on because she’s bored. She wants to go into the garage because it’s interesting and it hasn’t been explored yet. And maybe there are even some mice for her to chase in there.
Siouxsie: The best way to deal with a bored cat is to do things that interest her and set up her environment so she has lots of places to observe life.
Thomas: We cats see territory in three dimensions, so it’s not just about the floor or the furniture, it’s all the space in the house. If you get tall cat trees or make shelves and walkways in higher places, you’ll be giving your cat more territory to explore, thus making her life more interesting.
Bella: Your cat needs toys she can play with when you’re not around. My favorite toys are little crinkle balls and wicker balls that I can kick all around the house and chase them. That’s lots of fun!
Siouxsie: If you leave dry cat food out for her all day, you’ll make eating a lot more interesting if you use a puzzle toy so she has to figure out how to get at her food. There are rolling treat balls that reward exercise and play by dropping kibble as your cat bats the toy around the house, and there are even puzzle feeders you can buy if your dad is willing to spring for the cost.
Thomas: And, of course, the most important thing is that she needs regular interactive play. That means you need to play with her every day.
Bella: There are lots of great toys, but my favorites are Da Bird and Neko Flies. You can make a super-cheap toy with a long shoestring and some rags, too. The whole idea here is that when you move a play toy like prey, you’ll get her excited and get her running around and jumping to chase the toy.
Siouxsie: Now, we cats aren’t endurance athletes. We’re designed to run really quickly and get our prey, so you don’t have to play with us for hours at a time. What we need is short bursts of really vigorous play.
Thomas: Get your cat running around and jumping until she’s panting, then reward her with a meal or a treat.
Bella: The normal cat cycle is “hunt, kill, eat, groom, sleep.” So the best time to do a big interactive play session is just before meals and just before bed. That way you’ll be honoring the way your cat is designed to live, entertaining her, keeping her healthy and fit, and hopefully putting an end to all that meowing and caterwauling!
Thomas: Playing isn’t just flinging a toy around: it’s about imitating a cat’s prey, and every cat has prey preferences. Some kitties are ground hunters and really enjoy chasing “mice,” so make your toy act like a mouse moving around and see if it gets her interested. I love hunting mice and rats and things that creep around on the ground.
Bella: I like hunting things that leap and jump into the air, so when Mama makes the toy act like a bird or a fly, I get really excited and have lots of fun playing.
Siouxsie: So, Ashley, keep trying until you find a play method that works to get your cat going. And if you don’t have cat furniture or shelves, we’d definitely recommend adding some. There’s some amazingly beautiful and stylish cat furniture available out there, and a web search will reveal lots of information on how to build cat furniture inexpensively.
Thomas: What about the rest of you? What would you do if your cat were constantly crying to go out? Share your tips in the comments.