Can you train a cat to stop yowling?

quasifishDecember 3, 2007

She is making the house miserable. She starts this in the morning and often wakes the toddler, who then has a lousy day because she's tired, and the whole household is miserable. This cat will even go seek out the crib and yowl next to it, as if she wants to wake the baby. She is the kind of cat that craves attention- yowling by the crib is a sure way to get it and I think she's learned that.

She is hyperthyroid, but is controlled with meds. She also has kidney disease, but that is also well controlled. She has always had an intense personality and seeks out attention, but it has gotten much worse lately. She goes to the vet tomorrow for a routine evaluation, but if everything looks well controlled from a health standpoint, how do I deal with the yowling? She is honestly driving me nuts at this point. I think we have encouraged the behavior by trying to feed her, or letting her outside, or picking her up- all positive attention- in our efforts to keep her quiet (and let the baby sleep). I'm not sure how to go about breaking the habit that we apparently helped start.

Any ideas before we all go insane?

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lfnyc

Did it start when she became hyper-t? You are right in that she actually trained you to respond to her yowling. As far as she is concerned, her commands worked, so why stop?

The obvious answer is to un-train her by not responding to her vocalization, even if it means isolating her at night in an area where your toddler can't hear her,if possible. Can you close the door to the baby's room?

From what I've read, cats generally do not advertise that they feel chronic discomfort, but be sure (of course) to ask your vet if she may be dehydrated from her kidney problem...could be thirst. Do you give her sub-q fluids?

L

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 10:29AM
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laurief_gw

Your cat is howling for a reason, probably a medical reason. It is possible that you have encouraged even more howling by rewarding the behavior, but the howling itself is almost certainly based in something medical. This comes from Tanya's Chronic Renal Failure Information website linked below, "Howling (Particularly at Night)
This is sometimes the result of toxin levels in the blood. However, it may also have other causes such as deafness, hyperactive thyroid, high blood pressure or occasionally just old age and possibly cognitive dysfunction (senility). Certain medications such as periactin (Cyproheptadine), an appetite stimulant, or anabolic steroids, such as stanazole (Winstrol), can make a cat become vocal."

You can't "train" a medical symptom out of a cat. You might want to consider closing your toddler's door and using a baby monitor to check on her.

Laurie

Here is a link that might be useful: howling

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 11:19AM
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sheltiemom

How old is your cat? When my cat turned 17 (or so) she started some fairly strange behaviors - including howling - for no particular reason. Vet chalked it up to old age at first, but it turned out she had some other very serious medical conditions.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 4:52PM
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laurabs

All I can say is - you poor thing. I had a cat that yowled when she was unhappy. I think it was just that she was a siamese mix. This was back before the civilized flea treatments we have today, so we'd take her to be bathed and dipped as needed. I'd go to pick her up and the moment I walked in the door to pay the bill I could hear her back in the back, yowling her head off. I was mortified at how loud it was and how everybody in the whole office had had to hear that all day.

If I tried to bathe her myself she could actually scream the word NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! That's also when I'd notice what an extraordinary reach she had with her front legs, making it extremely difficult to push her body down into the sink.

That's only funny if it's on Funniest Home Videos - it's just exhausting in person.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 9:30PM
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quasifish

Thanks everybody. I've been trying to ignore her when she gets to yowling, and am working on feeding her (and other things) on my schedule instead of hers. I do think it helps.

Right now I'm waiting for a return call from the vet about her tests. The vet said her kidney values are all normal as of her last test 2 months ago (she does get sub-q's, but the vet is questioning if she even needs those at this point- I'm confused as this is a new vet we are dealing with. Same practice, but they set me up with a different vet for some reason). The question is going to be about the thryoid and whether that's adequately controlled at this point. The vet even went so far as to talk about possibly doing surgery to remove the thyroid tumor. I'm open to the idea (if meds can't adequately control it), but not eager to do surgery at her age and with her kidney history- which the new vet seems to be disregarding as a byproduct of the thyroid condition. Again, I'm feeling very confused today- sorry, I'm a bit off topic.

This cat is 14 years old and we've had her since she was a little kitten. She has always been a very intense, attention seeking, in-your-face kind of cat. Vocalizations have never been unusual for her, but with a kid who is barely sleeping at all these days, they are getting to the point of driving me nuts.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 3:53PM
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cindyandmocha

Is she spayed?

    Bookmark   December 8, 2007 at 3:57AM
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quasifish

"Is she spayed?" Oh yes, long, long ago when she was just a wee thing.

She has seemed to tone it down a little in the past couple of days with my ignoring her and also a slight downward adjustment to her meds.

She is a tortie and has the intense personality that apparently goes with being a tortie.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2007 at 11:12AM
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