We love living with our indoor cats and normally and normally we think that we have become pretty good at understanding what their different meows could mean. Adult cats meow exclusively to communicate with humans. Cats normally talk to each other through body language and key facial movements like the flattening of their ears. Meows are reserved just for us as cats have learnt that they get our attention much quicker than a normal form of cat language. Unfortunately, its not always clear exactly what they are trying to communicate through their meows.
If your cat is meowing at the door, it can mean many things. To us it may seem like they are being asked to be let out but if you give them the chance to explore the outside, they won’t always take the opportunity. Getting an understanding of how cats think and communicate with us will let you have a get a better guess at why your cat is meowing at the door.
1 Your cat wants to go outside
The first and most obvious reason that your cat is meowing at the door is that they are asking to go outside. They may also start scratching at the door or jumping for the handle when they want this. Indoor cats can want to go outside a variety of reasons but if you have decided that your cat needs to be a house cat, we can’t indulge their desires.
If you want to check if your cat wants to go outside, you can open the door and see if they actually step a foot outside. If you are worried about them escaping, you can try training them to wear a harness and leash when you do this. In our experience, cats that have spent their whole lives indoors are usually a bit scared of going outside. Cats don’t like new experiences the outside world is full of sights, sounds, and smells which can frighten your cat.
2 They are waiting for somebody to come home
People normally say that cats are aloof and don’t care for humans but if you have owned a cat for a while, you probably know that this isn’t true. Cats love their owners, its just not very obvious how they show their affection. If your cat meows at the door when somebody from the house is missing, they may be asking for them to come back.
Many cats greet their humans return to the house with lots of meowing to say hello and ask for attention after they have been alone for the day. After they see somebody leave through the door they may jut assume that they are still on the other side of it. Meowing can be their way of asking them to come back.
3 They want food
With our busy working lives, the first thing a lot of us do when we get home to our cats is feed them. Cats will begin to associate a human’s return and opening the door with dinner time. Food motivated cats can get demanding when they understand this and ask for food by meowing constantly. Your indoor cat may direct their meowing at the door as they understand that the door opening means food. A lot of cats will meow at your bedroom door in the morning to wake you up so you can feed them.
4 They are bored
Apart from food, another thing that cats want is mental stimulation. Cats that are permanently kept indoors can be limited in what they get to do and if un-cared for they can be bored. Meowing at the door is just another way for them to pass the time during the day if they aren’t interested in any other toys at home.
5 They are doing it for attention
If everybody is home when your cat starts meowing and you can’t think of anything that your cat actually wants, you may be being manipulated by your cat. They may have started meowing at the door some time ago for another reason and quickly realized that you come up to see them as a result. In your cat’s mind, all they have to do for attention now is sit at the door and meow. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with anything coming in to or out of the house, they just know that sitting in that spot and meowing will get you to come over.
6 There is another animal on the other side
If your cat is doing this their vocalization might be different from a normal meow. Sometimes cats will make a chattering sound when they see prey. Scientists aren’t really sure why they do this, its probably got something to do with helping them catch their prey but we aren’t really sure how it helps.
If your cat is threatened they may growl, yowl, or hiss at the door so whatever it is on the other side of a door. Outdoor cats and dogs are a common cause for this type of behavior but other animals or people passing by may also set your cat off.
7 They just like it
We’ve talked about how cats are complex creatures that have learnt to communicate with us through meowing and have well thought out reasons for communicating with us. Well, not all cats are the same and some will just meow because it is fun for them. Vocal cats will meow for no particular reason, even if they have had enough attention and play time from you throughout the day.
8 They are calling for a mate
If you have not spayed your female cat, they will regularly go into heat. During this time, they will meow loudly and constantly to call for a mate. If you have intact male indoor cats, they can smell female in heat cats that are in the local area and will meow loudly to call for them too.
The instincts behind these types of meowing are powerful. If your cat is intact and has suddenly started meowing constantly at the door it is very likely that they are calling for a mate.
How do I punish my cat for meowing at the door?
There is no easy solution for this. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work on cats. We haven’t bread them to have the need to be obedient like we have for dogs. When you punish a cat, they can’t make the connection between the thing that they are doing and the punishment. In their mind you are just being mean for no reason. People who punish their cat for bad behaviors with loud noises or spray bottles will quickly lose the trust of their cat. Cats that don’t feel safe in their home may act out even more out of fear. Basically, what we’re saying is you shouldn’t stop your cat from meowing at the door by punishing them in any way.
How do I stop my cat from meowing at the door?
Unfortunately, the real solution is going to take some time. You will need to start ignoring your cat as much as possible when they start meowing at the door. In your cat’s mind, their meowing succeeds in getting them what they want every time you even look at them. Give no reaction at all then your cat meows at the door if you want them to give up on their efforts. This may take weeks or months. The longer you have been “rewarding” this behavior the longer it will take for them to give up.
If you really think that your cat is curious about exploring the outside, you can either train them to walk on a leash or create a catio on a balcony or garden. Make sure that your cat actually enjoys exploring the outside if you do this. Lots of indoor cats will
If you think that your cat is bored or wants attention, give them play and attention before they start meowing. This should tire them out so they will seek less play later in the day. Regular play and enrichment are important for all cats but especially house cats as they rely on you to provide play and entertaining places to live in.
We have found that using an automatic timed feeder is a good way to stop cats meowing at doors for food. They will quickly associate the machine with food time and their meowing will get them nowhere. If you think that your indoor cat is meowing at a cat or animal on the other side of the door and you live in a house with a garden, you can install deterrents to stop them passing by.