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From time to time, to control how cats act, I use other cat sounds (I play these sounds using my phone). Female cats are attracted to crying kittens, whether they are spayed or not, while male cats are controlled by fighting cats.

In case of emergencies, such as getting a hiding cat out for a vet visit, I use these sounds and I will keep using them. However, from time to time, I also use these sounds to goad my cat to sleep with me. I can see that he gets unsettled, as there are dangerous territorial cats around that he cannot see, but it usually takes five to ten minutes for him to relax.

Interestingly, his first move is to finish whatever is in the bowl, whether to remove scent evidence or to make sure that he won't lose his share of chonks. Then, he comes to me because he trusts that I can protect him.

So, how cruel is this practice? Can I use it once in a while when I want some cuddles? Or should this be used only in absolute necessities?

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  • Do you man you make the sounds yourself or do you play a recording of those sounds (for example from a phone)? – Elmy May 17 at 14:30
  • I play a video from the phone. – C.Koca May 17 at 14:52
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    Are not cats doing the same thing to us? I have read many times that cats learn to meow in a way that mimics human infant crying to get our attention! – lila May 18 at 0:44
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    @lila Well, I don't think cats are responsible for ethics :) The bottom line is that I do this just for my enjoyment. If this puts a huge stress over the cat, I can stop doing it completely :) – C.Koca May 18 at 2:26
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So this question got me thinking a lot. I have tried several times to find a reliable research paper on the topic but no success yet. In my opinion there are a few layers to this question.

Stress for the cat

The way you describe it, there seems to be some stress for your cat when he hears the recorded meows. You describe the hasty eating and that he takes some time to settle down. In my experience, seeing and hearing other cats close to their territory can stress cats.

But the level of stress you describe here does not seem to be serious in my opinion.

Ethics and Philosophy

Should you do this purely for your own entertainment? I think most cat owners would agree that this is a simple and probably less stressful method to get a cat to the vet than having to e.g. chase it through the house. But you also do this purely because you want entertainment. I am not deep into philosophy or ethics and in the end the decision is yours. Do you feel like this interferes with your cat's free will? (Assuming it has one.) Would you appreciate it if someone did it to you? (Whether you are aware or not.) I think this is something everyone has to know for themselves.

An afterthought

You do describe some behaviour that might speak against it, but I was wondering whether you conditioned your cat. He hears the meow and thinks: "Hell yeah, cuddle time again!" This might play into the whole thing or not at all. But I thought it might be worth noting.

TL;DR

I could not find any serious research suggesting what you are doing is unhealthy for your cat. Whether it is ethically OK you have to decide for yourself.

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    What I do is pretty much like playing with lasers, and I hoped we knew more playing cat sounds as much as we know about lasers. Still, thank you for your time! I guess I will keep doing so once a month or so, if I need some cat cuddles :) – C.Koca May 21 at 22:01
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    In my opinion, there is a distinction in what type of sounds you play. Imagine my goal is to get people out of a building, there is a huge difference in me yelling "FIRE EVERYONE SAVE YOURSELVES" or "THEY ARE GIVING OUT FREE COOKIES ON THE STREET". – bgse May 24 at 2:01
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This is a form of manipulation. I can think of more cruel things. It doesn't sound to be causing harm to the cat especially in the case with the veterinary. At least no more harm than the harm of domesticating an animal (in case you consider that harmful or beneficial).

Whether you feel comfortable doing so with your personal philosophy is another topic. I guess you need to reflect whether and why you feel uncomfortable and go from there.

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+100

Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I could not find any scientific sources or studies on this, so my answer is purely speculative and not necessarily correct - merely an opinion.


I also use these sounds to goad my cat sleep with me. I can see that he gets unsettled, as there are dangerous territorial cats around that he cannot see, but it usually takes five ten minutes for him to relax.

From a medical standpoint, you aren't actually harming your cat. If your cat relaxes after 5-10 minutes and doesn't seem to be stressed-out beyond some tension while the sound is playing, I can't see any serious long-term side effects other than being a bit more territorial or anxious with other cats.

So, how cruel is this practice?

From an ethical standpoint, well... it is manipulating an innocent animal to follow your will/bidding, but ethics are tough.

Here's what you should ask yourself, questions taken from here: (I rank what your response would be to each question out of 4, meaning 4/4 is good and 1/4 is not)

Does your decision conflict with any of the core ethical values?

It does conflict with some... for example, you are deceiving someone, and not treating someone how they would want to be treated. 2/4

Think of someone whose moral judgment you respect. What would that person do?

This is a question that only you can answer. However, if I asked myself, "what would a vet do here", their response would probably be to avoid deceiving your pet as much as possible. I will not rank this as you need to do this one yourself. N/A

How will your decision affect others?

Your decision is ultimately fooling your cat for your benefit, a form of trickery. Is this positive or negative for your cat? Negative. 1/4

Ask yourself: Are my actions legal?

To my knowledge, this is not illegal anywhere. 4/4

Are there regulations, rules, or policies that restrict your choices/ actions?

To my knowledge, there are not any policies, however, if this strategy is used too often, it could qualify for animal abuse. It doesn't seem too frequent, though. 3/4

Would your decision be perceived as unethical?

Ask a friend for advice. What do they think? N/A

How would your decision look if it were reported on the news or in another public forum?

Ironically enough, this website is similar to a public forum, but the question assumes a highly popular/visited forum or news site. It wouldn't be a positive story, but I doubt that you would be getting death threats. 2/4

What would a reasonable person do? How would they perceive your decision?

Again, ask a vet for their honest opinion. N/A

Would you be proud of your choice if your child were to find out? Would you want them to make the same choice?

Would you? I don't think you would be ashamed of yourself, but I think you would discourage them from doing the same. 2/4

Could you rationally and honestly defend your decision?

You probably could, with the defense that it is not medically harming your cat. You might not win, but you could put up a fight. 3/4

Will you sleep soundly tonight?

I think you will, especially with your cat snuggling with you! (that was a joke, please don't take that as a recommendation to use noises to influence your cat) 4/4

There were 32 possible points you could earn, and you earned 21 of them. Three questions were N/A and you need to asses them yourself. Overall, 21/32 isn't bad, it's more than one-half positive, meaning it is leaning toward ethical.

However, these were just guidance questions, and ultimately, this is up to you and what your vet thinks.

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    I'd say this was the best way to proceed without any scientific proofs. Thanks! I'll still keep it to once or twice a month :) – C.Koca May 27 at 21:26
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I agree with the other answers that personal ethics and philosophy come into play here, but I would also like to point out your responsibility towards your cat. You took him in (hopefully) to give him a good life.

To me, a good life means a life without any unnecessary stress. In the cases where you use it to get your cat to the vet, I can see some value to your method. Though there are less stressful alternatives I can think of, like treats or calming powders.

However, using it to get cuddles only serves your selfish needs. I would kindly suggest that you stop manipulating your cat into cuddling with you out of stress. Instead, treat him with the love and care he needs, and he will most likely come to you voluntarily.

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