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gondwanalon's avatar

Why is my cat hell bent on waking me up between 2 & 3 am?

Asked by gondwanalon (20692points) 1 month ago

I’ve owned 9 cats since 1980. All with completely different personalities. I’ve rescued them all from either the streets of the SPCA.

No one wanted this one “Smokey” at the SPCA because he was very shy and not very friendly. When I got him home he was terrified of everything including me. I worked with him for hours every day for 3 weeks to get him to come out of his little cubical. It took many months of petting him and playing with string and feathers to get him to relax. Over time he has really gotten comfortable with me and our house. But he gets huge personality swings at night when he wants into our bedroom.

Early in the morning Smokey will slam his body into our bedroom door making a loud noise repeatedly until we let him in. Then he settles down and sleeps until 2 or 3 am and then starts walking all over me and even gets on top of the bed head board and jumps down on me. He is relentless. When I put him back outside our bedroom then the body slamming against the door begins again.

This cute shy cat is so sweet and lovable during the day but turns into a little monster each night. I don’t think he wants food. As I feed him at 3 am he doesn’t seem like he’s hungry. He nibbles a bit and walks away. His intentions seems to be that he just wants me up to give him attention and affection.

Smokey 2018
Smokey 2020

What can I do to train Smokey to let me sleep at night?

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20 Answers

snowberry's avatar

Cats are very sensitive to smells. If you make your bedroom smell bad to him but good to you, I think he’ll find something else to do with his time at night.

I“d consider doing what I mentioned in this question. https://www.fluther.com/229402/how-did-you-successfully-get-a-cat-not-to-claw-the/

I’d also try to make the door to your bedroom smell bad to him as well.

Also, there are a number of oroducts you can buy that are designed to discourage animals.
https://www.petco.com/shop/SearchDisplay?categoryId=&storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&sType=SimpleSearch&resultCatEntryType=2&showResultsPage=true&searchSource=Q&pageView=&beginIndex=0&pageSize=48&fromPageValue=search&searchKeyword=&searchTerm=animal%20deterrent

rebbel's avatar

Above suggestion might work, but can only be of use if you want the cat to never get into the bedroom again (bye bye snuggling together on a Sunday morning…).

Is this an ongoing, daily occurrence?
Or do they skip sometimes?
Have you deducted the goings-on of the whole day’s, to see whether there’s a certain happening or pattern?
It’s a general knowledge that cats seem to have a “crazy time” almost daily, due to overflowing of energy that they didn’t be able to use during the day (i.e. playing, hunting, running, etc.).
That’s why I regularly tire my cat (not every day; I also like to witness his crazy antics, plus I sleep bad anyway), so he’ll be relaxing/sleeping until the morning comes (and he attacks my blankets, with me underneath them).

gondwanalon's avatar

@snowberry Thanks for the ideas. Definitely worth trying.

@rebbel Smokey started this behavior about 3 months ago. At first the behavior happened periodically. The last few weeks it happens every night. In order to get my sleep I’ve been going to bed at 6 or 7 pm.

About “crazy time”. I’ve been playing with Smokey by tossing him small pieces of paper that he enjoys batting around the room. Also I cover a mouse toy with catnip and he has a lot of fun with that. Perhaps I should do more of this sort of thing.

snowberry's avatar

if you toss him a catnip covered toy and bits of paper at night in your bedroom when he wakes you up, then you have made your problem much worse.

gondwanalon's avatar

@snowberry Thanks. Good possibility. I wouldn’t do that. Takes too much energy so early in the morning. I usually do that in the afternoons.

I’ve noticed that for some unknown reason Smokey is absolutely terrified by the sound of popcorn kernels being poured into a pan. Whenever I make popcorn and he hears the kernels being poured he practically flies out of the area. Perhaps as a stray kitten kids threw gravel at him and the sound of the pouring kernels sounds like gravel being thrown and gives him flashbacks of shear terror.

I could record the corn kernels pouring into a pan sound and play it back when Smokey starts his door slamming routine. He might relate the terrifying sound with his behavior and stop doing it.

Zaku's avatar

I’ve lived with about . . . 17 cats over the years, and not had quite that problem.

I would start with the door open, though – a closed bedroom door I would expect to receive siege attacks. The only solution for that I’ve seen is multiple doors or one that somehow can’t be assailed in a way that wakes you or causes damage.

If the door’s open, maybe the cat’s behavior will change.

But the trampling at 2–3am I don’t know. I would try two things:

* Cuddle the cat. Give it as much or more cuddle attention than it wants. With the cats I’ve lived with, that would tend to work or change the cat’s behavior.

* Ask the cat what it wants, listen, follow, and try to find out what it wants at that point. Maybe it’s something other than needing you to be awake, that you can set up before you fall asleep, to be available at that time.

If that doesn’t work, another idea would be to go back to the other solution, which is to put the cat in a part of the house separated by two doors, where it can get food/water/litter and a place to sleep, but it can’t get to where it can wake you up.

smudges's avatar

I really like @Zaku‘s ideas, except for the one about putting him where he’s physically separated from you. Maybe I’m too soft-hearted, but it seems mean and may cause him anguish.

Bless your heart for loving him and being patient, and bless his heart for daring to trust you. <3

gondwanalon's avatar

@smudges and @Zaku Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement. It helps.

Before I go to bed I make sure that the cat box is clean and their food and water.

We’ve been leaving the bedroom door open.

I could lock Smokey in our 23×18 foot pool room at night. It’s down stairs and away from our bedroom. But I can’t do it. The isolation might not be good for him. Also we have another male cat the same age as Smokey (they get along very well together) that never causes any problems that needs access to the pool room. I give far give more attention to Smokey. He really likes me and begs for attention during the day (follows me around the house sometimes). Perhaps I can never enough attention to Smokey. Wish I could. He’s such a precious little guy.

Zaku's avatar

BTW, while it’s my least preferred option, the reasons I think two doors can work without being cruel (at least, in some situations) are:

1) With the possible exception of some overly-attached or stir-crazy cats, I think cats are entirely capable of passing a night without their human, if they have a cozy place, food and water.

2) My first cat would try to wake us up at night if she had access, including if she could get out, climb a tree, and come pound on our upstairs bedroom windows! Fortunately, the downstairs had doors that could leave her with half the house, but no access to the upstairs, and we didn’t need to close our bedroom doors, as she would not try to attack the downstairs doors. So I expect many cats would similarly just make do in a situation where the door available to them didn’t have a human behind it, and they had what they really needed in the space they were in.

But I don’t know about your pool room, especially if the other cat gets to be on the other side of the door.

So with the bedroom door open now, is Smokey still trampling you in the middle of the night?

gondwanalon's avatar

Last night the bedroom door was open. My wife tied a plastic bag on the top of our bed headboard to discourage Smokey from climbing up there and jump down on me. That worked. At least twice at about in the early am Smokey tried to climb up on the headboard (wailing me up in the process) but decided not to. His next launching platform was the night stand. He jumped from the nightstand to my abdomen (he never messes with my wife). Night stand jumps are better than headboard jumps. Imagine being sound asleep and having a 14 pound cat land on your abdomen from a 3 foot height.

There are plenty of places down stairs where my cats can sleep include a huge cat tree many cushioned chairs and two couches. Sometimes the cats like to sleep on our warm pool cover (water temp is 80*F). It’s like their waterbed. HA!

Zaku's avatar

Wow! :-D

Ok, Hmm. Maybe move the nightstand out of range for a while, though it sounds like he may just launch from the ground or down by your feet.

It sounds like maybe he is just getting nervous and lonely for you.

If there’s nothing he really wants other than your attention, and you don’t want to get knocked awake and spend time with him every night, another idea is to not give him any more attention than necessary when he does that, and hope that with the door open and you not giving him a desirable reaction for oof-ing you at night, he might change his behavior.

I don’t know if you invite your cat to sleep with you when you go to bed, but I’ve done that with cats I had. And many of the cats I’ve lived with have ended up mostly just coming into bed at night in ways that I liked.

Cats get into routines, but new situations, including new things you do with/for them, can sometimes get them into a different routine. Like the nightstand versus the headboard. ;-D The idea being that if you stop giving Smokey some good outcome for oof-ing you, and change up the situation and options at night, maybe he’ll find a different thing to do at night.

snowberry's avatar

Cats hate to walk on tin foil. If you were to place the tin foil strategically (such as where he’ll walk in the hall in certain places in your bedroom), he might start to avoid the area.

gondwanalon's avatar

My wife doesn’t want the cats in the bedroom. She always kept the door shut. The bedroom was off limits to cats util Smokey started slamming his body against the door (waking us both). So we let Smokey in. At first he was OK with sleeping all night at the foot of the bed. But a few months ago the early morning antics began.

Maybe I reward Smokey for unwanted behavior by giving him unlimited affection no matter matter what he does. Perhaps I’ll cool it with the affection by ignoring him in the morning when he finally gets me up at 4am.

Dogs are very smart and they can understand the relationship of cause and effect. When they do something wrong and they are punished then they can relate the punishment with the unwanted behavior. I don’t think that cats can do that well.

@snowberry How about putting a bunch of Christmas tinsel on the bed?

smudges's avatar

I would try what @Zaku mentioned and invite him to bed with you, even under the covers if he wants. I did that with one of mine, and the first time I’d turn over in the night she’d get up and go to her usual sleeping spot. I don’t believe this will last forever, but I’m sure it’s difficult to deal with.

@gondwanalon I want to add that dogs understand ONLY if the negative response (hate the word punishment) from us is immediate. If it’s even a minute later, they don’t get what the problem is. “Duhhh whaddid I do?!” 8^O

Zaku's avatar

Ignoring at 4am is probably good, or locking him in the pool room if he jumped on you.

The main difference I notice between cats and dogs is not intelligence per se, and not ability to understand things, but rather that dogs tend to focus on their relationship with a human, and often want very much to please them, while cats focus on what they themselves want, and they’re only so interested in getting humans to do things, and they’d rather the interaction be subtle rather than direct. Few cats want to do some performance a human has in mind, so while “training” cats can be done to an extent, they take it more as “oh, this weird human will give me food if I do this thing. Ok, look, I’m doing the thing – give me food.” They tend not to cherish such exchanges – they’d rather it be that they indicate they want something and the human notices and does it, or that the human will do something at a certain time, and may just need to be made aware of the cat at that time (e.g. by landing forcefully on their stomach, which is probably fun for them).

Cat’s don’t tend to react well to punishment but they may change their behavior if the human response is to do something they don’t like, as opposed to doing something they do like. But if you’ve been doing something they do like (giving 4am attention) for a while, it may take quite a few times before they give up on the chance that you’ll give them what they want again.

tinyfaery's avatar

Ignoring is the best way to stop any behavior. If he is just too rambunctious about it lock him out of the room.

gondwanalon's avatar

Thanks for all the responses.

I haven’t tried the smell deterrent. Got a good response with putting aluminum foil on the night stand and plastic on the headboard. That has stopped the jumping. Smokey is a slow learner as he repeatedly tries to climb up on the headboard and the nightstand. For a half hour between 2 and 3:30 am this morning Smokey tried to climb to the top of the headboard 5 times and didn’t even try to get on the aluminum covered nightstand. I could see his silhouette in the subdued outside security light. Almost heart the gears in his head turning saying, “Why can’t I get up there. Guess I’ll try again”. Finally Smokey just gave up and layed down.

Now if I can get my wife to stop snoring, or get better earplugs. HA!

Zaku's avatar

Oh good! (Maybe he was just enjoying jumping on you… :-D )

KRD's avatar

Try keeping him in your room or shut your door fully.

flutherother's avatar

I’ve only had one cat and she was nocturnal and slept most of the day. At night she wanted to prowl about outside so we ended up fitting a cat flap to the back door so she could come and go as she pleased.

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