Why doesn't my cat understand I have an alarm clock?
September 23, 2008 5:12 AM   Subscribe

Every morning, my cat decides I need to get up at 6:30AM, and proceeds to put his paw under my door and claw the hell out of it. Between the scratching noise and the fact that the door rattles in its jamb, it's been getting me up well before I am ready. This has thrown off my sleeping pattern tremendously, and I want it stopped. It's not a case of needing to go to the bathroom or wanting food, so I'm at a loss. How can I stop my cat?
posted by deezil to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Double sided tape on the area the cat is scratching. Cats hate the feeling of having their paws stuck.
posted by fire&wings at 5:26 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

My cat does this too, I lock him in the closet where I keep his litter box at night before I go to bed.
posted by Oktober at 5:31 AM on September 23, 2008

Sneak up to the door with an air horn or a squirt gun and give him a scare.
posted by stavrogin at 5:38 AM on September 23, 2008

Ssscat! In the interest of full disclosure, I've never actually tried this, but I enjoy the hell out of the various YouTube videos.
posted by MegoSteve at 5:40 AM on September 23, 2008 [3 favorites]

My cats used to do this. I would bang on the door and scare them. They stopped.
posted by miss tea at 5:49 AM on September 23, 2008

As a thought, you could try a door sweep. I can sympathize, I've had cats do this to me.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 5:49 AM on September 23, 2008

Your cat is lonely. You could treat the symptom, but he will just come up with some other way to express his boredom.

Sometimes getting another cat helps, but sometimes they just team up to torment you.
posted by muddgirl at 5:52 AM on September 23, 2008

Best answer: Seconding the double sided tape.

If that fails, track down some capsaicin gel (used for arthritis and other pain relief) and smooth a thin layer along the bottom of the door. When Mr. Cat gets within a few inches of it, he will notice a slight burning/ tingling sensation in his mucous membranes from the gel and back off. If your cat is insane, like mine are, he may try to go ahead and scratch at the door, but he will likely try this only once, because once kitty licks his paw to clean the gel off, he will never want to touch your door again. Using this gel is the only reason my houseplants have leaves. I lent my tub of gel to a friend who managed to break her cat of his long term habit clawing at a mirror in the middle of the night within 48 hours. No odd or harmful effects have been detected in any of the cats (by me or my vet), apart from some heavy salivation and a superfast lap around the house. If I thought this was harming the cats, I would never do it.

DO NOT use this stuff and then rub your eyes, pick your nose or fondle your bits until you have cleaned your hands thoroughly!
posted by Heretic at 6:00 AM on September 23, 2008

Also, maybe he just wants to sleep with you. Maybe try sleeping with your door open a crack so he can come in and curl up by you?
posted by Heretic at 6:02 AM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

When we go back to Standard Time, it should fix itself...at least until spring.
posted by briank at 6:09 AM on September 23, 2008

God, my cat's been doing a similar thing, and has learned to endure the squirt gun. Thank you for the tape idea.

The "Pet-Off" spray worked well, but my girlfriend seems more sensitive to it than our cat, so that was a dead end for us. Maybe it'll work for you, though.
posted by Benjy at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2008

We finally figured out that if we let our cat in the bedroom at night, he just curls up and goes to sleep at the bottom of the bed sometime in the middle of the night, and stays there well past 6:30. If he's locked out, he tries to get in and wakes us up. So, I agree with Heretic.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:34 AM on September 23, 2008

Best answer: Maybe try sleeping with your door open a crack so he can come in and curl up by you?

Unless your cat is a total asshole, like mine, and wants to step all over your face at 3 am.
posted by electroboy at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2008 [9 favorites]

My puppy used to wake us up multiple times during the night begging to go out and play. We finally put a spray bottle next to the bed and squirted her whenever she tried to annoy us. Now we all sleep peacefully.
posted by lilac girl at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2008

My cat does this when the door is closed. If I leave the door open a crack, sometimes he comes in and curls up on the bed with me, but he usually just wanders in, sees that nothing interesting is happening in the room, and leaves again.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: The cat in question here has learned to endure the squirt gun too. Not allowed to sleep with me, because he still pounces and claws me, and my legs looked like I got whipped. I'd try the air horn, but I live in a house that has been turned into apartments. The downstairs neighbors would probably hate me even more.

Going to try the sticky tape, and possibly the capsaicin. Thanks for the tips, folks.
posted by deezil at 7:08 AM on September 23, 2008

Best answer: Scatmat stopped this exact behavior for my two cats. It only took one night and now they will not go near the closed bedroom door.
posted by rabbitsnake at 7:10 AM on September 23, 2008

Try a Super Soaker or other "pneumatic" squirt gun (one that you pump up with air in addition to adding water). Not to hurt the cat or anything, but just because they seem to really dislike the added hissing sound.

Our cat regards conventional squirt guns as a mere annoyance, and entirely tolerable when he's hell-bent on waking us up for some reason, but picking up the small pump-up squirt gun sends him running from the room. Sometimes we don't even put water in it.

I had a friend who used to use compressed-air cans (dust-removal things) for the same purpose, but I've always been too cheap. The idea isn't to squirt the cat with it as much as just to wave a Big Scary Hissing Thing in their general direction.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:17 AM on September 23, 2008

This is what works for us: Automatic bowl feeder goes off at 6 AM. Kitty comes to bed with us, sleeps until feeder goes off. Now he knows he'll get fed, and something exciting will happen when he starts waking up, he's much calmer for the rest of the night. If your cat is trying to wake you up because he's bored, the bowl producing food might entertain him.

Nothing drives our cats more insane than being on the other side of a closed door from us. We had a vacuum on the other side of the door for *years* (we'd leave it on and then plug it in when he started scratching) and the urge to get in always trumped his fear of the vacuum. Holding him down for "forced snuggles" a few minutes every night until he clues in to quiet time doesn't work?
posted by arabelladragon at 7:19 AM on September 23, 2008

Along the lines of the air horn, I've seen the following suggested: Turn on your vacuum cleaner but leave it unplugged. Position it right outside your bedroom door, and run the cable under the door into the bedroom. When kitty starts clawing, plug in the vacuum cleaner. Vacuum cleaner springs to life, kitty runs off & smashes something valuable somewhere else in the apartment, everyone's happy.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:24 AM on September 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Getting a second cat fixed the morning "let's play FALL DOWN GO BOOM" games for us. Sticky tape, while a good fix for some cats, just became a fun challenge for them, akin to sticking your tongue to a pole a la Christmas Story.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:49 AM on September 23, 2008

Get up the instance the cat starts in, pick him up, shut him in the bathroom, go back to bed. It should take less than a week for the cat to learn scratching at door = being shut in bathroom. I've never known this tactic to fail -- unless you give in to your softie instincts when you pick him up and start to pet/feed/snuggle the cat.
posted by kestralwing at 7:57 AM on September 23, 2008

Sorry to derail, but Oktober, you lock your cat in a closet with his litterbox? Please tell me you are joking.
posted by chelseagirl at 8:18 AM on September 23, 2008

Seconding the closet question?? What the hell?
posted by Augenblick at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2008

Well, it's "his room"

I've got a big walk-in closet I use for storage, I keep his bed, a water bowl, and his litterbox in there.
posted by Oktober at 8:36 AM on September 23, 2008

Seconding the scatmat. Saved my sanity and my cats, as one sleepless night I envisioned tossing them out the window...
posted by penchant at 8:48 AM on September 23, 2008

Response by poster: Holding him down for "forced snuggles" a few minutes every night until he clues in to quiet time doesn't work?

He likes to bite when I do that. Not fun. And I don't want to squirt him while he's on the bed, cause then I have to sleep where he slings the water.

The ScatMat looks interesting. I'm ranking these by cost too, so it's a solution that's at the back of the line, but a good one none-the-less.
posted by deezil at 8:52 AM on September 23, 2008

Shim your door so it doesn't rattle to address part of the problem.

Haven't tried this myself, but many people have recommended rattling a can with a few coins in it as an alternative to squirt guns to negatively condition a cat. Apparently, they hate the noise.

I had this problem with one cat -- getting up and squirting him and hissing at him (in my best impression of cat aggression) eventually stopped it.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 9:25 AM on September 23, 2008

Thanks for this question; we have the same problem. Two cats, so it's not a matter of loneliness, and the bedroom door is open, so it's not a matter of "I just need to be with you." They (well, mainly Pushkin) just like waking one of us up somewhere around 5 or 6, presumably out of boredom.
posted by languagehat at 9:30 AM on September 23, 2008

Would the capcisin gel be dangerous to cats, if they groomed their face with a paw after stepping in the gel?
posted by canine epigram at 6:31 AM on September 24, 2008

Response by poster: Tried the tape last night. Instead of putting his paw all the way on the other side of the door, he put it under it, and still scratched. Going to try the capsaicin tonight, methinks.
posted by deezil at 10:21 AM on September 24, 2008

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