I need some sleep!
May 22, 2010 6:50 AM   Subscribe

Is my cat insecure or just bossy?

We have two 9 month old male cats. They're littermates and part siamese; the lighter one is colorpointed, and they have an oriental bone structure and wedge-shaped face. They're both very active and not overweight. They see the vet on a regular basis and are both neutered.

The cats do not and have never shared the bedroom with us due to my husband's allergies. We love them to pieces, but having a hair-free room is very helpful to him. They have never been allowed in the bedroom.

One of them (Murphy) has some annoying behavior at night - he seems to be jumping for the bedroom doorknob at 4 am. We hear claws on the metal knob, then claws on the wood as he falls back down. His claws are trimmed often, so there's no damage to the house - but quite a bit of damage to our sleep! He will also meow at the closed door, but that's much easier to sleep through. It's not a frantic help! meow, but just a normal meow. We try to deter this behavior with a squirt bottle and a firm NO - sometimes he'll stop, and sometimes he will not. This has gone on for at least a month now, and it's driving us crazy.

I suspect it's anxiety related, but I'm not sure. And I don't know what to do if it is.

Possible evidence for this being an anxiety-related issue:
- Both of them want to be near their humans at all times.
- Murphy is slightly more attached to my husband. I wake up first in the mornings, and although the jumping will stop when I'm up, the meowing will not. When my husband is up, Murphy's happy. I try to wait for a lull in his fussing to leave the bedroom.

The only thing I know to try next is to put the vacuum outside the door, and plug it into a power strip in the bedroom and then hitting the switch when he bangs on the door. Unfortunately, we did a similar trick with the hair dryer when he was a kitten (teaching him that getting on the table is bad), and he lost his fear of the hairdryer very soon. He's only wary of the vacuum, not scared, so I don't think that will be effective. And if it is an anxiety issue, would that make it worse?

Double-stick tape has been tried, and doesn't work. The other cat helpfully and carefully removes the tape with his teeth. (wtf!) Murphy is not afraid of balloons, and doesn't mind citrus scents. We also tried keeping him awake and active in the evenings so he sleeps longer in the morning, and that did work for one day. It feels cruel to keep waking him up when he's so sleepy, so we didn't do it again.

Other possibly useful information:

- Feliway doesn't seem to have much effect. I've sprayed the whole bedroom door area, and no change. There is no outlet in that area to plug in a wall unit, so I got the spray.

- They both seem pretty smart. They will open drawers when we're not looking, and seem to learn quite a bit from observation. They're both very good at physical puzzles - "remove this thing I want from this other thing when I can barely reach it" (cardboard box with holes in it and treats/toys inside). I would not be at all surprised to learn that Murphy knows how a doorknob should work.

- Murphy will often act badly (messing with blinds, knocking things off of shelves) when he wants attention. Right now our method of choice for dealing with that is yelling at him to stop, then waiting until he's moved on to something non-destructive, then giving him serious snuggles and ear rubs until he's limp all over and purring madly. After that, he'll settle down and behave.

- When they were kittens, Murphy was Serious Trouble. He was into EVERYTHING! We got them leashes and harnesses just so they could run around outside for a while and burn off some energy. We go for walks about once a week, and they like that. The neighbors like it too. :)

- They have dry food available all the time, and get wet food occasionally in the evenings when they're being super cute.

- There have been no litterbox mishaps.

- The two of them get along very well - Murphy used to be the submissive one when he was a kitten, but now they seem to be on equal footing. They both shove each other out of the way to get choice bits of food, but will take turns playing with the best toys.

What can we do?
posted by WowLookStars to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: We have a siamese that had the same bad habit...a simple quick solution was a scat mat

stopped the behavior instantly and I didn't need to use the mat after about a week.
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 AM on May 22, 2010

My cats have begun to do something similar recently as we are fostering a homeless kitty before giving him to my in-laws. The other cats have been quite distraught at being locked out of the bedroom and the nameless intruder.

Several times in the middle of the night I have put the other cats in another room where they can't claw on our door. They probably do claw on the door of the other room, but we can't hear them at night.
posted by aetg at 7:11 AM on May 22, 2010

I have four cats and two of them adore chewing cords. I started using a product called Boundary and it has fixed the problem. All four of the cats hate Boundary. Hate it. As in, since I've started using it, if I pull out any spray bottle at all they all skedaddle.

I would get a bottle and spray it by the door to your bedroom and see if it works. I think it will.

Also, cats are weird (and smart).
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:15 AM on May 22, 2010

BTW, this is Boundary.
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:26 AM on May 22, 2010

My cat is insufferable all night if allowed in the bedroom, and wails inconsolably if shut out of the bedroom. Our solution has been to close her up in the back of the house. She has her food, water dish, litter box, two comfy beds, and the run of our kitchen and enclosed back porch with lots of windows. And she's far enough away from the bedroom that her rattling doors and meowing doesn't disturb our sleep.

So if there's a way to shut more intervening doors between the cats and the bedroom, that's what I'd suggest.
posted by Squeak Attack at 8:40 AM on May 22, 2010

Best answer: At 9 months kittens are the equivalent of human teenagers, and can be just as insufferable. Chances are they will outgrown some of their odd behaviors. Of course, they will pick up new ones as well, but, well... cats are weird.

If you're lucky enough to have cats that are leash trained and actually enjoy it, for the love of god use that to your advantage! More frequent walks will tire them out without constantly waking them up. Also, if you haven't utilized the laser pointer yet, buy all means get yourself to a dollar store and grab one. My cats will also jump over each other just to get at the never-catchable red dot, and run around in crazy circles - tons of fun for everyone.

For the more specific problem, closing up your troublemakers so they're one door apart from the bedroom will make your lives much easier. I also use a container full of spare change and rattle it at my brood when they're doing something they shouldn't. They HATE it, it's loud and obnoxious. All I need to do now is pick up the container and they run away, I rarely even have to shake it anymore.
posted by cgg at 9:00 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a similar problem, and the best solution is to get up out of bed and spray her with water right away. No moaning and hoping she'll stop, just spray, right away, every single time. She will start up, do it for a couple days until she's sure I'm serious and then stop for a while. Then she'll get back to it again. She just wants attention on her own terms, even if she could cuddle in bed. Such a brat.
posted by gilsonal at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I suspect it's anxiety related, but I'm not sure.

Based on long experience with Siamese cats, I offer this opinion: I don't think I'd call it anxiety, exactly. Most of them just really like being around people - as you've observed with yours.

(If you read about the origin of Siamese cats, you'll see what they were bred for, and why they have their unique blend of characteristics.)
posted by coffeefilter at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the help - It's nice to know that we're not the only ones with the issue, at least! We took them for a good walk this morning and both kitties are passed out. We'll try wearing them out inside or taking them for short walks in the evenings - they overheat pretty fast in this Texas weather, so there's a bit of a limit there.

The scat mat looks interesting - if all else fails, we'll try that. It would come in handy for setting boundaries when we move into our new house, also. Noisemakers and more consistent water spraying also have a lot of potential if wearing him out doesn't work.

Our place really is small, so there's nowhere to shut them up comfortably. The laundry room has their litter box, but it shares a thin wall with the bedroom. The proximity of their litter box to the bedroom door (2-3 feet) makes us reluctant to use a deterrent spray. Else my next AskMe would be "Help! I used Boundry near the litterbox and now the cats crap on the couch!" And you'll all get to laugh. :D

Coffeefilter, you're right. It's more like.. fretting? Worrying? Checking? Our other kitty is very high-strung and nervous (but apparently secure in the belief that the humans will return), so I was wondering if maybe this was a different way of being high-strung and nervous. If he is feeling insecure, I don't want to make it worse. These are our first siamese-type cats, and they're pretty awesome on the whole. Just want them to be happy. :)
posted by WowLookStars at 1:10 PM on May 22, 2010

If memory serves me, this book describes a couple with this same problem and how an animal psychologist helped them. We actually hired this same psychologist to help us with a complicated cat problem and he was very helpful. I am sorry that I can't remember the solution he came up with for the couple.
posted by Original 1928 Flavor at 5:54 PM on May 22, 2010

Do you feed your cats as soon as you wake up? We used to, but then the wake-up calls for breakfast started to get earlier and earlier. We changed habits to feed 1-2 hours after waking up, and now we sleep much more peacefully.
posted by TrarNoir at 6:24 AM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: So we went with HuronBob's suggestion of the Scat / Paws Away Mat. That thing is amazing! He tried it several times the first night (there's an optional beep when it's triggered), and then just once every night since. That's fine with us, since he hasn't actually hit the door, and if we turned off the beep we'd never know. Not having to get out of bed to deter the cat is a huge plus.

Now he's a cute cat all the time, not just when we're awake. ;) (And yeah, he always sleeps like a dead bug when he's really out. Part greyhound, I suppose.)
posted by WowLookStars at 5:48 AM on May 31, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, I should add - In the nights before the mat got here, we tried playing them to exhaustion. Unfortunately, that didn't work to stop the door jumping.
posted by WowLookStars at 6:14 AM on May 31, 2010

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