Yes, I know you love me, kitteh
August 24, 2010 1:37 PM   Subscribe

How do I teach my kitty not to be a smartass, and keep me up until all hours of the night?

Our 2 year old cat, Cosette (obligatory photos) has this lovely habit of petting/poking me every morning about 4am. She's definitely not starving; if I do feed her at 4am, she's back at 4:05, petting my forehead and poking me in the neck. Basically, she just wants to play.

I can sometimes calm her down by saying, "Cosette, too early" or "go to sleep", and she'll sleep next to me for fifteen or twenty minutes before the petting and poking begins again. It's almost as if she's laughing at me.

She won't do this to my partner, at all. She lets him sleep.

Advice? Anyone?
posted by roomthreeseventeen to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
There doesn't seem to be any way to "train" a cat out of this. We've had to shut the cat out of our room and create enough white noise to block out his scratching. Shoving a towel under the door helped a little, as he couldn't then stick his paw under there to try and pry the door open.

Alternately, putting him in the bathroom until we're ready to wake up is an option, but sometimes results in a towel covered in cat pee.

Worth the extra sleep? Hard to say. :|
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2010

When you figure out how to get a cat to stop acting like a cat, publish that book and make millions.

Until then, shut your bedroom door.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:44 PM on August 24, 2010 [19 favorites]

Blow in her face. Throw her off the bed.

Do something to make clear to her that her continued annoyance of you will result in you annoying her.
posted by Netzapper at 1:45 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, she's just being a cat. We ended up putting our kitties to bed in the basement every night because we just weren't getting any sleep, what with the littler ones running across the bed at 3 AM and the crazy old one wanting the door shut, then opened, then shut, then opened, then shut, etc. (mind you, she wasn't leaving the room, she just wanted the door open. Then shut.).

They're used to their routine now and will sit by the basement door waiting for bedtime.
posted by cooker girl at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2010

Grab her and hug her like a Teddy bear and say "It's time for bed." and don't let her go. Eventually, she will tire of this.

(Note: this may only work if she doesn't like to be touched except on her conditions.)

When the other cat that started to do this decided to do the 5 am wake up routine, we just picked her up and through her out. (She actually enjoyed being held like a Teddy bear so we knew that wouldn't work.)

Good luck.

(God when did I become a person who aches for their cats when at work 25 year old me would kick 35 year old me's ass.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:49 PM on August 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: McMikeNamara, she loves being hugged and coddled, especially at night.

She used to fall for "it's Saturday", but wizened up.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:50 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cosette, I sympathize with your plight. Your pet isnt behaving exactly the way you would like. You need to have patience because training can take a while. Consistency of behavior is key here. Eventually your pet will come to accept the behavior you prefer if you gently and consistently persist at it. They really don't have any choice. Good luck.
posted by elendil71 at 1:50 PM on August 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

When Squish goes on a middle of the night annoying streak, I bite him. That's right. I bite him. The scruff of his neck. Not hard. I just grasp his scruff with my teeth and shake a bit. And I growl while I'm doing it. And he runs the fuck away and I can get back to sleep. And I usually wake up in the morning with him snuggled up to me, si I'm fairly certain that I'm not doing him irreparable harm. That seems to keep his mid-night assholery at bay for several weeks at a time. Do NOT fuck with Daddy cat, not while he's sleeping. Cat Pie Hurts, indeed.

Sure, it's pretty fucked up and I know it, but I've learned that I get the best results with controlling cat behaviors when my cat thinks I'm just a big cat.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:57 PM on August 24, 2010 [12 favorites]

If there's a magic answer, I wanna know too! Of my three, one is especially bad. I've implemented a new rule - if any one cat wakes me up by being obnoxious twice in one night, they spend the rest of the night locked in the spare bedroom. (It's not that horrible, there's a bed and litterbox... just no warm comfy people.). They cry and scratch the door, but earplugs work to combat that. I've had nights where all three end up in 'jail' (which, if you're keeping track, meant they'd woken me up *6* times.) They are getting better and learning though... slowly... but I have seen improvement. They do catch on, it's just a matter of them *wanting* to behave.
posted by cgg at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2010

Have you tried a spray bottle? After a couple of years (seriously) of hoping my cat would leave me alone, I've started keeping a spray bottle next to my bed. I don't have to spray her anymore--she sees it, she flinches (I feel vaguely guilty), she leaves. And then if I put the bottle back on the nightstand she comes back two minutes later. I sometimes drowse off with the bottle in my hand, which seems to keep her away.

This is obviously not a perfect solution, but I live in a studio.
posted by Mavri at 2:03 PM on August 24, 2010

When my cats were younger, they would whine a little and swat my face to make me wake up, but it was usually because they wanted to be fed. Even pulling the covers over my head didn't help, 'cause they figured out that they could use teh Clawz to pull the blanket down far enough to swat me some more. Over time, though, they learned after I kept picking them up and tossing em down at the end of the bed (or off the bed).

Now they know that if I'm in bed, particularly if I'm lying down and not sitting up yet, I am not going to get up and help them do jack.

Of course, they're now about 10+ years old.

( Also: you shoulda named your cat Eponine. :p )
posted by bitterkitten at 2:04 PM on August 24, 2010

Do we have the same cat? Ours used to wake me up by batting me in the face and chewing my scalp. Removing him from the bedroom and shutting the door whenever he was a jerk helped... at least for now. If she claws at the door, try putting something unpleasant-feeling on the bottom foot or so of the door, like double-sided tape.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:05 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: She thinks spray bottle is the funnest game ever. ;)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:05 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

DO NOT FEED HER when she does this. If you feed her, you are teaching her that poking you awake at 4:05 means breakfast time.

One of our cats loves to jump up next to my face and MEOWMEOWMEOWMEOW and usually if I extend my hand palm up, fingers slightly curled, she'll pet herself and quiet down enough that I can go back to sleep. The other cat likes to gently sniff my face, which tickles maddeningly, and her I usually just roughly shove away and say, "Get off me stupid cat what the zzzzzzzzzzzz." Sometimes I will toss her off the bed completely.

None of these are long-term solutions, but they work to get the little fur balls off my case long enough that I can go back to sleep. After ten years with the face sniffer, I'm also really good at sleeping through cat-created disturbances. Plus, the older the cats get, the less they do this kind of stuff. The meower used to drag herself the underside of our box spring with her claws, which let me tell you, was some obnoxious behavior. She eventually stopped.

So, solution: learn to sleep through a paw in your face while you wait for the cat to get old and boring.
posted by jennyb at 2:11 PM on August 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dunno if this will work for you, but we've had success with many of our kitties over the years of hissing at them (a sharp, forceful "SSSsssss!") while tapping them lightly on the nose. I'd read somewhere that hissing and nose-batting is how Mommy Cat disciplines her babies, and it has worked pretty well with us to the point that after a while we just have to give a sharp "NO!" followed immediately by a quick "Ssss!" and they'll cease and desist.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:12 PM on August 24, 2010

The only thing that worked for me was pretending to sleep. No reward in form of attention. Hubby alternates this with kicking the cat out of bed, forcefully but without hurting it of course.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2010

Our cat used to do the same thing until we started letting her outside, now she just comes in and passes out and sleeps hard all night. I dont know wtf she is doing outside, but at least it tires her out
posted by H. Roark at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2010

When my cat was little this was his favorite game. It was not my favorite game.

I got the best results with consistently just not responding at all. I would do my best 'I'm asleep' impression, and he eventually figured out that I am no fun at night! I feel like when he gets bored any reaction will do, even if it's being sprayed/yelled at/moved/etc...
posted by grapesaresour at 2:21 PM on August 24, 2010

I use the pick-up-and-toss-gently-off-the-bed trick. I wasn't able to teach my two cats to leave me alone entirely -- if it's morning and I'm conscious, I'm fair game because it is CAT FOOD TIME, and the fact that I have to feed 'em before I leave for work only reinforces their behavior -- but they no longer bother me while I'm asleep.

Now they just line up on the floor and wait for me to open my eyes, like some sort of morbid jury waiting for the verdict. Always a lovely sight first thing in the morning!

Oriole's hiss-and-tap trick works, too, but I find that it involves too much fine-motor-control to use when you're half-asleep in the dark.
posted by vorfeed at 2:22 PM on August 24, 2010

Best answer: Cosette, I'm sorry your human isn't feeding you when you poke her in the morning. You should stand by her bedside, stare intently, and meow loudly until she surrenders. If there's anyway you can make your eyes do that freaky glowing thing, do that too. If she kicks you out of the room, you can always pee on her bath mat or in the sink. Never give up. Eventually, all humans will bow down to their cat masters. Good luck!
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:42 PM on August 24, 2010 [15 favorites]

I had to shut them out of the bedroom at night, as the Evil Boy thinks chewing on the wooden bedframe (which is surprisingly loud when you're IN the bed) is too much fun to wait till morning. He knocks at the door and mews but I can handle that (I do have to jam a sock in the door when I close it to keep it from rattling).

Cats. (heavy sigh) They're lucky they're cute.
posted by shiny blue object at 2:50 PM on August 24, 2010

Okay, this is nuts, but after reading Derrick Jensen's book where he said asking the coyotes to please stop eating his chickens totally worked, I tried just asking my cat to let me sleep. She mewed at me a bunch, but I asked her to please hush and focus (much as I would a chatty kid), and waited for her to quiet down and look at me.

"Kittehz," said I (hush, y'all), "I love you very much, but please let me sleep through the night. You can meow at me all you want during the day, and I'll try to get better at paying attention to you when you do, but I need to be able to sleep at night."

This was a couple of weeks ago, and it's worked so far. Do I believe? I'm intensely anti woo-woo in life, generally, and a big-time skeptic. Do I care if it's real?, not really. At least watching me do it made my partner crack up. And really, I'm just grateful for quiet nights and will enjoy them until I need to come up with the next insane placebo.
posted by Eshkol at 3:00 PM on August 24, 2010 [8 favorites]

What's waking your cat up at 4 a.m.?

If she's not asleep at that time, maybe figuring out how to keep her awake during the day might help.

Have you and your partner tried switching sides of the bed for one night, just to see what happens?

What is it that Cosette absoutely hates? If you can, put that on the nightstand and present it to her the next time she wakes you up.

Admittedly, only closing the door will work. Unless the cat figures out how to open the door. My parents had cats that, at the first sign of light, jumped on them from the top of the bedroom curtains. Very annoying to have a flying cat land on your tummy at 5 a.m. Putting the cats in the basement didn't work becase they learned how to turn the doorknob and open the door.

Be happy you don't have a chimp as a pet. He'd probably take the car and your credit cards and go to Trader Joe's.
posted by justcorbly at 3:30 PM on August 24, 2010

Blow in her face. Throw her off the bed.

This worked for me with all 3 of my cats. They bug my gf in the morning, because she's nice to them. They NEVER bug me until I'm clearly awake. Of course, I started this when they were very small - I don't know if an older cat would learn.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:46 PM on August 24, 2010

Feeding her is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Giving her any kind of attention (including negative) will only reinforce the behavior. Ignore her and she will stop. It's the only thing that works. There is kitty cuddle time and there is sleep time. Ignore her during sleep time.
posted by whiskeyspider at 3:58 PM on August 24, 2010

I'm really surprised by all the spray bottle, blow in her face, cats are just a mystery answers. It just required a little discipline. Give her plenty of attention when you're awake. Ignore her when you're asleep.
posted by whiskeyspider at 4:02 PM on August 24, 2010

It amazes me the things that cat owners tolerate sometimes. Dog owners are taught the importance of maintaining dominance over their animal from day one, whereas dominant activity in cats is often seen as "cute" and tolerated in cats. Your cat is acting dominant over you. It is as simple as that.

As the human being here, you need to understand that your cat is an animal, not your child, and unwanted behavior will not be tolerated. It is a difficult cycle to break for cats, because one of the first thing we teach puppies is that biting will NEVER be tolerated. An important step in dog training is to place the dog in a submissive pose (on his side, head on the ground, feet away) and forcing him to hold this pose as long as you, the alpha, desire him to. If you try this with your cat, he will claw and bite almost assuredly - more dominant behavior.

So here is the solution that you, and so many other cat owners are searching for - you need to stop being a pushover. When the cat misbehaves, grab it firmly by the scruff and shake vigorously. Then place the cat in a submissive pose (you might want to wear some armor for this one) and FORCE HIM to stay in this position as long as you, the alpha, desire. He will not like it, but you must convince him that you are dominant. Do this as often as you need to until he gets the picture. In the future, you need to start this sort of training when they are kittens, or you will keep seeing dominant behavior over and over again with every cat you own.

As a final note, I have used dominance training with a grown cat before, and it seemed to work. The cat certainly left me alone afterwards.
posted by I_am_jesus at 4:04 PM on August 24, 2010

my cats don't necessarily bat my face or decide that 4 am is a good time for attention, but they do like to go to the windows and go crazy over some surely imaginary thing they see out the window. I reach over and grab the can of air freshener and give a good spray, and it comes out in a loud whooshy hiss that they *hate*. It's definitely the most useful tool I've got. (Spray bottles just lead to water fights among the humans, we're as nuts as the cats, I know...)
posted by lemniskate at 4:47 PM on August 24, 2010

Our cats stopped waking us up in the morning when we got the auto feeder. You say she doesn't want food, but I dunno. We have ours set to go off about half an hour before the annoying behavior started. That way they wake up to food, then come and snuggle for awhile before we wake up.
Now on weekends, or any other day when we don't get out of bed early, they get pretty pestery. I guess they don't like messing with the routine. Lord help me if I try to take a nap in the afternoon and the kitties aren't feeling sleepy.
posted by purpletangerine at 4:58 PM on August 24, 2010

Appropriate, no?
posted by purpletangerine at 5:03 PM on August 24, 2010

Canned air + totally ignoring the cat otherwise. I successfully stopped one cat from waking me up at 5 am using this method, after years of giving in to him. I never, ever fed or cuddled the younger cat if he woke me up, and guess what, he never wakes me up.
posted by desjardins at 5:14 PM on August 24, 2010

My cat does this, frequently in the middle of the night. My solution has been to sandwich my head between two pillows and pull the comforter up over the pillows. She'll poke around a bit, but gives up pretty quickly and lays down next to me/us and falls asleep.

If I leave too much of a gap, she'll use her claws to pull back the covers and then paw at me.

This might not work for you if you're that 95% of the population who can't stand having their face or head covered.
posted by MonsieurBon at 5:46 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What's waking your cat up at 4 a.m.?

Nature. Cats are crepuscular--most active at dawn and dusk.

Please don't listen to I_am_jesus unless you want to make your cat terrified of you. Dominance training is no longer really accepted as a training method for dogs, much less cats.

Otherwise, I agree with desjardins--air can plus otherwise ignoring the kitty is what's worked for us (mostly; I'm a deep sleeper and apparently I sleep through lots of annoying kitty behavior that husband notices, but a lot of it is just scampering about in the next room, doing busy kitty stuff). Playing with the kitty quite a bit just before bed has helped, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:57 PM on August 24, 2010

Seconding I_am_jesus. Our young cat would wake us up every night at 4am by attacking the mattress. All the "throw him off the bed", "hold him tight", "put him outside the room" did not work. When I put him out of the room he would cry so loudly it would be even worse. So in a moment of desperation I decided to use the Cesar Milan of the Dog Whisperer fame technique. I know it's for dogs, but that behavior just had to stop! The first night when he was clawing the mattress / playing with the covers at 4 am and woke me up, I sat up, "ssss" at him and held the side of his neck down with two fingers so he was lying down. Then I kept that position and kept looking straight in his eyes for as long as it took for him to look away. That first night it took a full minute, a long time when you're really sleepy. The next night it was shorter, and then even shorter. At the point of looking away he would also usually leave the bed, only to come back a bit later to quietly go to sleep curled up at our feet.

It was hard to make myself feel so tough towards cute little kittie, but understanding he was trying to run our lives was good antidote. Another difficult part is that I needed to fully wake up to follow through with the discipline, but it took only three or four times for the night wake ups not to happen again. Totally worth it.

It's been a month of restful sleep so far and we'll see how it continues. If it doesn't last, I'm calling SuperNanny!
posted by Shusha at 6:09 PM on August 24, 2010

One of our cats used to do this to me as soon as the bedroom door opened in the morning. I pushed him away firmly every time he touched the upper half of my body. Occasionally I had to push him off the bed. Now he only mauls me when he sees me stirring awake, and contents himself with curling up next to my legs until then.
posted by moira at 6:12 PM on August 24, 2010

Ha! I guess it was the wrong method that's no longer accepted.

For what it's worth, I saw no behavior change in our kitty except absence of the specific behavior aimed at waking us up at 4am. He still comes and sleeps by our heads, and is certainly not terrified. In fact, he doesn't leave us alone during the day time. But we do have a very active young male cat. Please ignore my advice, because I wouldn't want to be responsible for cat trauma.
posted by Shusha at 6:18 PM on August 24, 2010

Aww, she looks like my Metro, except without the Hitler mustache.

I haven't figured out how to make our cats stop pestering either, but when I got laser eye surgery I needed them out of my bedroom in case the cat dander led to an eye infection. After much frustration, I figured out how to lock them out of my room AND keep them from clawing at the door all night.

Here's the trick:

1. Buy a fan.
2. Put the fan in the hallway outside your bedroom, pointed at the door. Set it up so that when kitty comes near the door, she gets a burst of air in her face.
3. Turn fan on.
4. Close door.
5. Enjoy white noise instead of scratching and meowing. Sleep blissfully.
posted by heatherann at 6:50 PM on August 24, 2010 [8 favorites]

Lots of success here by just setting rules that are fair, and enforcing them consistently. The cat can then be secure in an environment where (s)he then knows what to expect, and will behave in ways that reflect this.

Cat's don't become terrified of you if the only times you (pretend you) are angry with them is for consistent things which they understood would get them in trouble, because then they can simply co-habitate and be secure in knowing that you're happy with them and they have nothing to worry about.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:11 PM on August 24, 2010

Whatever she hates, do it. Consistently, every time she bugs you. That's all it takes, really, but don't pick something out of a book that she's supposed to hate -- you know her, and you know the things she truly can't stand. Pick one that's easy to do when half-asleep.
posted by davejay at 12:20 AM on August 25, 2010

Nthing do not feed. My rule is not to feed the cats unless I've been up and wandering about for at least a half an hour -- I really don't want them to associate me getting up with being fed. I can't believe it would be that simple, especially since it hasn't worked for so many others on here, but no one's ever woken me up. But then, I've always had at least 3 cats (and as many as 10 for a month here or there), so maybe they annoy each other in the middle of the night?

And dominance training or things like it have only served to make the cat scared and mean, in my experience. I prefer the 'cuddle and kiss (lots of kisses on the nose!) until they run away' method.
posted by MeiraV at 8:13 AM on August 25, 2010

How long has this been going on? It may just be a phase. Try some of hissing/growling methods before the Great Lockout.

And, please steer way clear from I_am_jesus's "dominance" solution. That repugnant, ignorant, discredited theory sucks for dogs and is terrible for cats.
posted by Jezebella at 7:21 PM on August 27, 2010

  1. Buy a fan.
  2. Put the fan in the hallway outside your bedroom, pointed at the door. Set it up so that when kitty comes near the door, she gets a burst of air in her face.
  3. Turn fan on.
  4. Close door.
  5. Enjoy white noise instead of scratching and meowing. Sleep blissfully.

I tried this last night, and it worked! This is such a simple and easy solution to the perennial cat problem.

Yesterday morning, I was annoyed by being awakened at 5:30 by our year-old tabby cats, knocking on the door of the study in which they are confined at night (to give our sweet old cat a break). They had food still, and I make a rule of never feeding them in the morning, but they were bored and wanted us to get up.

This morning, with the fan trained on the door, they stayed quiet until we got up at 5:50. So much more peaceful! Thank you, heatherann!

(I hope it lasts.)
posted by Ery at 7:05 AM on September 1, 2010

« Older How do I enjoy music better?   |   And I ran, So far away Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.