August 1, 2011 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Kitty's started giving us midnight serenades - help!

Bedtime at chez penguinicity: We go upstairs, turn out the lights, crawl under the covers, and Nimbus the cat curls up at the foot of the bed. All's calm for a couple minutes, then the cries of our other cat Cricket start percolating up the stairwell. Sadness! Woe! Cricket is the loneliest, most pathetic thing on earth. After a few minutes of meowing, she climbs the stairs, still wailing, curls up in her bed, and dozes off like nothing happened.

We've tried setting a routine, no luck. We've tried carrying her upstairs; she hangs out for a couple minutes, then goes downstairs to start meowing again. Calling out "Cricket, we're upstairs!" sometimes brings her up, but we're afraid that might be training her to cry for attention.

So, any ideas on how to bring peace back to our nights? I'm a bit concerned that it may be a sign of a health problem, but she's otherwise fit and active.
posted by penguinicity to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd be inclined to ignore it and hope it goes away. Don't reinforce the behavior with attention.
posted by puddinghead at 6:19 PM on August 1, 2011

Ear plugs?

I've owned three cats on my life, and two have them have done this. One would go down to laundry room and carry up whatever laundry he could find and then cry at the bottom of the stairs for 10 minutes. Our current feline friend runs around meowing for about 10 or 15 minutes when we turn out the lights.

As long as he doesn't seem otherwise sick, I'd just file it under 'cats are crazy animals that we will never understand'.
posted by scrute at 6:20 PM on August 1, 2011

One of my cats does this at lights-out time, but he's not doing it out of loneliness -- he's carrying around his toys, and meowing with them in his mouth. Often the next morning, we find a toy he's carried and left for us outside the bedroom door. He does this at other times too, which is how we've witnessed it, but it's most common right at bedtime. We think it's cute, and it's not loud, so it doesn't bother us. Maybe it's the same instinct?
posted by statolith at 6:35 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

We've taken to running a (very loud) air purifier in our bedroom at night. Cats are nocturnal; they have speed races and meowing sessions at nighttime. The only thing to do about it is adapt.
posted by litnerd at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2011

Wait it out. S/he is hunting toys; it's totally normal. I call to mine, tell him he is a brave and mighty hunter, and praise him for hunting his jingly flower so effectively. Then he leaves it by the door or on the bed, curls up with us, and goes to sleep.
posted by matildaben at 6:41 PM on August 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

I've had lots of cats that howled, with or without carrying toys at the same time. The thing that's interesting to me is that it seems like a private thing to them. One of my cats, the late, lamented Buddy, used to carry his stuffed fuzzy balls around in the dining room while howling; it was really tough to catch him at it, because if he heard you coming, he'd drop the ball and walk away nonchalantly (I called it the Secret Fuzzball Ritual). Chuckie, one of my current cats, goes to the other end of the house and howls when we're in the living room. This is often preceded by a poop and some crazy running around.

Anyway, I wouldn't worry about it being a bad sign; it seems like a very common thing in healthy, happy cats (and I've seen it in both males and females). I don't know that there's any hope of getting them to stop, though.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:55 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's normal. My cat does this in my less than 500-sq foot one-bedroom apartment, so I know she's not lost or something. Your cat is probably just hunting toys as suggested above. Does she talk a lot in general? My yowly cat is also a tortoiseshell (she looks just like Cricket!) and tends to comment on everything.

You may want to check that she has all her hearing (easy--does she turn her head if you clap or something behind her?). I had a cat that started to do that in her old age when she began to go deaf. But if she's young it's most likely just cats being cats.
posted by min at 7:00 PM on August 1, 2011

Honestly, I almost feel like your cat might just enjoy hearing itself talk. I had a kitty named Spunky (I need to find photos, dude was precious) who both before and after going poo would howl mercilessly as though saying "OH GOD OH GOD WHAT'S HAPPENING WHY WHY WHY" and then, "HOLY CRAP THAT WAS AWESOME! HEY, HEY I DID SOMETHING! YAH! ME!" and proceed to tell the house about it at length until he spotted something shiny. It's something that cats do. I say just let poor, woeful Cricket have her rant and rave and rest easy. She probably just wants someone to say, "I know, darling, I know" as she reflects on her life at large late at night. They are vain little creatures, you know.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 7:12 PM on August 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

My mind is blown. One of my cats does this exactly, down to eventually carrying toys (or socks) upstairs and putting them all in a pile at the foot of the bed. We've just learned to live with it and, like statolith, we think it's funny and cute. I had no idea this was common cat behavior, though.
posted by something something at 7:13 PM on August 1, 2011

Metafilter: This is often preceded by a poop and some crazy running around.

posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:22 PM on August 1, 2011 [16 favorites]

Hunting sounds.... ignore it!

If need be, get something to produce some white noise to help you ignore it...
posted by tomswift at 7:22 PM on August 1, 2011

Cats are like mad homeless people who wander around shouting in malls. They are plunged at birth into chaos and must become one with it or perish. All cats are born with one important thing or another broken inside their brain, and it leads to behaviours such as those outlined above. Ours, for example, tend to rejoice after taking a poop. They cover it carefully in the litter tray and then screech in triumph and run back and forth through the house for a good three minutes, finally free from the oppressive shackles of a full colon.

One of them likes to go into the shower after we have had finished. Not for any particular reason. We just turn off the taps and she hops inside the shower and sits there for a while and then comes out. A lot of our energy would be wasted attempting, in vain, to figure out her purpose or motivation in doing so. Remember that cats spend a great deal of their lives staring at things that don't actually exist in the physical realm. They can't be reasoned with, they can't be bargained with, they just slip sideways into our universe from the Other and sleep for day after day on all of our stuff.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2011 [182 favorites]

We had this problem, except it would be at 3 AM and then again at 5AM from the other cat. We decided to turn the lights out in the living room a half hour or so before bedtime to indicate 'quiet time'. If there is howling, the cat(s) get sprayed with water. It mostly works. We find that when the middle of the night howling starts again it's because the cats have started sleeping all evening and are up all night. So we try to keep them up in the evening so that they sleep when we sleep.
posted by sadtomato at 9:09 PM on August 1, 2011

She may be hunting, or insecure. Or both.

One of my roommate's cats, whom I have dubbed 'Mall Cop', does the exact same thing. When it's bedtime for the two-leggeds, Mall Cop goes into full on Hunting Mode, and starts crying while systematically bringing up some toys to present to us as his mighty kill. The more agitated/upset/insecure he is, the more toys he brings up. We just give him a lot of praise for presenting us with the kill, that he is a mighty hunter, and what would we ever do without him protecting us at all times. That seems to settle him down somewhat to where he stops crying at least.

Mall Cop also gets really upset if you catch him in mid-transit; if he's carrying up his latest toy and he realizes that you're watching him, he'll stop in mid-step and give you a withering glare. Cats are weird.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:44 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my two cats does this. He always stops when I mock him by singing a vocal scale warm-up with "meow" instead of "la."

"Meow meow meow meow MEOW meow meow meowwwwww!"

I also imagine him wearing a little tux and a bow tie, like a tiny furry opera singer. It helps make me not want to kill him so much for waking me up at 2AM.
posted by ErikaB at 10:02 PM on August 1, 2011

Cricket is spayed, yes?
posted by Violet Hour at 10:06 PM on August 1, 2011

Yeah, I immediately thought what Violet Hour is thinking. If not spayed, she could be in heat.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 11:07 PM on August 1, 2011

The cat of my kids thought that the big black dog of my previous house owner was living behind the walls, and call it at night. Sometimes she was also summoning me for a boxing match on the stairs. They can't read the clock, is all. I mean, we call our partners when coffee is ready, no?
posted by Namlit at 3:14 AM on August 2, 2011

Our girl-cat does the *exact same thing* with the yowling and the carrying of toys (but for her it's an old gray scrunchie, ahem, her "baby"). We used to think she was lonely, but then we'd find a weird pile of socks that neither of us was accountable for . . .yeah. Cat makes sock piles. And yowls while doing it.

Cats. They're weird, yo.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:56 AM on August 2, 2011

Thanks all. It's reassuring to hear so many other cats share this charming trait, although as I said to my girlfriend "good news, dear -- she's normal." Yes, she's spayed, and she's quite the conversationalist during the day. There's also the issue of a certain blue stuffed fish that migrates around the house at night...
posted by penguinicity at 6:48 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

How old is she? I have an older cat (beginning of kidney disease) who does this and a childhood cat who lived to the ripe age of 21 did this in her later years as well. Vet said it was a sign of dementia, and they were screaming out of fear because they didn't know where they were. I've found that picking up Tommy (my old dude cat) does help quiet him sometimes.
posted by Kurichina at 9:58 AM on August 2, 2011

Our cat does the same thing - carries around a stuffed Hamtaro, yowling. We've found it on the floor in front of the door to the garage. Our current working hypothesis, besides "cats are weird," is that she thinks I stay in the garage all day when I leave through that door to go to work, and she's trying to get my attention.

It might be a misfiring of the "bring half-dead prey to kittens to teach them to hunt" instinct.
posted by telophase at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2011

Can you give her a handful of kibble at bedtime? That cured our two of galloping around the house at 3 a.m.
posted by vickyverky at 1:34 PM on August 2, 2011

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