Any tips to make a whiny cat less whiny?
May 13, 2012 9:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I teach a cat the virtue of patience?

My roommate and I have a 9-month-old cat. She's very affectionate and cuddly, which is great, until about 4 AM, when she starts to meow longingly for more cuddles outside our bedroom doors.

We've tried the spray bottle, which only keeps her quiet for a few minutes. We usually can't sleep near her, either, because she is also a feisty beast with sharp claws and teeth.

What can we do keep her quiet until a decent hour?
posted by morninj to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Lock her in a room with food/water/litter until you wake up. Everyone I know with cats does this.
posted by lobbyist at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I was tempted to stop reading at "How do I teach a cat .." but anyway.

My experience (having raised 5 different cats from kittens) is that you have to just ignore it. I know it's tough, but all my cats eventually grew out of it.

One thing that did help was having more than one cat at a time - they would curl up together and leave me alone.
posted by dotgirl at 9:43 AM on May 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

From the other day.
posted by hermitosis at 9:43 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Interestingly we had this problem with our cats when they were kittens. At about 5:30 they'd stand outside the bedroom door and meow like crazy. I'd take them to bed with me, but they'd just want to play.

One day, as they had both dropped off to sleep I meowed loudly at them, waking them up from their nap. They looked at me like I was crazy, but that stopped the behavior. Sure, they occasionally will wake up early and want into the bedroom (I assume to patrol) but if ignore them, they go away until I'm ready to let them in.

Since your kitty is young, it couldn't hurt to try it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2012 [13 favorites]

I scream at my cats to stfu. Doesn't do much for them, but it sure makes me feel better.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:57 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

This has nothing to do with the cat, but we use a white noise machine in our bedroom. The cat may be meowing (I have no doubt that she is), but we can't hear it. Best purchase I ever made.

(If you don't want a simple noise machine, then you can get a humidifier or a box fan. Anything with white noise is fine.)
posted by mrfuga0 at 10:09 AM on May 13, 2012

Ignore them. And never feed your cat first thing. That way they associate your getting up with foodtimes and will try to wake you to make foodtimes happen.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

You can't teach a cat the virtue of patience.

You can stop reinforcing behavior. Lock her out of the bedroom, don't respond when she meows, and don't feed her first thing in the morning.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:35 AM on May 13, 2012

As a long time cat parent and growing up with cats I have found that ignoring does eventually curb that issue. I would say it's almost time for them to grow out of it at 9 months of age. I apologize this isn't a quick fix but I hope it helps give you piece of mind that it will, indeed, eventually stop. Of course, I also second what PhoBWanKenobi said. Once behaviors are reinforced it takes time to recondition responses and expectations. No feeding or petting until you have had time to finish your breakfast, coffee, etc. This also sets the expectation that you are the leader in your pack. In the wild, pack animals always let the leaders eat first, sleep first, set tone, and... well lead.
posted by MyMind at 10:40 AM on May 13, 2012

Best answer: A brilliant friend came up with the following tactic.

Put our vacuum cleaner outside the door. Run the cord under the door to your bedside, and plug it into a power strip with a switch.

When the kitties begin meowing at the door, turn on the vacuum cleaner right next to them. Cats have vacuum cleaners more than anything. After a short time this solved her problem.
posted by LarryC at 10:54 AM on May 13, 2012 [19 favorites]

Do you feed them in the morning? If you can wait, feed them later. (Even if it's as you're going out the door rather than when you first get up.)

Honestly, though -- this is one of those problems that will either go away if you ignore it or ... it will go away on its own ... or it won't go away.

Try earplugs and stuffing a towel under the crack in the door to muffle the sound, plus a white noise maker, and give it a little while of TOTALLY IGNORING YOU to see if that makes a difference. In my opinion, any attention--even negative attention like a spray bottle or yelling--encourages the cat because hey you're noticing!
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:26 AM on May 13, 2012

Though I love the vacuum cleaner idea because that's startling and unpleasant for the cat in a way a spray bottle is not, and plus there's no YOU involved to the cat.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:27 AM on May 13, 2012

Get down on your hands and knees, open the door, and hiss at it with your best impressing of a pissed off cat. You also have to purr with it the next time you're both in the mood.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you go the vacuum cleaner route, just make sure there's no way Kitty can get accidently sucked up!
posted by easily confused at 1:32 PM on May 13, 2012

I would like to favorite LarryC's comment a hundred times. That's hysterical, maybe slightly cruel, and probably extremely effective.

And nthing the waiting to feed them in the morning -- wake up and ignore them completely for 20-30 minutes.
posted by MeiraV at 4:03 PM on May 13, 2012

Don't do the vacuum thing--far too many variables that could cause injury to the cat, especially since you won't be able to see it.

Earplugs are wonderful things, and gilrain is absolutely right about what you can and cannot hear. Once they learn that it isn't getting them anywhere, the cats will stop.
posted by tzikeh at 4:39 PM on May 13, 2012

The vacuum thing depends on your type - mine (Dyson upright) is hose-only until I disengage the stand, so it would make a lot of noise but the suction end is harmlessly in the air with a grate over it.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:06 PM on May 13, 2012

We had a really strict rule that meowing or scratching at the door NEVER worked. Even if we had been about to get up and leave the room anyway, if she was meowing, we had to wait it out until she got bored and had stopped for at least five minutes before the door was opened. She learned FAST. Like, two weeks, max, and then she didn't do it again for nearly a year.

Unfortunately I was away for a few weeks recently and my husband got into the habit of leaving the door open so the cat "wouldn't get lonely" (Yeah, right. Totally about the cat.) Now that she is back to being locked out, she has started meowing in the middle of the night again, but now it seems that she's just checking to see if we are there, because if we say anything in response -- anything at all -- she shuts up and goes away. If we are silent, she meows over and over until we finally respond. Our 4am interactions now go something like this:
"Meep!" [pad pad pad away from the door]

So if you aren't willing to completely ignore your kitty 100% of the time, you could see if this works.
posted by lollusc at 1:55 AM on May 14, 2012

To be clear, the vachuuml isn't supposed to to scare cats with suction but with noise.
posted by LarryC at 5:06 AM on May 15, 2012

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