Hey! Hey! Hey! It's 4 AM! Did you know you have to feed me in two hours?
November 20, 2012 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Large, young, lovable cat won't leave us the hell alone when we're trying to sleep in the mornings. I feed him when I get up at 6am, so naturally he's bugging me by 5am, sometimes 4am. How do I get him to knock this off?

He seems like he wants morning cuddles, of course, but plainly he wants food. He's a 15 lb cat, too, so just letting him settle down on top of me isn't really a way to get back to sleep (plus as soon as he wakes me up, I realize I need to hit the bathroom, and then I'm up and moving and even more awake).

Previous cats (in a previous relationship) had a self-feeding kibble dispenser, so this was rarely a problem, but my gf feels strongly about managing this kitty's intake.

Is there some management technique for this? Can I train him to stop it? Shutting him out of the bedroom seems unlikely to work, as he'll just sit out there and cry all night. Currently I or my gf (whichever one of us he steps on) just pick him up and dump him off onto the floor, but he always comes back within ten minutes for more.

I love my cat. I could go on and on about all the awesome things he does and how great he is. Please help me stop wanting to kill him first thing in the morning.
posted by scaryblackdeath to Pets & Animals (34 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
...feed him at night instead?
posted by charmedimsure at 7:57 AM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Stop feeding him first thing in the morning.
posted by jeather at 7:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [15 favorites]

Shutting him out of the bedroom seems unlikely to work, as he'll just sit out there and cry all night.

This is the best thing you can do in your life. It is painful at first. He will meow all night for about two weeks (if my cats are any indication). The way you manage it is to have a spray bottle full of water sitting by your door. While he is meowing, you creep quietly up to the door, open it a crack, spray him in the face and then shut the door. It seems like you are making no progress at all, until the blissful night that he stops meowing.

Even now, years after training them out of our bedroom at night, we will have a very occasional nighttime cry at the door, but we just ignore it and he stops in a minute.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

> he'll just sit out there and cry all night

I would guess that he'd stop after a few days of no response.
posted by katrielalex at 7:59 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have/had this. And I should add that as my cat gets older (we got her at 2 years, she's now 6) she has calmed down a lot and bugs us a lot less first thing. We also couldn't lock our cat out. She just sat yowling by the bedroom door and we aren't really from the school of locking cats out. Every morning she did a lot of purring, a lot of prodding of heads and while she is a small cat her favourite early morning sleep position was across Mrs MM's throat.

One option, which doesn't look like you want to go down, is to feed him late at night. We had mixed success with that one but it worked more often than it didn't.

A second option - the best option - is a very strong "NO" when he tramples on you. Be consistent. No, really, be consistent. We weren't and Mrs MM paid for it in sleep as she got much love early in the morning. In my experience, putting the cat on the floor was just inviting her to jump back up. To work it has to be not just the removal of attention but the removal of the invitation to try another point of attack.

The third option is manhandling him so he lies beside you. We have had this with mixed success. It works better now as she has calmed down but really did not work when she was younger.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:03 AM on November 20, 2012

Don't feed him when you get up. In fact, feed him as late as you can. If you work at an office, feed him right before you leave. If you work from home, feed him at like noon.

I had to learn this the hard way. My cat stopped waking me up within a few days, and then I was just angry that I hadn't changed the schedule sooner.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:04 AM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agreeing that you should stop feeding him first thing in the morning. Keeping him out of the bedroom would also work but personally I'm the kind of person who likes to sleep with his pets in the bed. What would also work would be to switch to a really high quality dry food (Evo is what I give my cat) and just let the cat graze. Of course, you might end up with a fat cat that way and dry food can have other complications, but it's an option. My cat flat-out refuses to eat wet food even in a survival situation, so I kind of went that route by default. He seems to be doing well on it.
posted by Scientist at 8:05 AM on November 20, 2012

I'm just free-feeding now, but in the past had managed things just fine by making sure that the cats never got to eat within half an hour of my getting out of bed. It seemed to be long enough to break the association between my getting up and food to prevent them from thinking, "Mom's in bed now, if we get Mom out of bed then she'll feed us!"
posted by gracedissolved at 8:06 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have this sort of feeder for my cat (not that brand exactly, but the same idea), so she is fed regularly but I can control the amount. I'm not saying that she never wakes me up in the morning, but at least she doesn't associate me too directly with her breakfast.

(Instead, she hovers over the feeder for about 1.5 hours before it goes off, willing it to turn with her eyes.)
posted by cider at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yeah, different feeding time, and be patient if it takes him longer than a few days to quit bugging you. In my experience, it can be several weeks before a cat will give up.
posted by Specklet at 8:17 AM on November 20, 2012

We still feed first thing in the morning, sometimes getting up to feed and then going back to bed - but while we do measure our cat's food and restrict her intake, we found that splitting her meals smaller to provide a "bedtime snack" helped.
posted by Occula at 8:19 AM on November 20, 2012

Automatic pet feeder?

posted by Tullyogallaghan at 8:20 AM on November 20, 2012

posted by purpleclover at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2012

Three things broke my very, very affectionate boycat of this habit.

I started by feeding him at night, then I implemented Operation Bedroom Door with this awesome device The Sssscat product is a can of compressed air with a motion sensor. You put it in front of the closed door, kitty goes to yowl or dig at the door in hate and frustration, a spray of air shoots in front of his face and goes "Pssssstt!!" Kitty is startled and begins to slowly realize that assaults on the closed door is a futile effort. Kitty then yowls a few feet away from the door. You ignore and then in a few short months, Kitty begins to understand that the bedroom is off limits while sleepytimes are happening.

It takes time, but I swear by the Sscat thing. It's made my life a thousand times better and it's been about three years and I haven't had to use it all any more. Boycat just leaves the bedroom of his own accord and sits quietly outside the door. Until the dog headbutts the door open, but that's a whole 'nother drama.
posted by teleri025 at 8:22 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

1: Keep a squirt bottle with water set to "STREAM" by the bedside.

2: Employ watery fusillade until cat fucks directly off.

3: Iterate.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:26 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oh yes, haha, I have BROKEN my cats of this! Would you like to know my secrets?

• Do you want to lock him out? Close the door and put a Ssscat canister in front of it. SO LONG, CATS.

• Do you want to keep him in the room? Keep a spray bottle and spritz him in the face whenever there is so much as a meow.

BOOM. Done.

*WARNING* Make sure the spraybottle is tightly fastened because I usually fall back asleep with it in my hands and the other night it leaked all over me and I woke up in a panic because I thought I was drowning or something.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:33 AM on November 20, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yeah -- automatic pet feeder on a timer. My cat learned in a couple of weeks that no matter how much he bothered me, he wasn't getting fed any sooner. He gets a little confused around the daylight savings time switches, but figures it out in a couple of days. It's really cute -- he gets out of bed about an hour before it's due to go off, and then sits in front of it just waiting to be fed. It is an altar to his food god.

I have this one. One warning -- it says the smallest portion is 1/4 a cup, but it's actually 1/2. It's pretty easy to block off half the hopper if you need to though.

If you want to try the spray bottle thing, canned air also works really well. It's more the sound it makes than the air, so you don't even have to aim it at him when you're half asleep. Plus, no leaks!
posted by natabat at 8:38 AM on November 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

We tried to do the "monitor food thing". We had free-fed the cats when they were kittens but once they were a year old, we tried the two bowls of kibble a day thing.

They HATED it! Complained constantly. Meowing at the crack of dawn. Meowing all the damn time. We were all miserable.

One night we heard a commotion in the kitchen and Eartha had managed to wedge her head in the empty feeder. That was it.

The feeder is reinstated, the cats sleep in the living room, and peace is restored in the Bunny house.

Life is too damn short. Also, neither cat is over-weight.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Are you able to fall asleep again after the cat wakes you up? Honestly, I just get up at ~4, stumble down the stairs and feed the cat, get a drink of water/use the bathroom and go back to sleep. I know that makes me sound like a mere slave to my cat, but the result has been that the cat eats breakfast, does her morning rounds and then comes back for non-food-motivated napping/cuddling until I get up at 6:30 and the whole thing is pretty enjoyable.
posted by Frowner at 8:54 AM on November 20, 2012

An auto-feeder also broke my cat of the morning food crazies. Her feeder goes off before we get out of bed/show signs of life so that she doesn't associate us with her food and then she comes into bed and snuggles.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:55 AM on November 20, 2012

Wait 30 minutes after arising to feed them, and always do it as part of a consistent routine, e.g. when you're sitting down for your own breakfast.

That's really all you need to do.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:57 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

You must be more disciplined than he. Wear him out. There's a good chance you'll outlive him. (I fed dry food on no schedule. Kitties ate at their convenience.)

OTOH, who has a cat that doesn't expect it to take over their life? Page 2 of the Official Cat Specifications covers this if you will but read the manual.

Kids. Jeez.
posted by FauxScot at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also was going to suggest the food bowl with a timer. I have the same one cider suggested. It's made my life so much more peaceful. (I have a dog, not a cat, but she does more or less the same thing.) Now the sound of the automatic bowl opening will wake her out of a dead sleep and she'll bolt for it and be there waiting before it even finishes opening (about 10 seconds.) It's pretty funny to watch.

It's less funny when she's napping on my stomach when it goes off, but still, worth it.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:58 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Problem: Previous cats (in a previous relationship) had a self-feeding kibble dispenser, so this was rarely a problem, but my gf feels strongly about managing this kitty's intake.

Solution: gf feeds the cat in the morning. You roll over and catch a few more Z's.
posted by mule98J at 9:14 AM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you're interested in keeping your cat out of the bedroom, but are worried about the crying, this will work.
posted by orme at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2012

Response by poster: I should note that we give him dry food in the morning (6am-ish, because that's when I get up for work), and wet food in the evening (6pm-ish). He gets treats randomly during the day whenever we're home, too. I don't want anyone thinking I feed my cat only once a day. :/
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:26 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Putting my oar in with the automatic feeder, it solved almost all of the early morning wake-up calls. We have it set to go off a couple hours before we get up. The cat goes down on her own, waits patiently by the magical god, eats, comes up and passes out in a food coma.
posted by nanook at 9:27 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely get your cat on a regular feeding schedule. We do our guy in the morning and again in the evening before bed. Also, it is very important to not make that morning feeding the first thing you do. Kitty will definitely associate food with you getting up, and take steps to wake you up. Make him wait a good amount of time between you getting up and food hitting the dish. 30 minutes should be fine. Longer would be better.

That said...Nothing is ever going to prevent your cat from going through periods where he simply wants you up, for whatever reason. Our guy has an annoying occasional habit of pounding on closed doors in the middle of the night. This necessitates that we keep our bedroom door open at night. This works most of the time. Occasionally, though, he decides to pound on other doors. Getting after him with a squirt bottle makes it play time, so that doesn't really work.

I wish there was a sure-fire solution for you. This is definitely one of those "Because it's a cat" situations.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:09 AM on November 20, 2012

I got this pet feeder for my cat a few years ago. Despite being pretty smart and very dedicated to getting to food, he hasn't managed to break it yet. He's diabetic, so portions and timing are really important for us. The one thing we have to do is remember to refill the feeder, and Chester is really good at reminding us to do that.

My cat still sleeps with us, and yeah, sometimes he still tries us up in the morning (much less often and closer to our actual wakeup time), but I do my best not to react at all. No throwing him off the bed, no batting at him, nothing. If it's too much, I'll blow in his face and then return to my original position. My boyfriend has not yet mastered the art of staying still when something is licking your hair, so my cat concentrates most of his energy on him these days.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:48 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cats are crepuscular animals who are hungry at dawn. Either
1. leave a bowl of kibble out when you go to bed or
2. since it's your girlfriend who wants to manage his feeding, maybe she should get up at 4 am to feed the hungry beast.
posted by feets at 11:53 AM on November 20, 2012

Ahem. Is there no photo of your dawn intruder for us to enjoy?
posted by orrnyereg at 12:14 PM on November 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

Previous cats (in a previous relationship) had a self-feeding kibble dispenser, so this was rarely a problem, but my gf feels strongly about managing this kitty's intake.

Sorry, I didn't properly RTFQ, but I stick by my previous answer. Part of the reason my cat became food-crazy was because she was put on a diet after being free-fed and getting a little carried away with that freedom.

We then got a 5-bowl feeder and controlled her portions carefully through that so that she got fed 4x per day rather than spread out through the two meals that we were at home for. She lost the weight she needed to in a little less than a year, with little complaining after we got the feeder. Now she's a healthy weight, doesn't wake us up in the morning and most days even sleeps through most of her lunch (served promptly at 12:30) and forgets to eat it before the next turn of the magic food god.
posted by urbanlenny at 12:24 PM on November 20, 2012

I've never known a squirt gun that will quiet my cats, and I already shut them out of the bedroom which does not actually help at all if you can hear them through the door. My cats also eventually got into every automated feeder I tried.

Feed him at night. It's really not that bad. Cats can totally be fed once a day, or two feedings at night, and it's really no problem. My cats are healthy and happy and rarely wake us up before we want to see them in the morning.
posted by ch1x0r at 5:24 PM on November 20, 2012

Nthing automatic feeder. Nothing works better. We let the auto feeder take care of everything but the 10pm snack.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:49 PM on November 20, 2012

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