It's yo' cat / It's yo' problem!
February 14, 2013 6:08 AM   Subscribe

CatLivingFilter: One of my roommate's two cats has become very attached to me, probably because my roommate (by his own admission) inherited the cat from an ex relationship and never really liked it that much. That's cool--I like cats, and cats like me. What I don't like is that the cat has become so attached that it will yell inconsolably outside my door, scratch at my door, and sometimes even bash into my door in despair of not being in my room. This has become a major sleep disrupting problem for me. What can I reasonably expect my roommate to do to respond to this situation?

I've been living with my roommate (with whom I have a very good relationship otherwise) for the past six months and this cat behavior seemed to come fairly out of the blue. The cat (8 or so year old, neutered male) pretty quickly attached to me as my roommate doesn't give it a lot of attention and "I know what cats like" and am generally a cat person (his other cat and I are also very friendly but less so problematically). With what seems like very minimal time and affection given based on my past cat experiences, the cat became "my best friend" and always wants to be with or near me. Which I totally don't mind when I'm awake.

However, as in the main text, it's recently been waking me up constantly over the past two weeks trying to get into my room at odd hours of the morning. I swear to God the little thing gets a running start and bashes into my door. It's bizarre and distressing. It will do this for an hour or more. I grew up with cats and have been around many more and have never run into such an insecurely attached animal in my life. Remembering my basic behaviorism, I have done nothing to reinforce or reward this behavior directly--I have never opened the door as a result of these requests either in day or night time, but this unfortunately doesn't seem to have extinguished the behavior over the course of these two weeks. On the other hand, I fear this may have begun because I started two or three months ago to let the cat sleep with me if it was settled in to my bed when I went to sleep. Surprisingly, the cat does not really disturb at night when in my room--despite its other problems--except to sometimes bother me to let it out to use the litter box, which I am used to and can deal with better. But, then, hours later, I hear the battering ram on my door and the saddest, loudest cat cries you can imagine.

(On the other hand, could this be some sort of cat health issue? But the cat seems normal enough when it gets what it wants).

I have issues with sleep and insomnia already, and this periodic awakening has rendered me unhappy and--increasingly--unhealthy. I've even begun to fantasize about moving out of what is otherwise a very lovely and great living situation. So, this is clearly unsustainable.

What should I ask my roommate to do to help me out? I feel like this is in some way his problem as it is his cat and not mine. He is also somehow completely undisturbed by the cat's incredibly loud noises despite the fact that our rooms are adjacent so I'm pretty sure he hasn't figured out on his own that there's a major issue. I'm not immediately sure what he could do to make the cat stop. But, what comes to mind to help me out would be for him to buy me a super loud alarm clock to be paired with some earplugs. (I've tried using earplugs and they have actually worked well in combination with a white noise phone app, but then I can't hear my phone alarm through the ear plugs). I say this because I would 100% do this or something similar if my roommate was having trouble due to my animals. Is this an OK thing to ask for or discuss? Is there anything else I should discuss with him?

Conversely, Is there anything I should do? I'm considering not letting the cat sleep in my room any more as a first step.
posted by The Sock Puppet Sentience Movement to Pets & Animals (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cats are nocturnal and get bored in the middle of the night sometimes. One of ours will occasionally go to our housemate and wake her up at 4 am - he will get up from where he's sleeping on our bed in order to get her to say "hi."

Aside from your roommate locking the cat in another room at night, I don't know what he can do to fix it.

Is there a reason why you can't just leave the door to your room cracked open, so the cat can come snuggle/sleep/come and go at will?
posted by rtha at 6:15 AM on February 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

It is absolutely an okay thing to discuss. Cutting the cat off from your bedroom might work, but the solution I see that is the most likely to give you immediate relief is for you to leave your door cracked.

Is there a reason why this is not an option? Because letting the cat slink in and out as necessary would cut down on your sleep disruption immensely, considering that he doesn't seem to bother you when he's actually in the room with you.
posted by lydhre at 6:16 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

The cat needs to stay in your roommate's room overnight. He should put a litter box in his room.

This is assuming you don't want the cat in your room at night period. Otherwise, yeah, why not just leave your door open a bit and let him go in and out?
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:18 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hey, I had a roommate's cat who slammed himself up against my door! And I am allergic to cats so there was no way I was letting him in to sleep with me. There wasn't too much yowling though. I put tape and aluminum foil and various other things around the bottom of the door, to make it less attractive for cat-bodyslamming. And he eventually stopped.

If you don't want to keep the door cracked (as others have suggested) I think you should continue to use the earplugs and white noise and get a new alarm clock and absolutely don't let the cat sleep in your room; eventually he will give up. There's probably not much your roommate can do about it.
posted by mskyle at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

So cat sounds like a totally normal cat. I know of two solutions. One is to keep cat shut up in a room that is far away enough that you cannot hear its crying when you go to sleep at night. Two is to leave your door open especially since cat only seems to bother you when the door is closed. Kitty loves you, number two works pretty well.
posted by florencetnoa at 6:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a little out of the blue, and may not be helpful at all - but have you considered adopting the cat as your own (with roommate's accept, of course)?

The cat could sleep in your room during the night - with litterbox and food - and have the other cat for a playmate during the day.
posted by rawrberry at 6:21 AM on February 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would leave my door ajar.

The cat wants what he wants. Best way to train a cat? Let him do what he wants.
posted by tel3path at 6:22 AM on February 14, 2013 [22 favorites]

I'm considering not letting the cat sleep in my room any more as a first step.
This is pretty much your only step (or leaving the door slightly ajar so the cat can come in if it doesn't happen to be in already when you go to sleep).

It is not so much the roommates' cat that is causing the problem, but your behavior toward the cat--specifically, being inconsistent about whether or not the cat can be in your room at night. The condition that makes perfect sense to you ("cat can sleep with me if it's already settled in when I go to bed") is too abstract for a cat to grasp. It's no different than if you were feeding the cat table scraps on days you have a tuna sandwich and then getting annoyed at your roommate and expecting them to fix the problem when the cat whines at you for tuna on the days you decide to have PBJ.
posted by drlith at 6:22 AM on February 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

You can train the cat to stay out at night, it just takes a little while.

1. Keep a spray bottle of water by the door.
2. Every time the cat yowls at the door, crack the door, squirt it with the water, and shut the door. The idea is that the cat doesn't even see you during this process.
3. You must be consistent and do this every time, every night.
4. After what seems to be a frustratingly long time (in our case it was about two weeks), the cat will get the hint and will "magically" stop crying at your door.

This method has worked on all three of our cats.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:26 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

My mom put a pan of water every night on the outside of her bedroom door -- it worked!
posted by Falwless at 6:27 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend's cat does this. We shut the door to our bedroom at night and put his litterbox in another room at the opposite side of the house, his food in the kitchen, and his catbed in the living room. I think he does this when he feels left out, honestly. Our cat however, is INCAPABLE of sleeping with us like a normal cat. He gets all excited and jumps all over us and pretty much wants to play. all. night. So we shut him out. He's starting to get it because we're not reinforcing behavior. I also bought a white noise machine which has been my personal saving grace. Good luck.
posted by floweredfish at 6:31 AM on February 14, 2013

About two years ago, Oryx the cat began yowling at us every morning at 3:00 AM. She would crawl all over us. She wanted pets. She wanted food. She wanted attention. She wanted us to be up and about.

This wasn't tenable. We began shutting the door. Cue the scratching and yowling and door-slamming, on cue at 3AM. Oryx's brother, Dr. Waffles, started getting into the act. Now we had two cats HELL-BENT on breaking into the master suite with mom and dad in the unholy hours. We were growing slowly insane from lack of sleep and frustration.

Enter a device called SSSCAT.

It's a motion-activated "sprayer" that lets off a concentrated blast of loud, scary canned air. Whenever one of the cats gets within about 3 feet of the thing: PSSSSHHHHT!!!!

We started setting it up in front of our closed door at night. On the first night, we heard the usual scratching and banging, true to form, at 3AM. All of a sudden: PSSSSHHHHTTT!!!

The cats scrambled away in a panic.

We continue to use the SSSCAT can, but rarely ever even need to turn it on. The cat's hate the very sight of it, and won't go near it. No more scratching at 3AM.

I would suggest that your roommate invest in a SSSCAT can. It's humane (it's just air), relatively cheap, and extremely effective.
posted by shiggins at 6:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [21 favorites]

Malcolm does this. He's a real pest. I ignore him and after a few minutes he gives up and waits for me to wake up.

Malcolm and Eartha slept with me as kittens, but they were banished from the room because Malcolm would get up at some ungodly hour and mess with me while I was sleeping.

Once, Eartha hid under the bed and slept with me all night.

So as long as the cats are willing to be quiet and not bug me, they can sleep with me. Eartha can do it, Malcolm can't.

Personally, if you like sleeping with the cat and he likes you, just let him sleep with you.

We lure the cats out of the room at night with a treat of a puff of whipped cream on a plate. The cats look forward to this and it's ritualistic, so they know, "well, I'm kicked out, but I get whipped cream!"

Perhaps if he equates leaving your room with a nice treat, he'll deal with it better.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:33 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been in exactly this position. It took almost a month for the cat to learn. But he did. More than anything else, you've got to keep doing what you're doing.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:37 AM on February 14, 2013

If you really don't mind the cat sleeping with you, just make it easy for him to come and go on his own. Someone can spend less than $5 on a door stop and you're made. Frankly, I'm so used to the cats on our bed, I really rarely hear them come and go at all anymore.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:40 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

This AskMe needs more cat pictures.
posted by easily confused at 6:45 AM on February 14, 2013 [29 favorites]

I would suggest you view things from the cat's perspective.

Either you are the cat's best friend, in which your room is this soft place that smells of his favourite person. Or you're not.

The cat doesn't really understand where the boundaries are. You can teach the cat these if they are bespoke to you (like: your room if off limits at night), which is the harder way. It requires patience and consistency. Or you can let the cat in. In my experience 8 year old cats are much less disruptive at night when they are actually on/in your bed.

Or you can extract yourself and try and stop being the cat's go to pal. Close access to your room at all times. Be gentle in not allowing the cat to sit on you. Unless you have a heart of stone good luck with that.

Others up there have suggested broaching the topic of adopting the cat. Obviously the cat considers itself adopted. I'm a sucker for a loving mog so I'd go down this route but it is the extreme option. I know people who have loving cats and just ignore them. I don't get it personally.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:52 AM on February 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yup. We put a Ssscat outside the door. NO MORE CAT DOOR-BANGING.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm nth-ing the SSScat. However, I don't think you should approach your roommate about buying this for you. Unless money is a huge problem for you, this is worth the return of sleep and health in your life.

I have two cats that I love, and both of them are turned out of the bedroom at night. There is too much nighttime cat nonsense for me. (The worst is when they claim that spot between your legs so that you are frozen in one position for the whole night!) They get plenty of snuggle time otherwise. So you are not a monster for not wanting them in the bedroom at night. (Also, it's weird to sleep with the door open when you have a roommate.)
posted by aabbbiee at 7:05 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jackson Galaxy from My Cat From Hell solved this problem successfully using a combination of the SSSCat mentioned above and lots of playtime before bed to tire the cat out.

I highly recommend taking a look at the episode for a great How-To. It's the second segment of S01E01 - He Hates My Boyfriend. My Cat From Hell is general is a great resource for understanding cat behavior.
posted by zug at 7:18 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look, I hate to be the requisite voice of Crazy Cat Person in this thread because sometimes AskMe can go overboard with the whole Feline Rights thing, but reading this made me really sad for the cat. It sounds like he's desperate for attention and affection, and since you're a nice roommate and cat-friendly person, he's glommed on to you as his one true love. It sounds like his owner just isn't offering him a great relationship.

My cat sleeps in my bed, draped on my legs, every night. If I wake up and wander to sleep on the couch when my husband is suffering from a loud cough, the cat trots behind me. I am his human, he is my fuzzy leg companion. While I'm not saying that all cat owners have to let their cats sleep in their beds, the fact that THIS cat is distraught when he's separated from you seems to suggest that he'd rather spend an hour+ of the night ramming his head into your door than sleep in the bed of his actual owner.

And I do agree that you've offered inconsistent boundaries, which is HUGELY confusing to tiny-brained animals, but the overall situation just sounds like the cat isn't get enough love from his owner and trying to adopt you as his new human. If you're not into that, you might need to have an honest conversation with your roommate about finding the cat a new home.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:20 AM on February 14, 2013 [26 favorites]

Can you explain why the cat isn't being kept in the owner's room overnight? I know you said the owner isn't thrilled with him, but at least that way the cat would have some human company and would be physically unable to bang on your door. It's definitely okay to expect the cat's owner to take ownership of this problem, and if you don't want the cat in your room, or feel uncomfortable with having your door open at night (either of which are, of course, completely fine) then this seems like a reasonable attempt at a solution.

Otherwise, yeah, I think the SSScat could be the way to go. People also often seem to suggest those Feliway pheromone diffusers for cat anxiety - if the cat is anxious and upset at being barred from you, maybe strategic use of the Feliway could help?
posted by DingoMutt at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cats hate closed doors. When I had a roommate and cats, we each put up heavy curtains in our doorways so we could leave our doors open and have some privacy. The cats were able to come and go as they pleased.
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:35 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Open door, spray water at cat. Repeat.
posted by kamikazegopher at 8:19 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you should adopt this cat. Then let him sleep with you. Bonus: cat!
posted by bq at 8:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [18 favorites]

I saw a tip on AskMe where the person shared this strategy. Put a vacuum cleaner outside the door, close the door and run the cord all the way into the room so that you can control the power. Leave vacuum switched to On. When the cat starts meowing, plug in the vacuum. The cat will notice that this Mechanical Monster starts growling whenever it starts up the meowing, seemingly without any human involvement, be terrified, and stop the behavior for fear of That Growling Thing.

My cats don't bother me much at night (I keep them out of my room, but they have each other) but I have considered this in case they ever start. Also, it is kind of hilarious and ultimately harmless for the cat.
posted by sweetkid at 9:59 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with the door-openers, but if you really just want just to keep the cat from all the night-time banging, try the vacuum cleaner outside the door with its cord (and a switchable surge protector) near your bed. Bang --> vac on. It will seem like a force of nature, so not be blamed on you, and will probably evidence a very quick (if unhappy) learning curve on the cat's end. This has been suggested to sleep-deprived parents of newborns on Metafilter before . . .
posted by acm at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

yes, acm's method is exactly the same as mine.
posted by sweetkid at 10:11 AM on February 14, 2013

Nthing this: You either need to not let the cat sleep in your room at all, or let the cat sleep in your room when it wants to (by propping open your door slightly, or even putting in a cat door or something, if your landlord would not freak out about that). The cat cannot understand why you are letting him sleep there sometimes and not other times.

I understand that it would be better for the cat if your roommate paid it more attention, but unless this lack of attention borders on abuse, I doubt it's entirely your roommate's fault that the cat likes you better. Once when I was a kid, my mother got a "family" cat who became my cat within two weeks of moving into our house, and pined so much for me when I went away to college years later (I mean, sitting in the window every day for hours at the time I used to come home, refusing to eat sort of pining) that I had to find a student apartment that allowed cats and take her to live with me. And I've twice had a cat who I LOVED and spent lots of time with decide to like a roommate more than they liked me. In one of those cases I gave up and gave the cat away to the person she preferred, so they could both be happy (it helped that person whom the cat liked liked the cat a lot, too).

We people like to think we pick cats, but sometimes cats just pick people.
posted by BlueJae at 10:46 AM on February 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

I have two cats and they both do this whereas my roommate's cat meows a bit then goes away.

My orange cat is extremely attached to me and will claw, bang, meow at the door incessantly until he is let out (he also damages the door in the process). He's been like this forever and will even go after the bathroom door if I'm in there taking a shower. Considering how anxious he is otherwise, I don't consider a startle mechanism to be humane so I just suck it up and sleep with the door cracked open (and a scratching post against to keep it from opening wider).

My tortoiseshell figured out how to open my third roommate's door until she hit the handle too hard and now it's loose so that doesn't work but it rattles really loudly when she hits it. He eventually stopped letting her in at night ever and she now leaves him alone.

Basically, choose your battles and be consistent.
posted by buteo at 11:43 AM on February 14, 2013

My cats tend to view the squirt bottle as a toy/ challenge -- it turns into a game of whacking at the door, then bolting away before I can squirt them. A Sssscat, though, would probably work wonders, if you're not willing to just let the cat sleep in your room.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:05 PM on February 14, 2013

I can't believe only one person has remarked on the total lack of cat pix, in direct violation of AskMe regulations.

And let the cat sleep with you fer cryin' out loud!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:09 PM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want the cat to be able to sleep with you without keeping the door open, maybe you'd be allowed to install a cat door.
posted by lakeroon at 8:40 PM on February 14, 2013

If you're fine with the cat sleeping with you if it's already in bed with you when you're going to sleep, then just incorporate picking up the cat and bringing it to bed with as part of your going-to-bed routine. Petting/snuggling a purring cat is a very soothing way to drift off to sleep.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:19 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

This isn't helpful, but I have 2 cats and 3 roommates. Pearl is allowed to sleep with me because she knows to be quiet and go to sleep. Floyd however, does not sleep, he wants to play. He does a tour of our bedroom doors every night, but luckily his meow is very quiet and he only scratches for a few minutes before trying the other doors. Eventually he gives up (after about half an hour), but he still does it EVERY night. We've all been living together for 7 months. Good luck!
posted by drunkonthemoon at 11:44 AM on March 7, 2013

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