Cat Filter: Bringing things to bed with her
July 10, 2013 6:07 AM   Subscribe

I have a beautiful kitten who is roughly one year old. For the past few weeks she's been bringing things to my bed in the middle of the night. I'm at a loss as to why.

My cat's name is Buffy. I've had her since January and she has been a tiny, little tornado of love. She follows me everywhere around the house and rarely lets me out of her sight. Her typical behavior for the past 5-6 months, when it's time for me to go to bed, is that she will attack my feet under the blankets. Sometimes she'll bring a toy mouse onto the bed and start to play. When this happens I take the mouse and put it in my nightstand and try to calm her a bit. Usually she'll then go downstairs and do cat things. After about an hour she'll come back upstairs to my room, snuggle down next to my legs and sleep pretty much all night long. We typically get up around 5 when she decides we've both had enough sleep.

About three weeks ago, her usual routine behavior has changed. She no longer always comes back upstairs after an hour. I wake up frequently in the night and she's rarely curled up on the bed with me. One particular Tuesday night she brought what I thought was a toy to bed at around midnight but what turned out to be a very large house centipede. While freaked out beyond belief as I'd touched it and rolled it around in my fingers for a good 30 seconds in the dark trying to figure out what it was, I assumed that this was her way of contributing to the house's food supply (she had hunted this creature and couldn't wait to present it to me).

After this incident though, she's begun to bring me one or both of the sponges that are kept at the sink in the kitchen every night. While sponges are definitely preferable to creepy crawlies with way too many legs, I'm not sure how to curb this behavior or what it is she's trying to accomplish. The only thing that has changed since her behavior has changed is that I have been sleeping with the ceiling fan in my bedroom on because it's been so hot lately.

My questions are: Why is she doing this? What can I do aside from hide the sponges every night to curb her from bringing me tokens of her affection in bed in the middle of the night? Why has she abruptly changed her night time habits and how can I help her sleep at night so that I too can sleep at night?

As an offering for your wisdom in all things cat, I give you these photos of Buffy: here here here
posted by midnightstorms to Pets & Animals (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
She is doing this because cats are weird.

I know of one mefite's cat that would bring dried leaves in from outside, and present them with some solemnity. It was obviously Serious Business. And then it stopped (much to my chagrin, as I found it hilarious, and didn't have to remove the leaves).

If it disturbs you, I reckon 'hide the sponges' is about as good a solution as you'll find.
posted by pompomtom at 6:13 AM on July 10, 2013 [10 favorites]

With cats, the only thing you can really do is either limit her access to the stuff she's carrying in or limit her access to your room at night. The latter will probably be easier.

My cat likes to distribute socks and underwear throughout the apartment. Cats are super super weird.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:15 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can you do some active playtime before bed, so she can get her kill drive satisfied on your chosen toy, and then be rewarded with a tasty treat?

My cat, Snow, used to have a nighttime ritual of yowling over a toy for a bit before dragging it into the bed, and I think it was an insecurity thing, because my older cat, Loki, was in the bed first, and she was afraid of him. But after Loki died, Snow stopped her loud-toy-killing habit.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:17 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Attacking sponges is sort of a Cat Thing; I know of several friends' cats over the years that would seek them out for some reason. Maybe the texture, maybe because they smell like food, whatever. I'd put them away (in a cabinet or something), since I think they are bad for the cat to eat.

However if you put away all the toys and interesting household objects, then you might get more creepy-crawlies instead ... so I'd perhaps leave some cat toys (little fake mice, whatever) scattered around and let the cat bring them to bed instead. Beats a centipede any day.

A lot of these behaviors go away as cats get older, so try to enjoy them while they happen; eventually you'll look back at them fondly (when the cat is older and just wants to sleep and eat and sit on your lap).
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:18 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cats, contrary to popular belief, like to play fetch in a sense. We had this behavior with our abbey's growing up. What breed is your new kitten? I'm assuming domestic mix, but certain thoroughbreds have this behavior more pronounced.

Nothing you can do, regardless, other than remove the cats attachment to you, which is unlikely to happen if you're the only one feeding it/spending time with it.
posted by teabag at 6:18 AM on July 10, 2013

Cats bring their prey as gifts. Be grateful you don't have mice, and keep her inside unless you want bigger trophies on your doorstep.

She also might want to play fetch; some cats are natural fetchers. Next time she brings you something and you're awake, try throwing it. Fetching is great because it exercises your cat with minimal effort on your part, and it can be tricky to train. So if Buffy does that, encourage it! Just not in the middle of the night.

Young cats tend to have really inconvenient play schedules; they often grow out of it. If you'd like her to stop waking you up in the middle of the night, get in a vigorous play session right before bedtime. You want to get as much excess energy out of her as you can, so running and jumping play is ideal.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:19 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cats are hunters! Mine brings the dish towels upstairs every night.
posted by something something at 6:21 AM on July 10, 2013 [22 favorites]

Yup, it's a hunting gift. Mine brings me random cat toys at bedtime, squeaking very proudly at his fierce hunting abilities.

I suppose you could try wearing out her hunting instincts earlier in the day to see if she might be less inclined to go hunting at night?
posted by Stacey at 6:23 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cats are not only hunters, but crepuscular hunters, meaning they're most active at dawn and dusk. You've encouraged her to see your bed as the place for play (which, to a cat, is what hunting is). Which is why she's bringing you wonderful toys. And to cats, all of these things are wonderful toys--centipedes and sponges (my kitty is partial to balls of tinfoil and the cork from wine bottles).

I agree with the suggestion to play with her before bed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:24 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know a whole lot about stages of cat development, but maybe she's hit the age where she's now contributing to the household by showing off her kills. She sounds like about the same age as my sister's cat was when she started bringing eviscerated voles and half-dead snakes to my sister's bedroom door. These 'presents' were just tokens of affection the cat shared with my sister. Your kitty LOVES you - relish it!

To address your second question - how can I help her sleep at night so that I too can sleep at night? Cats are nocturnal, right? I don't know that there's much you can do to make her sleep at night because this is when she's naturally prone to be hunting and doing other cat stuff. You could try tiring her out by playing really hard before bedtime so you have a bit of quiet during the night, but I wouldn't expect her to be serene all night until she's a bit older.

If this really does bother you, make sure she doesn't have access to the sponges (or whatever she's into hunting) at night, or close your bedroom door when you turn in for the night. If you choose the second option, look at the floor outside your bedroom door before walking out each morning so you don't step on anything gross or anything that could cause you to lose your footing.
posted by youngergirl44 at 6:25 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

For a while our cat brought us twigs from outside. Now, however, she brings us cat toys. We always know when she's coming, because she has this deep meow she lets out all the way up the stairs to our room, and with the toy in her mouth it sounds a bit like, "Meeeowmph." She drops them just inside our bedroom door, and then gets on the bed, usually, to sleep on my husband's head.

Definitely hunting gifts. Much better than a cat I had some years back, who would leave dead rabbits and birds on the porch.
posted by routergirl at 6:31 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, as for getting her to sleep, as I've learned from watching way too many episodes of My Cat From Hell, a cat's activity cycle is wake-->hunt-->eat-->groom-->sleep. If you want your kitty to sleep with you, play vigorously for 10-15 minutes before bed, then feed her.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:40 AM on July 10, 2013 [7 favorites]

My cat (four years old, had her for three years, follows me around and generally sleeps part of the night on my bed) goes through phases where she is obsessed with a thing or a place. Normally she sleeps on my bed, but sometimes she'll spend a week or two sleeping downstairs or in the basement and only come get me when it's time for breakfast. Sometimes she gets fixated on a thing - usually a toy, sometimes a shoe - for a couple of weeks. When we first got her a particular kind of feather toy, she carried it around a bit and brought it onto the bed so I'd wake up with it draped over me. (Luckily no centipedes, though. Oh my god, that's like a nightmare.)

In the summer, her sleeping patterns change because it's hot and because she doesn't like the fan. She sleeps elsewhere a lot, or will sleep on the bed for an hour or two just for companionship.

If your cat is anything like mine, she'll revert to her standard habits either when the novelty wears off or when the weather changes.
posted by Frowner at 6:50 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've observed that my cats change their snuggling schedules and needs based on the temperature. If it's hot out they sometimes prefer a cooler place to sleep than snuggled up with a warm human in a warm bed. (I can tell when winter is coming because my orange cat switches from sleeping bely-up-long-cat style to curled-ball-in-blanket style.)
posted by Wulfhere at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, my cat is like yours - she sleeps most of the night and usually with me. She tends to have some "going to do cat things" time around 2am, but only for about an hour.
posted by Frowner at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read somewhere (on metafiter, I believe) that this is your cat trying to teach you to hunt, just as a mama cat would teach her babies. So I would think that yeah, letting her "teach" you before bedtime with some active playing, might curb this activity.

Also, she is adorable!
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:54 AM on July 10, 2013

Mine brings me dead rats (and sometimes not-totally-dead rats) to bed in the middle of the night. I imagine it's like when I was an undergrad and my housemates would suddenly go and get takeaway pizza or kebabs at 2am and bring them back to the house.

Train her to fetch pizza instead.
posted by lollusc at 6:55 AM on July 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

My cat used to go for the sponges at night, too. We thought he was just showing off that he had been on the counter and gotten away with it, but now I'm not so sure.

I don't think you can change this behavior outright, so I'd just suggest becoming more familiar with the shape and feel of her toys so you don't have to touch a centipede for longer than absolutely necessary.
posted by troika at 6:57 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My cat used to hide socks everywhere, usually under her kitty bed, inside her cat house, and i even caught her push them under a shelf once. And it was only ever the white socks.

Cats are weird.

Hide the sponges.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:01 AM on July 10, 2013

My husband's family had a cat that not only would bring each of them dirty socks every night, but she'd distribute them according to whom she liked the most. My husband still brags about receiving the most dirty socks.

This is just your cat being affectionate. Hide the stuff you don't want her bringing to your bed.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:06 AM on July 10, 2013 [9 favorites]

Buy cat toys -- they'll change interests so you can just leave a bunch of different ones out -- and let your mighty hunter bring you those instead. And yes, active play before bed, and don't feed your cat immediately upon waking.

My cat used to stalk and kill unused tampons. This is vaguely embarrassing when you have guests.
posted by jeather at 7:13 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Judging by the pictures of your cat, she looks to be smart and active, which is a tough mix to keep out of trouble. I agree that tiring her out before bed is a good idea, and I would try teaching her to fetch. I have a cat that plays fetch and it is fabulous exercise for the animal. You could also try buying one of those food toys, where food is pushed into the toy and the cat has to work to get it out. Or any other toy that requires inquisitive behavior. Since she's the hunting type, she will probably like feathers (because they smell like animal). So you might want to try furry or feathery toys.

Hide the sponges and don't acknowledge her when she brings them. No attention = no fun = no more sponges.

Finally I would not worry about a change in routine like that. Cats have routines and have favored toys or places, and then their routine changes. Often it's just because of little things. (I moved a pillow to another chair and suddenly it's THE place to be.) As long as she doesn't seem ill (still eating, using the litter box ok, same energy level) she's fine.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:18 AM on July 10, 2013

Cats are fuzzy little weirdos. Molly and Finnegan like to chew crinkly plastic -- the plastic bands around ice cream containers are their favorite things ever. Sometimes Molly will hunt one down and bring it, cat-yodeling all the way, to me and put it by my feet, and then wait to be petted and told what a good little hunter she is. It's ridiculously cute.

Does your kitty wake you up to give you the sponges and such? Or it is just more that you'd rather not wake up with a bed full of random stuff?
posted by sarcasticah at 7:34 AM on July 10, 2013

She's bored. Get another cat for her to play with at night.
posted by desjardins at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, you need to play with her a lot before bed so she gets tired, and then DO NOT PLAY with her in bed. Do not pet her in bed unless she's laying down. You're just reinforcing the behavior.
posted by desjardins at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

With my prey/gift-driven kitties over the years, the best solution to this I ever found was to set aside 15-30min of fetch or tease & catch before bedtime, then putting the last "prey" at the foot of the bed after getting in and welcoming them up. After getting in bed, though, only cuddles - no play.

It didn't work every single time, but it did seem to give a bit of routine to this behavior, provide adequate interaction before bed, and reassure kitty that I appreciated their mighty hunter-ness.

Also: cats are weird. But keeping tiny, beautiful carnivorous predators in one's home might be weirder.

Also, also: what a lovely kitty Buffy is!
posted by batmonkey at 7:53 AM on July 10, 2013

Perfectly normal behaviour. My cat loves to bring me a selection of toys, bits of string and occasional large moths. She often seems to do this when I've perhaps not been paying her attention for a while. It seems to be her way of saying, "Hey, you. Stop ignoring me. Here, I brought you a present." The gift-giving routine is often accompanied by rather insistent mewing, too. Almost every cat I've ever owned has displayed some version of this behaviour.
posted by Decani at 7:58 AM on July 10, 2013

I have barred my cats from the bedroom at night because they suck as bed partners.

I used to sleep with them, but Malcolm feels the need to let me know when he's leaving, usually at about 2 AM. "Hey MOM! Mom! I'm leaving now," *pat, pat, pat* "Didja get that? I'm leaving," *walks on my head*, "Mom! Mom! Mom!"

Yeah, enough of that. Now we have a ritual. We have "pride time" in the dark for about an hour before bedtime. The humans watch TV the cats cuddle and get pets and love. Then we get up and herd the cats into the kitchen for a small puff of whipped cream. While they nom that, we close the bedroom doors and that's it for the night.

Sometimes there's some whining, but mostly they just go about cat business until it's wake up time.

Eartha is an excellent alarm clock, too bad she doesn't know the difference betwen weekdays and weekends.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:01 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Herbert brings me leaves he's 'killed' and presents them and yowls for praise.
Bellatrix brings toys into our bed in the middle of the night because she wants to play fetch.
the spoiled house cat is a ridiculous creature.
Buffy is ADORABLE!! enjoy the weird :)
posted by supermedusa at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2013

One of mine brings me gifts* around the clock, no matter where I am. She does this when she wants to be petted, or fed or for me to watch her use the litterbox. She also brings toys to where I normally would be if I were home; one time I came back from a week away to discover she had piled just about every lightweight moveable object in the house on my side of the bed in a huge mound.

There's no way to stop it beyond not reacting at all when your cat brings you something but there's no guarantee that will work. After the half-eaten-mouse-on-my-pillow-at-3am incident, I tried shutting the bedroom door on my fetcher but that caused way too much yowling so I've resigned myself to always waking up to a cat toy or five.

Like most everything a cat does, it's a lot easier to come to peace with it rather than try to change it because in the end, the cat isn't likely to change.

*cat toys, the kitchen sponge, the bath poof, a dead mouse, a piece of tanbark—always the same one—from a potted plant, socks, milk rings and other bits of packaging, individually wrapped tampons, Swiffer dusters...pretty much anything that weighs under an ounce or two and isn't nailed down.
posted by jamaro at 9:10 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wish my cats would play with sponges. Last night, Pogo was tossing something around the living room with his mouth, then chasing it, only to toss it again. It was the bottom half of a baby bunny. I don't want to find the top half. We keep our bedroom door closed.

Sometimes one of them will bring us a "present." Mouse, baby bunny, etc. These gifts always seem to be alive. The ones they kill are discovered later, or seen being played with.

Did I mention we keep our bedroom door closed? Because we do.
posted by The Deej at 9:35 AM on July 10, 2013

Our littlest has a couple of preferred toy mice that we call her dollies; she carries them around the house and often brings them to bed to snuggle, so I'll find them on my feet in the morning.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd be happy with sponges. If I don't put any garbage with cat food tins out of reach I wake up to empty tins of cat food in bed with me and anything that in any way resembles cat treats which lately has been detergent tablets (similar type of bag).

My cat likes to play fetch too so you could try throwing the sponge/toy for your kittie and see if it gets brought back.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:58 AM on July 10, 2013

My Buffy (same color as your Buffy! The other one in the pic is Jack) does the same thing, with hair ties. Most nights when I head to bed I find a couple hair ties laying right below my pillow. If keeping her out of the room at night isn't an option, I wonder if maybe you could find a smaller/less obtrusive object for her to play with in the hopes that she'll start bringing that into the bed instead.
posted by augustimagination at 11:12 AM on July 10, 2013

Our younger cat loooves to rub all over nasty, stinky sponges and washcloths that we've let sit out and get mildewed.

He also occasionally brings his favorite toy to the bed in the middle of the night, mostly because he wants to play. A good play session right before bed that tires him out helps with this. It does not help with his desire to Velcro himself to my body like a furry heat-seeking leech in the middle of the summer.
posted by telophase at 11:18 AM on July 10, 2013

Just another confirmation that gift-giving is common cat behavior. Some cats are more extreme than others. [Short Animal Planet video.]
posted by The Deej at 12:01 PM on July 10, 2013

Cats are so very weird. I'd probably just die in my bed if one brought me a centipede in bed. When I was a teenager, one of my cats brought a beheaded mouse to bed, that was pretty bad. All of my cats over the years have done strange hunting and gift-giving things. My most beloved long-gone cat had a glove that was her favorite.thing.ever, she played with it, slept with it, carried it around with her. I would wash it once in a while and she would know it was in the basket of clean things and would dig it out. She used to bring it to bed, yowling, and drop it on my chest. For a few months one year, her glove was lost and she replaced it with a jacket she managed to pull off a hanger in my closet, until we found the glove under the couch.
posted by upatree at 12:40 PM on July 10, 2013

I have a hunter/play-addict and a non-hunter/don't-play-with-me-that's-scary. The hunter/player brings me toys every night -- though I think they're not gifts so much as demands to play RIGHT NOW even though YOU ARE SLEEPING.

The only thing the non-hunter/non-player ever brought me was a wad of hair she pulled out of the shower drain.

(She left it on my pillow.)
posted by mudpuppie at 12:54 PM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

One of our cats used to bring bags of bread to our bed, presumably so we would open it and let him eat the bread. That stopped when he got bored of bread.

Cat is going through a phase, I think.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:54 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the wonderful responses! I'm going to go with the three pronged approach of hiding what I don't want brought to me, tire her out before I crash for the night and more/different toys.
posted by midnightstorms at 1:22 PM on July 10, 2013

My cat totally does this too and it didn't turn out to be a phase: since she was a kitten, she has brought me a small stuffed dolphin (whose name is Dolphinius, naturally) nearly every single night just as the lights go out, accompanied by that weird cat-has-prey meow. We thank her for her gift graciously and she jumps up into bed and we all go to sleep.

Sometime during the day she brings Dolphinius out into the rest of the apartment to prime him to be "caught" that night and gifted to us. She's very, very thoughtful (obviously) and we are very, very thankful (largely that it's a stuffed dolphin and not something else).

My cat has been doing this for the better part of 11 years. Dolphinius is in pretty rough shape, poor buddy.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Put out some toys for cats frequently carry around their mice or whatever toys are laying around. They like those little glitter balls(that are made out of tinsel like stuff) and some other toys that looks like cotton balls.

I used to hear pitiful yowls and think something was wrong but it would just be one of them carrying around a toy. They do this a lot but they never bring me household objects, so maybe try scattering around some toys for her to carry around instead. There might be some trial and error because my cats only like to carry around certain toys.
posted by fromageball at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2013

« Older How to avoid getting screwed by another driver's...   |   Can our grill ever be used again after we used... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.