Yet another 'why does my cat do this?' question
October 18, 2017 8:45 AM   Subscribe

My indoor cat has recently started meowing at the door of my apartment in the early morning (around 5 or 6 AM). Why might he be doing this?

Cat is a 3 year old male domestic shorthair. My apartment layout is this (more or less - my layout doesn't have the front closet). He's inside the apartment, meowing at the door that lets out into the hall. He has access to the full apartment. The meows sound kind of upset/distressed to me.

He's not crying to be fed. There is usually food left in his bowl from dinner at this time.

He started doing this one night when I opened my window, and I have noticed that sounds from outside echo on the door. But he kept doing it even after I closed the window.

It also doesn't seem to be for attention. I've been ignoring him pretty steadfastly when he does this. He knows that if he wants my attention, he can hop up on the bed and snuggle. Also, he's facing away from me when he does this. He also seems to know really well that my alarm goes off at 7:15 and will usually hop onto the bed at ~7:05-7:10.

He does like to try to run into the hallway, but why would he only meow to be let out in the morning?

Any thoughts?
posted by capricorn to Pets & Animals (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My cat did this when I lived in a studio with a similar layout. I think they are too dumb to understand there are not more rooms for them to go into.

I'm in a three bedroom house house now but one of my present cats wakes me up without fail every single day at this time, meowing for no reason. My theory is that they get bored, maybe? Like she can only bear to go about six hours before demanding someone pay attention to her.
posted by something something at 8:49 AM on October 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Smelled another cat, likely.
posted by Stewriffic at 8:49 AM on October 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

He may have forgotten that there is food in his bowl. On more than one occasion my cats have done this, and they were pleased (who knows really?) when I got up in the middle of the night to point at their food dish.
posted by redorangeyellow at 8:54 AM on October 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

What's the weather like by you, and is there a chance he's smelling/hearing anything new out there?

(My cat started yowling at my front door once the weather dropped here, alerting me to rodents trying to tunnel under my front steps...)
posted by TwoStride at 8:57 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

He wants to go through that door. Why in the morning? Maybe he hears sounds of life and wants to inspect.

Another possibility: he likes the acoustics of hearing his own "voice" there. This is a totally unscientific guess based on conjecture about our cat Suede, who seems to love to meow loudly in the hallway of our house where it resonates the most.

Final guess: inexplicable cat logic.
posted by The Deej at 9:01 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is he mewing in a high tone of voice or is it a lower howl?

Cats use the howl when hunting, and 3-5 am is about the time they get up to do so. The theory I've heard is that the howl scares prey into moving, which the cat then tries to track. I've seen cats use this very successfully; an old mouser I used to own would howl down one mouse hole then quietly hurry over to one of the others to catch an escaping mouse.

So perhaps he's heard motion outside the door and is trying to flush it out.

Alternately, if it's a higher pitched mew, it's he could likely be trying to get your attention specifically to let him investigate these curious noises. Cats generally love to explore. Again, early morning is one of the favourite times to be out and about.
posted by bonehead at 9:04 AM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cats are crepuscular - they're most active near dawn and dusk. It could be he's at peak energy around that time, and wants to explore or play. (Our ridiculous cat will try to sneak into the hall at any time, but only actively complains about it in the evening.) Try leaving a new toy or a big cardboard box - or a toy in a big cardboard box - near the door overnight and see if he pays attention to that instead. Keep ignoring him otherwise.

There might also be something he hears or smells specifically around that time: a neighbor walking down the hall, another cat, etc.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:04 AM on October 18, 2017

Something new, e.g., a new dog being taken out (possibly by a new tenant) for a walk/pee and then returning?
posted by carmicha at 9:06 AM on October 18, 2017

Our cat does this. He just likes to run in the hallway.

There used to be people down the hall who had cats that they would let out into the hallway (I'm not sure how weird this is, but it isn't a long hallway and neighbors are friendly). Our cat and their cats could smell each other through our door. We don't let him out intentionally, but sometimes we don't close the door fast enough, and even though the other cat owner has since moved out, but our little weirdo will head right for their former apartment.

So my guess is that he smells another cat (or dog). Of course, just as nature abhors a vaccuum, cats abhor a closed door. Ours also screams at the closed shower door sometimes.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 9:09 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is he mewing in a high tone of voice or is it a lower howl?

Definitely the low howl. I thought it was only associated with pain/distress. It makes me feel much better that he's probably just trying to announce to the world that it's playtime!

The "neighbors walking their dogs" theory sounds extremely plausible too, because I live next to a dog park and many of my neighbors have dogs. Also extremely plausible as a description of my large and simple boy: too dumb to understand there are not more rooms for them to go into.

Oh right, I almost forgot the obligatory photo.
posted by capricorn at 9:12 AM on October 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

Yeah, my kids' cat did this (the adapted version of yowling while walking close to the walls indoors) in some kind of preemptive mode after I had moved into a house that the cat knew previously contained a big black dog.
It's a Come-Forth-Ye-Bad-Spirits howl. He must have heard something on the other side of the door, or he just imagines that something could be there.
posted by Namlit at 9:34 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also live in a studio and my cat does this. The hallway is full of exciting new smells. She also likes to sniff/look under other apartment doors like a creeper. I let her have limited run-around time in the hall because there's no risk of escape and she likes it so much.
posted by Mavri at 10:14 AM on October 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Um, I highly doubt the cat is "too dumb" to know there isn't another room on the other side of the door. Even not-so-bright cats have way better senses than we do.

My guess, from description of the meowing, is that there is another cat out there, or maybe another animal that roams around that area at dawn and dusk, looking for food probably, or just patrolling the territory.
posted by Crystal Fox at 10:34 AM on October 18, 2017

Cats are crazy, and also potentially evil.

My equally evil feline starts around dawn (or when she gets bored, whichever comes first) with the meowing and escalates to aggressive purring and making biscuits on whatever part of my anatomy is closest to her. If I manage to ignore this, she then firmly presses a paw against my mouth and ratchets up the volume to something which could only be described as rage purrs.

I usually retaliate by plopping her under the covers and snuggling her while scratching that place she likes on her chin, which she tolerates for about 30 seconds with continued, though slightly muted rage purrs. Then, when she returns for Round II, I walk towards the door (whereupon she rushes out the door past me, believing it is time to attempt to trip me while I go into the kitchen to start the coffee maker or to jump into the sink to prevent me from washing off my toothbrush. I then close the door and go back to sleep.

Works every time.
posted by arnicae at 11:21 AM on October 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

> Works every time.

I mean, assuming you can sleep through the door scritching and incessant yowling that inevitably follows.
posted by parm at 11:23 AM on October 18, 2017

the obligatory photo

Clearly the problem is that your cat is suffering from a clinically-meaningful overabundance of pulchritude. Probably is trying to shed excess cuteness into the hall via meowing.
posted by slkinsey at 11:34 AM on October 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I live in a small one bedroom, and I will also add to the chorus and say my cat does this too. He prefers to do it in the evening while I'm watching TV, also while glaring at me to to come open the door for him. I once picked him up and carried him out into the apartment hallway, innocently thinking he would love it, but it terrified him so badly he hid under the bed for three hours. Then he came back out and started yowling at the door again. Cats, man.
posted by backwards compatible at 12:21 PM on October 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

5 am is Kill Time amongst my crew. They are all indoors so they murder socks with or without feet in them while singing the song of their people. Yours is letting you know that now is the time he could be going out there to slay everything, were he allowed.
posted by jamaro at 12:49 PM on October 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

Nthing that our intrepid feline also does this every morning between 5-6 AM. Except, instead of doing it outside our door, she's started doing it outside my toddler son's bedroom door because she knows it gets us up immediately to let her out and not wake him up.

Satan must be a cat.
posted by Everydayville at 1:58 PM on October 18, 2017

My cat used to do this, and she started all of a sudden like yours did. She then progressed to establishing an apartment-wide racetrack that included a high-speed run over my bed. I thought she just wanted to get out some excess dawn energy.

I started spritzing her with water when she would zoom across my stomach, and after 4 or 5 months of offended looks, she eventually stopped.

After that she started jumping up on my chest with her face an inch from mine and purring as loudly as possible, supplemented by licking my forehead if I did not immediately respond with petting.

Maybe a good play session before bed might help? I had uneven results with this myself.

Best of luck. Cats gonna cat.
posted by ananci at 4:07 PM on October 18, 2017

Has his thyroid been checked? One of mine rather abruptly started doing this a few years back (he was older than your guy - more like 8). He just all of a sudden started howling in the 4:00a-6:00a hours despite having food is his bowl and no observable threats. Drove me crazy. Eventually it was discovered he had hyperthyroidism, which increases appetite and anxiety and (so the vet says) can result in mindless yowling around this time. He also simultaneously developed an aversion to food that had been sitting in his bowl for longer than, like, an hour (causation or correlation?). Is your kitty gobbling down food and guzzling water with more gusto than usual? That might be an indicator. Mine is on meds now and has mellowed out again, and everybody's sleeping through the night again.
posted by majorsteel at 6:28 PM on October 18, 2017

Get him some hackeysacks. I got a four pack, and then I would find them all over the house. Sometimes they were left like supplications. I wondered how it all happened, then one day, the biggest, fattest of my two cats, walked into the living room, and grabbed one, threw it up in the air 4-5 times, and caught it, then walked away. If I am gone for a long time, he will put one in the shoes I leave out, or on a sweatshirt I might leave folded on a hassock. Give that kitty something to fake hunt, in the early am.
posted by Oyéah at 8:55 PM on October 18, 2017

My Siamese does this. I call it "warbling for his love" because he usually does it when he can't find our other cat. Some friends of ours have a tomcat that does the same that they call "singing for his ladies". He probably really is, since they occasionally breed their cats but mine is just looking for the other cat. Maybe there's another cat and he's trying to make contact?
posted by fiercekitten at 7:24 AM on October 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Our older cat will "hunt" up old socks (we tie them in a knot when they get holes and throw them down the stairs--there are usually eight or ten scattered around) and make the hunting howl as she brings them up to lay in front of our bedroom door. (The door is open--we're not monsters that lock the cats out at night). Sometimes she's satisfied with one, and sometimes it's a six-sock night. That gets a little old.

So, some kind of distraction effort may just result in the cat howling while doing something else. Cats are like that sometimes. Good luck.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 3:36 PM on October 19, 2017

My cat wants to go out first thing in the morning. She will leave and come back around noon, eat, then go to the door and meow again to go out. She will stay out until dark and then comes home.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 11:56 PM on October 19, 2017

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