Cats and Sleeping
January 19, 2018 9:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to adopt a cat (or two). In general, I'm planning to give them the run of the house. I'm a little worried about nighttime though. I know cats are active at night, and I'm a light sleeper. Detailed questions below.

I'm particularly worried about yowling if I shut them out of my bedroom. What actions should I take to prevent this? I'd like to let them in the bedroom most of the time, and then kick them out if they are keeping me up. Is this a terrible idea? Would it be better to make the bedroom off limits from the start?

If it doesn't work to just kick them out of the room when I'm trying to sleep, would it be better to let them roam the rest of the house, or should they have a cat "bedroom." I have an empty bedroom that I'm planning to set up as a cat room with scratch towers, sleep pads, litter box, etc. I'll have these things elsewhere too, but I thought they would like to have a place of their own on occasion. I could try to get them in the habit of sleeping in that room. Is that a good idea?

(I had cats as a kid, but that was a long time ago, so I'm essentially new to this.)
posted by diogenes to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's wise to think of this early. Whatever specific approach you take, be consistent and do not reward the cats for waking you up. For example, Mrs. exogenous accidentally trained our cats to wake her up at 5 am for food, but they leave me alone while I sleep.
posted by exogenous at 9:56 AM on January 19, 2018 [13 favorites]

My husband is a light sleeper, so we don't let our two cats sleep with us. They get to chill with us until it's time for lights out, and then we give them the boot. Both cats went through a phase where they cried outside our door, but we followed the standard advice, which is to not give them any response whatsoever, either positive or negative, and they both gave up on it in pretty short order. We do sleep with a white noise generator to mask any hallway galloping that happens overnight, so if that's an option for you, it might make things more pleasant.

I will mention that we have always timed our feeding of the cats for 9 AM and 9 PM, so they a) don't associate our getting up in the morning with immediate breakfast and b) have food overnight so they don't harass us because they're hungry at 2 AM. This has worked well to curb early morning and overnight crying.
posted by merriment at 9:57 AM on January 19, 2018 [13 favorites]

I think a routine is the best thing for a cat (do recommend two if possible! they entertain each other). If you are concerned they will keep you awake, I would have an evening ritual that ends with you locking them out of your bedroom at the same time every night. They can hang out in there during the day, but not when you are going to sleep. You have to be consistent though because they will probably like sleeping with you and if you give in on a day when they are being especially sweet, they will want the same privileges the next day but that day they might want to race across your bed a dozen times instead of sleeping.

As for a bedroom -- cats want to be where the social hub of the house is. I have two rooms in my house right now that are primarily cat rooms, and they spend almost no time in there and hate being closed in those rooms. It's a good place for litter boxes, if you really can't stand the idea of looking at them, and good to have a place to keep their food/water where it won't be underfoot, but beds and scratching towers probably won't be used too much unless they are in a room you are in a lot, like a bedroom or the living room. One of the cat rooms is technically a guest room and it has a bed in it, but you can bet they would much rather be on my actual bed, and never spend a significant length of time in the guest bed when humans are around.
posted by possibilityleft at 9:58 AM on January 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think it depends on the cat - my cat sleeps all night long (I wake up before she does), and when she sleeps with me she is just a warm little body snuggled against me. But I've had other cats that are insane. I think it helps that my cat is not very territorial, and she's a nibbler, so I can let her free feed from her dry food and she won't overeat. I guess those are a couple things to watch out for while judging how they'll act longterm - a cat that scarfs is more likely to wake you up because they're hungry (though there are solutions to that too, like timed feeders).
posted by DoubleLune at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2018 [8 favorites]

My own experience:
We brought home two kittens and set them up in a bedroom that was their cat room; they were confined there for about a week before we started giving them free roam of the house. At night we would put them back in the cat room so they could learn to sleep there. After a while we let them roam at night too. They were not allowed in our bedroom at all, day or night.

After two weeks they (well, really just one of them) would yowl and scratch at the bedroom door (not with claws, but just with the pads on her feet). For an hour or more, every night at 1am. Every. Night. We ignored it for a week or more, and they just continued. We taped up aluminum foil, and they thought that made a very fun noise. We sprayed with clove-scented spray until the non-noisy cat started licking it off the door. We put up sticky tape; one licked the tape, the other just moved to scratching on the wall next to the door. We sat up and hissed compressed air to scare them, which worked for maybe half an hour at a time.

We finally just let them into the bedroom, and everything has been fine. The only issue is that they sleep more deeply than me, tucked behind my knees, so I have to shift them when I roll over. Also feeding at 9am didn't work for us because they'd start meowing at 8:30, then 8:15, then 8:00 etc etc, so now we feed at 4pm and 11pm. So I guess my takeaway is be flexible, because sometimes cats really don't care how well you've planned or whether you give feedback.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:04 AM on January 19, 2018 [10 favorites]

Oh! and merriment is right; a white noise machine or app on your phone is a lifesaver to cover any midnight rambles or extended slurpy bathing noises.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:05 AM on January 19, 2018

It's 100% dependent on the cat. I have two who are perfect angels and are quiet throughout the night even if they don't have food. The other is a shrieky nightmare. The best solution I had for a previous loud nocturnal cat was putting two doors between us - we shut him out of our bedroom and into another room on the other side of the apartment. My problem child now is too loud even for this; there is no place in our house I could shut her that would be far enough away to drown out her yowling.

You could try fostering first to see if you get some good ones? It's really a crapshoot. You aren't going to know until they spend a few nights in your house.
posted by something something at 10:08 AM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

We have a small bedroom for the cats to go into at night. We have trained them since kittens that they go to their room at night and the door gets closed. The bedroom has litter boxes, food, water, heated cat beds, and lots of toys. Now, 6 years later, they often put themselves away before we are even getting ready for bed - they have officially adopted it as their place to hang out, nap, do their night-time hunting while we sleep. We also don't let them into our bedroom.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:17 AM on January 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

As a rule, KITTENS are awake in the middle of the night. CATS are crepuscular and most active at dawn and dusk. (Not all cats.) I've been lucky, cats just want to sleep on the bed with me and have no interest in waking me up, and honestly, I want to have cats to snuggle with them in bed. The important thing is to train them not to wake you for food.

You can change your mind. It's hard to retrain cats, but it isn't impossible, and to some extent, you won't know until you live with a cat.
posted by jeather at 10:32 AM on January 19, 2018 [10 favorites]

If you want to be sure, I would never let them in the bedroom. They don't howl at my apartment door because they don't perceive the hallway as a place they should be allowed to go.

But like others said, it is cat dependent. I have three. Two like to sleep with me, one of whom is my "alarm clock" at 7 am. The other sleeps in the living room AFAIK. I play with them before bed, then feed them, and that seems to make them sleepy enough not to cause trouble. It's very rare for them to wake me up.

I don't think keeping multiple cats in one bedroom is a good idea. It's not enough space unless perhaps they are tightly bonded (preferably littermates).
posted by AFABulous at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agree it depends a LOT on the cat. Our cat happily sleeps with us at night and is very snuggly and sweet. Obviously that's not true of all cats though! For the early morning wake-ups, the best solution we've found is using an automatic feeder for kitty's breakfast...he has learned that we have no role in morning food, and will instead go stalk his feeder about 45-60 minutes before it goes off. :-D
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:00 AM on January 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Nthing it depends on the cat. I always allowed my various cats to sleep with me, and then I got Daenerys, who likes to take a strand of my hair in her jaws and pull, hard, if she wants attention and I'm asleep. No more cats in the bedroom for me.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:04 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

It depends on the cat, and sometimes it depends on the age of the cat. Zach got a little more "needy" as he got older, and started trying to get into my room sometimes. I didn't actually mind if he came in my room, and he would settle down once he got to get inside, so I just started leaving my bedroom door open a crack so he could slip in, jump up on the bed and go to sleep.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:12 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Agreed that cats are mostly active at dusk. But they're also very social creatures. So it goes awry when I'm relaxing after work and don't really want to move. And they just want attention, so they sit next to me and I pet them. And we're all snuggly and content.

But then I try and go to sleep, and they still have ALL THE ENERGY.

While it's not quite as black and white as dogs, I try to remember that they need an early evening 'walk' or else they start to act out. And at least their exercise can be done while I'm sitting down in the living room.
posted by politikitty at 11:17 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'd like to let them in the bedroom most of the time, and then kick them out if they are keeping me up.

A lot depends on the cat, but I think that this has the potential to be kind of confusing for a new cat, especially if the cat's sleeping and waking hours aren't a natural match with yours. I'm also a light sleeper and we've made our bedroom totally off-limits to our cat. He was used to sleeping in the bed with his former owner, and I felt really guilty about changing that, but he's a bigger cat and just feeling him jump on and off of the bed at odd times was waking me up (as was his booping me in the face). This was years (and several apartments) ago, but it's just our routine now, and we still do plenty of snuggling and napping on the couch. He's sort of trained himself to go into his cat carrier for long naps, and that's usually where we find him when we come out of our bedroom in the morning.

For the early morning wake-ups, the best solution we've found is using an automatic feeder for kitty's breakfast...

Getting an automatic feeder was a game-changer for us, as my cat's former owner worked early shifts and he expected a meal a little before 5:00 A.M. (even earlier for a few days when daylight saving time ends.) We have this one, which was the only model that didn't look too flimsy or flippable for our guy. The trick, for us, has been staying consistent about filling it up during the afternoons or evenings so that he doesn't assume that there is even the smallest chance that it will be empty come morning and wake us up preemptively.
posted by Anita Bath at 11:28 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Totally cat-dependent. After a few hyper weeks when I first got her where I thought I'd have to shut her out at night, mine hops into bed with me as soon as I shut off my bedside lamp and sleeps soundly until about twenty minutes before my alarm, which is perfect for me. She wakes me up by purring near my face (not bad) but I know I've overslept if she tries to groom my hair (ow.)

It's her temperament, but it's also that we maintain a routine. I know that's not possible for everyone but some indoor cats really seem to need this. I wake at the same time every day, feed her the same amount of food at the same times, I get home at the same time, spend the same amount of time vigorously playing with her (SO IMPORTANT IF YOU VALUE UNINTERRUPTED SLEEP), bedtime is roughly the same time.

Kicking a cat out of where she wants to be can be heartbreaking or irritating or both. I'd give the cat and you a chance to settle in to a new routine and then enforce it consistently. If she's sometimes welcome and sometimes not she's just going to try to force your hand.

I agree with others that cats tend to want to be where the people are, so cat rooms aren't as appealing as your attention and warmth.
posted by kapers at 11:53 AM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm sincerely pro shutting cats out of the bedroom at night. They have free range all day and one closed door will not kill them. I have two beautiful boys. One is pretty demanding, especially at dawn. He has learned to do things I dislike to get my attention (chew on my glasses, knock things off the dresser, sit on my head). You don't need that in your life. He will occasionally meow at the door as I'm going to bed, but he gives up after about twenty minutes. DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE CRIES. Kitties know what behavior gets them what they want. They care an awful lot less about what you want. This is coming across as harsh but I love my kitties dearly.
posted by Bistyfrass at 12:33 PM on January 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

Our cats are not allowed in our bedroom at night (but sleep in our bed during the day). The few times we caved in, we were inevitably woken up by cats wrestling on our bed or deciding 4 AM is long enough for the humans to sleep. I am a light sleeper and I can't sleep if a cat is in the bed - they're always on my legs or giving themselves a noisy bath next to me. One of them even snores a bit.

We didn't have a cat 'bedroom' initially, they just roamed the house until we had a baby and the little demons figured out if the baby got up, the adults got up (and omg maybe they'd feed us early?!?!?!) so they started meowing at the baby's door and THAT was not going to fly. So now at night they are escorted into our kitchen (includes basement access) so we can shut the door and leave them in there overnight. They can wander around the basement and kill some bugs, have access to water, toys, and litter boxes, and we have kitty beds in the kitchen. They also get a 'bedtime snack' and now they practically herd us into the kitchen starting at 8:30 because they want the treat. If I go into the kitchen after hours, they're usually either curled up in their beds or somewhere in the basement.
posted by castlebravo at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

This isn't really an answer but after reading these I'm so glad I have two doors between me and the cats, the bedroom door and the hallway door. If they're banging around and yowling I can't hear it - I also have a white noise machine.
posted by onebyone at 1:35 PM on January 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yet another depends on the cat. My in-law's have had three since I've been here. One stayed out all night pretty frequently -- if not, his favourite place was the bathroom or the kitchen.

The other two usually stay downstairs. They only moved up into my in-law's bedroom when several of us moved out of the house.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:49 AM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our cats cannot sleep in our bedroom because they do not let us sleep. Finnegan, my orange lovebug, cuddles up next to my pillow and purrrrrs, which would be great, except that as soon as I fall asleep, and thus stop scritching him, he decides to sing me the song of his people at top volume. Molly, the calico pain in the butt, feels the need to jump onto our spleens and yowl in our faces every five minutes, just to make sure we aren't dead. Then, once they tire of this, they have wrestling matches on top of us. So out the door they go!

They have their own cat beds, and over the years they have learned that, when we turn off the living-room lights, it's time to go get in their beds. Molly still sometimes yowls outside the door, and ignoring her does not work, so we keep a can of compressed air next to the door. When she gets to yowling, we open the door the barest crack and shoot the compressed air out, well over her head so we don't spray her. That does the trick.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:55 PM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

We, too have a 'cat bedroom '. All their stuff is in there, and they get a treat at bedtime. If we stay up late, the cats will start meowing upstairs to go to bed. It also comes in handy that they have a safe space they are comfortable in if you're doing home projects or having a repairman in. They're used to going in there so it's no big deal to put them in there for a few hours while you paint the kitchen or something and don't have to worry about them getting hurt or screwing up your project.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:42 PM on January 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

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