cat you have to let me sleep
September 10, 2019 5:56 AM   Subscribe

One of my cats is insistent on making noise in the dark hours of morning, when I am trying to sleep. This is a new behavior. Details and cat tax inside.

I have three cats, Rembrandt, Zatanna, and the new guy Magnus.

This summer I was off work for medical reasons for a couple of months, and home all the time. During that period, Rembrandt started making a lot of noise at night, right next to my bed. I had books on the floor next to my bed and he would chew them. There are cords, and he would swat at and - if he could - chew them. He would bat at the cord to my lamp, which is in a narrow space between my bedside table and my dresser. I moved these things and put a storage container next to the bed to give him an easier time getting up and down, and now he chews loudly on that.

I went back to work a bit over a month ago, and the behavior has continued. I wouldn't say that it's better or worse, just - ongoing, but it's more of an issue if I can't sleep during the night because falling asleep in meetings is seriously awkward.

This isn't every night, but it's many nights - probably about half of them. He often starts when I get up to use the bathroom and just keeps going until around sunrise. Sometimes I can calm him down, but sometimes it is bad enough that i have put him in the other bedroom so I can sleep, which I do not want to do. He used to just come and sleep with his head next to mine on the pillow, and now he is not doing that nearly as much or when he does, he tries to knock things off my bedside table (again, new behavior).

Because I work in disability advocacy, I tend to think of behavior as the expression of an unmet need, but I cannot figure out what the need is. I make sure he has food. I stay and pet him for a bit while he eats. The litterboxes are clean. I try to play with them as much as they're interested, and I literally adopted Magnus so that Rembrandt would have a buddy as Zatanna is fairly solitary and does not play with other cats.

I don't want to shut him out of my bedroom. I don't like that, he doesn't like that, and Magnus doesn't like it. I just want to figure out what he's trying to tell me so I can get him to chill out.
posted by bile and syntax to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, if he's chewing on stuff and it's new, is it possible that his teeth are bothering him? I know the first thing we say all the time here is "vet visit" but it's possible that he has tooth issues he is trying to assuage with the chewing.

It is also possible that this is your cat now. They go through phases. Mine is in a phase where she won't come to bed when I do (new) but does want to come to bed at 3am (also new! and unwanted).
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:22 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

yeah, if he's chewing on lots of stuff and it is new behavior, take a good look at his toofers, and then have a vet take a look at them.

did you adopt magnus (omgsquee such a cute pic) around the time this started?
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:27 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The chewing is not new behavior. He's always been orally fixated and chews all kinds of things. Chewing stuff next to my bed for hours is new.

I adopted Magnus a few months before this started, and the two of them really like each other and play together a lot.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:30 AM on September 10, 2019

I'm going to second misanthropicsarah-- when my dearly departed cat started doing this, it was because his low grade gingivitis suddenly flared into genuine tooth pain. A change in situation (new cat) even a happy one, can push a cat into enough stress to make gingivitis /stomatitis worse, if they are prone to it. Look for a red line above the teeth, even a little one can cause enough pain to chew.

Without knowing more, if it is not his teeth, then I would guess this is somehow linked to Magnus. Where is he sleeping?
posted by frumiousb at 6:56 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

My cat Papaya has gone through phases of being horrible from 4:00am onward for the entire 10 years she's lived in my house. Some cats just do this. Eventually she stops for a while and I'm grateful and then she decides again that she's bored in the middle of the night. I did figure out that one specific mouse toy would really get her riled up, and if I take that away at night she is, on average, much quieter.
posted by something something at 6:59 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, not trying to threadsit but just to answer questions:

Magnus and Rembrandt often hang out together including sleeping near each other, paws touching - Rembrandt doesn't want to cuddle with Magnus but they are definitely buddies. They both often sleep on the bed, too - Magnus down by my calves, Rembrandt half on my pillow with me. Magnus' presence does not seem to be a factor in Rembrandt's behavior, like, it doesn't seem to matter where Magnus is.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:55 AM on September 10, 2019

Is it possible there is a new noise coming from the outside at night that wakes him/makes him a little riled up? Did a new, barky dog move in down the street a few months ago, or is there increased late-night motorcycle traffic nearby, or anything along those lines? You might try a white noise machine of some sort (I play the app through a little bluetooth speaker, I didn't buy anything special when I decided I wanted some white noise sounds). Naturally, most cats have good enough hearing to still be aware of other outdoor noises, but having some kind of baseline rumble might end up being soothing/drowning out the outside noise enough.
posted by DSime at 8:30 AM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've also had my cats occasionally go through periods where they do this, and it's super obnoxious and disrupting to waking life. Unfortunately as far as I've been able to tell it's just a phase sort of thing where they decide that 4AM is play time and I should join them for it. If there's an underlying cause, I've never been able to find it. When it's gotten particularly bad, I have resorted to closing them out of the bedroom, and usually it only takes a few nights of this before they stop being so disruptive during my sleep.
posted by biogeo at 10:31 AM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

No idea how good an idea it is, but I was told that cats are more respectful of your sleep if you dedicate a day to repeatedly poking or mithering your cat every time it tries to sleep during the day. Seemed to work for one of ours.

Mind you, ours also sit on command for dinner, have names for us (mine is a deep meow, my wife a higher pitched meow), understand the phrase "no claws", and will go pester my wife if I tell them to. So, you know, ours may not be a normal baseline.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:36 AM on September 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

Is it possible he wants some cat grass?
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 3:53 PM on September 10, 2019

When I hear about a cat suddenly making noise at night, I think hyperthyroidism. Usually the noise is the cat meowing or yowling, but the same extra uncomfortable energy that causes the overnight meowing could cause other disruptive behavior. Hyperthyroidism is typically found in middle-aged or senior cats, but unfortunately there's no rule preventing it in younger cats. I think a vet visit to rule out hyperthyroidism and dental disease is a good idea.

If he comes out with a clean bill of health, your local SPCA or humane society can probably give you behavioral advice. Many offer free help over the phone or by email.
posted by swerve at 5:30 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

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