Kitten management miracle, plz
February 11, 2021 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I have 10 (?) month old kitten, who I posted about before. He is adorable and hilarious and swiftly eroding my sanity. I'm doing my best to provide stimulation, love, and positive reinforcement, but the stress and sleep deprivation are taking a toll. I've listed the main problems below the fold in the hopes that someone can help.

Probably the biggest thing is the incessant vocalization. I play with him a lot (like seven play sessions with the fishing toy, plus he has other toys) and make time and space for him to cuddle. In short, I'm offering him a lot of attention, which he sometimes rejects, and goes on crying for hours.

Another big problem is our sleeping arrangement. I have a 1 BR apartment and the bathroom is off my bedroom, so the only door I can close between us is the door between my bedroom and living room. (I don't trust him to be quiet when I sleep, and I also use that time to be with my senior cat, especially so he can eat undisturbed. The loud crying, scratching, and what sounds like the kitten throwing himself against the door are really frustrating. Noise blockers, earplugs, etc. don't help. I make sure to play with him and cuddle before bed, but he still gets upset. This is my bedroom door. Last night I resorted to pouring water under the door, and that helped for a little while. Practical solutions welcome (i.e. how to block the door, etc.

Finally, we have a problem with kitten getting into trash, making a mess, sometimes eating wat he finds there. I've had to put my main trash in the pantry, so now my pantry always smells disgusting, plus it's inconvenient. Maybe there is a really, really, really cat-proof trash can? Or another option?

Thank you so much for your ideas. I have chronic pain and fatigue, and being on constant kitten alert is affecting my health. He and I have our nice moments,of course, but I'm sure anyone who's had a young pet can relate to my frustration. As I said, I'm currently using playtime, cuddling, positive reinforcement, refusing to reward bad behavior, and a Feliway. I'm acquiring more toys, including a Da Bird. I'm wide open to other ideas. I know there are kitten-calming things out there, but I don't know what works best (my senior cat has the calming collar but I haven'ttried to get one on kitten yet). Any ideas that can bring a little peace?
posted by mermaidcafe to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I taped some of these scat mats to my door, (and one to the bookcase next to my door) and it has cut down on my scratching issue by a lot. Won’t help with the crying, though. :/
posted by itesser at 7:07 AM on February 11, 2021

The vacuum is a classic ask metafilter response.
posted by oceano at 7:09 AM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

At one point, I tried everything but the cat just literally had nothing to do but try to get into our bedroom at night. You'd think he would have gotten bored after 6 months, if nothing else, but crying, scratching, and rattling the door was his only hobby. Anything I tried like a vacuum and tape all just served to make the game more interesting.

If your kitten seems similarly focused, I recommend what finally worked for us: two doors. Put the cat in a room where there are two closed doors between you, so there is no intermittent frustration response happening on the other side of a single door. Eventually, he settled down because he wasn't getting any response to playing the frustration slot machine.
posted by past unusual at 7:24 AM on February 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

For trash: I've been successful using this locking trash can against my admittedly not-especially-intrepid dog. It's inexpensive enough to be worth a shot.
posted by mosst at 7:52 AM on February 11, 2021

Also: I assume he's neutered? If not, then, yeah, that.
posted by mosst at 7:55 AM on February 11, 2021 [7 favorites]

If you separate your food scraps from the rest of your trash, the trash won't smell bad and your kitten won't care about it. If you cover your food scraps with carbon matter, such as sawdust, or take them out regularly, or use one of those countertop food scrap bins with built-in filter, they won't smell bad, either.
posted by aniola at 8:22 AM on February 11, 2021

Is your kitten hungry? Does he need more or different food? Is he ready to switch from kitten to adult food?
posted by yarntheory at 8:45 AM on February 11, 2021

Tin foil on the bottom of the door.
posted by AugustWest at 9:00 AM on February 11, 2021

How senior is your senior cat? Super elderly (like 18 years old) vs a "young old" cat (say 10-12 or 14) -- I might have different advice.

Generally speaking the vacuum is a good one, but you're separating the cat from not only you, but also your other cat, presumably his buddy. He's lonely, he's young, his instinct is to BE WITH COMPANIONS (caps to indicate that this is a strong drive). He will probably keep doing this for as long as you try to make him be completely alone. I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but as a person with an 18 year old cat who PROTESTS even now when I make her stay out of the bedroom - the drive to be safe with others is strong, and that is what you are fighting against.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:33 AM on February 11, 2021 [13 favorites]

Probably time to talk to a cat behaviorist. You vet might have some advice.

This is a really difficult problem -- you're not failing for some obvious reason!

I'd recommend against deliberately scaring your kitten in order to modify his behavior, even with the vacuum. He has needs that aren't being met -- it's impossible for a human to really keep up with an active, intelligent kitten -- so expert advice (and I mean expert) is probably called for.

There may be better ways to play with him/wear him out; ways to make him feel safe and happy even at night; better timing for his feeding; etc.
posted by amtho at 9:58 AM on February 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I keep a small trash can in the cabinet under the kitchen sink. Compost lives in a bin in the freezer, maybe that’s an option for stinky things if it’s hard to take trash out more often.

Have you tried deadass ignoring the kitten whenever he meows? This may lead to hours of meowing for a bit, but if catface is bored/lonely and meowing makes things happen, he’s gonna meow. No water under the door, no yelling, no coming out of the room while he’s meowing (even if you want to), no giving in and playing with him. Only give him attention when he’s being relatively chill. It is hard to find these times at first, but give it a couple weeks. My older cat has also chilled out a lot with demands for attention since I put a pet heating pad in her bed, might be worth a shot.

Does the kitten have a gymnastics apparatus? Adding some vertical space can help tire a cat out. Also, create novelty by rotating toys if you’re not doing that. “Cat enrichment” is a good search term for cheap things to amuse a cat. Can he see out windows? Can you put out peanuts in shells to attract squirrels and jays for cat TV?
posted by momus_window at 10:08 AM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My take is somewhat similar to Medieval Maven- cats are social creatures, and being apart from human + cat friend is a big ask for most kittens.

I have a 15mo old and a 13 year old cat, and back when the youngest was 10mo he had the charming habit of attacking feet/chewing on hair as we slept, so he was banned from the bedroom. He would cry, but eventually stop provided the older cat was out there with him- there were some nights when the older cat wanted to be in the bed with us, and we'd allow it for a bit - but would eventually need to kick out the older cat too, because the kitten would just not stop crying.

Not advice, but a hopefully assuring anecdote: my 15mo old is the fourth kitten I've raised as an adult, and man, I've never had such an energetic kitten. My living situation is just as spacious as the ones where I raised other kittens, and if anything (thanks to COVID and living with a partner) this kitten has gotten way more attention/playtime. And yet he was pretty insatiable. At around 14mo he finally started to calm down a bit, and spend more of his day napping. Which is to say, yes, try whatever cat enrichment you can, but also know it will likely get better in the next few months, and some kittens are just a lot of energy.
posted by coffeecat at 10:25 AM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had a similar problem with a young cat (not a kitten) and the solution wound up being getting him his own kitten + animal behaviorist. Things are pretty great now.
posted by *s at 11:22 AM on February 11, 2021 [4 favorites]

When we got our young cats, we tried to keep them out of the bedroom while we slept. We tried the vacuum trick. We played with them lots and lots to wear them out. Eventually we just gave up and let them into the bedroom while we slept; and on the whole, we found that they did not disturb our sleep nearly as much when they were in the bedroom as when they were shut out from it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:01 PM on February 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Two things that have helped with highly energetic kittens I've had in the past: getting another kitten to play with, and/or taking the kitten on walks using a harness. Both of these are obviously a big commitment (once most cats get a taste of the outdoors, they want to return there again and again), so may not be practical in your case, but thought I'd throw that out there.

Laser pointers seem to be the best kitten-playing to human-effort ratio of all the cat toys I've had.

I'm sorry, this is rough!
posted by whistle pig at 12:43 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

for the trash, get a lidded trash can for all your bins. i had to do that when i adopted archie a few years back because he liked to eat tissues. but since i got lidded cans, no problem! (the lid also helps with any possible stinks.)

i understand why a lot of people try to keep their pets out of the bedroom. i'm not one of them. waking up next to my boys makes me so happy. and it keeps them happy as they would absolutely bang on the door if i tried to close it.

i propose you commit to one week of letting bean be in the bedroom with you all night. it is unlikely to be worse than what you're dealing with now, and could be awesome!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:03 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't have suggestions about most of this but I have a little scavenger-cat and our Simple Human trash can, their basic ultra popular model has been perfect for keeping him out of the garbage. The lid is very thin and flat so even if he gets on the counter or reaches up he can't lift it with his naughty little paw.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:13 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

The easiest thing to try is, once senior kitty has finished eating and you’ve given him one on one love time, letting the little dude into the bedroom and seeing how that goes. My two cats don’t even like each other that much but they have negotiated a schedule of who gets to be in the bed periodically throughout the night without much fuss or fighting. If Kitten and older kitty do okay together I’d give it a try. I’ve had my cats for nearly 15 years and despite their old age they literally tore a hole in the carpeting when I tried to keep them out of the bedroom for a bit when I first got my dog. I’ve accepted that it’s easier, within reason, to let cats train you than the other way around.
posted by nancynickerson at 2:12 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

  • Has the cat been neutered?
  • For the trash problem, are you feeding the cat enough? 10 months is about the age when their appetites go into overdrive. Free-feed if that is at all an option. This might also be fueling the crying if there's food in your room.
  • Can you get a third cat? I know, I know, but kittens and young cats do better when they have buddies. It sounds like maybe the senior cat is too senior to be his buddy?
  • If you have been responding to the crying and noise, even intermittently, then unfortunately that has trained him that crying and noise gets attention. You have to go completely cold turkey. No responses at all from your side. Ideally even if you have to go to the bathroom, wait for a moment when he's let up. The crying will probably get worse for a while and it may take weeks to subside.
I'm sorry, I wish there were easy solutions to this problem . . . It sucks!
posted by Anonymous at 6:29 PM on February 11, 2021

I cat proofed my trash with baby - proofing latches. They were cheap and worked like a charm.
posted by bibliotropic at 10:36 PM on February 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Feliway diffusers help.
reward behavior you want to see, find out what motivates the cat.
be patient and learn to forgive them.
remind yourself the things about the cat that make you happy rather than focussing on what you are frustrated by.
posted by evilmonk at 1:27 PM on February 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

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