Cats bringing live gifts to bed
July 4, 2022 4:58 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on discouraging a new cat behavior in which they bring live prey to bed while humans are unconscious.

We have two cats and older retiring male cat and a younger female. Cat tax will be paid in comments if I can figure out where to link images. They have both for some reason decided to bring prey to the bedroom between 12am and 3am. Mostly of the bug variety. We are in the Gulf South in a shotgun built in the 20s and these are large roaches that come in from outside when it rains and its distressing to wake up to finding one crawling on the bedsheets or you. Older boy stopped after the first 3x we woke up shouted in panic and fled/killed the prey. Younger female cat seems to think this is a fun part of the game. Any advice would be appreciated to stop the night time campaign of terror.
posted by edbles to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love having cats sleep with me - there is almost no better feeling than an animal cozied up at your feet. But this habit would probably convince me to just keep them out of the bedroom. It's possible you could keep them out for a while and then let them return when this habit is broken.
posted by jeoc at 7:39 AM on July 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

They think you’re their kittens and don’t know how to feed yourselves. I guess let them see you catching and eating your own bugs in the daytime, so they’ll feel more confident in your skill set?

Might also help to put weatherstripping under the doors so fewer bugs come inside? That honestly sounds nightmarish!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Well, in our experience it was a dead mouse left under a pillow, and the initial very loud squawking and grumpiness of the recipient resulted in a TOY mouse the next night.

Yes, I believe whichever cat it was was trolling him. Totally.

And no, none of the humans did it. It was far more creative and amusing than we would have thought of... besides, we were all carefully checking OUR beds.

Advice? Oh. Um. Don't make the cat think you need help feeding yourself? No clue, honestly. Ours stopped THAT one almost as rapidly as it started... and switched to stealing and watching clothes and other items in the water dish. (Bras, socks, christmas ornaments...?)

Cats are weird. Reduce access or make it less fun or seem less necessary to the cat. Whether or not that convinces the cat.... or just results in scratching at the door insisting you NEED the bug, who knows.
posted by stormyteal at 7:41 AM on July 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Cats are pretty intelligent. If you scold them - speak at a high volume with a clearly unhappy look on your face, while making eye contact with them - they will learn fairly quickly that you do not want them to do [whatever they've just done].

The older boy has picked this up. However, female cats are traditionally the hunters and sometimes they just like to hunt. Put a bell on her collar, don't reward her for bringing in prey, and play with her more using toys she can pounce on (drag string around, get cat nip toys she can rake and chew, etc). This will help fulfil her desire to hunt.

Occasionally she will still hunt though. When she drops something on the bed put her out of the room and shut the door for a while as a punishment. She'll whine and you'll lose some sleep unless you've got ear plugs, but eventually the penny will drop and she'll stop.
posted by underclocked at 7:45 AM on July 4, 2022

If it were me, I'd get a can of Great Stuff and aggressively seal gaps everywhere to actually keep the bugs out.

Also, I'd be tempted to do something to attract small snakes outside.
posted by amtho at 8:38 AM on July 4, 2022

Best answer: I have an odd thought based on my cats. Is it possible they're not saying "I brought you food!" so much as "I'm bored, I brought you a toy! Play with me!"
posted by Lady Li at 8:39 AM on July 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

My cats, for context, are not allowed in the bedroom because the orange one will eventually stop cuddling sweetly and start trying to murder/eat my long hair.
posted by Lady Li at 8:41 AM on July 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Based on my own current Cat, i would think she is bringing you her (favourite?) toy.
Mine brings large, long earth worms though, gross but not as gross (or fast) as large roaches. I either ignore them, if outside, or if inside chuck them back outside and ignore. She has not brought one in a while. She now sometimes brings her favourite toy or a used sock or underwear.
But on the whole, playing her favourite game with her right before i go to bed reduced the volume of gifts. I play with her literally just before bed, after washing, brushing, readying, meds, etc myself, and after play immediately switch off the lights. I start reading in bed only once she sleeps. Most nights after playing she will snuggle up and sleep.
posted by 15L06 at 9:11 AM on July 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

My cats are fully indoor-only. They do have access to the garage. During hot weather especially, the local reptiles manage to get into the garage. The girls take great delight in hunting them and bringing them to me as offerings (sometimes alive, sometimes dead). This is why they are no longer allowed in my bedroom. EVER. I also have added a draft guard to the bottom of my bedroom door to keep any of the live prey out if they manage to escape. It happens so often I now have a specially marked plastic container that I use to carry the critters outside which saves me from having to search through the recycling to find a container.
posted by agatha_magatha at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Our cats are locked out of the bedroom at night. Our bedroom opens right into the living room, so it is necessary to keep it closed when anyone is in there sleeping because of the noise and light. And since the litterbox is not in our bedroom they can't be locked in with us. This prevents a lot of nighttime shenanigans as a bonus.

They don't love this arrangement, but they are used to it. They only begin scratching at the door and meowing when they hear me start to wake up. We leave the bedroom door open during the day so they can access the space.

They do leave murder presents on our bed at times when the door is open, but since they are indoor kitties we usually get a toy bird or mouse left in the sheets or on the pillow. Thankfully we don't have those big bugs here, but if we did I'd definitely check the bed before getting in.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:18 PM on July 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm so sorry. I have been the ungrateful recipient of the live skitterers (insect, rodent and reptile). I have only solved the insect type via chemical warfare (spraying outside where the felines don't roam.) I avoid using the stuff indoors. Spraying outdoors to prevent insect entry is not optimal but most necessary for my sleep.

The four-footed type of interlopers are fewer and that's good because I haven't found a solution except for the feline expeditionary group's efforts.
posted by mightshould at 3:46 PM on July 4, 2022

Response by poster: I think the comments regarding the cats being like "it's playtime! play with me are on the money and we will start aggressively tiring her out and stop doing string toy on the bed so that she stops associating the bed with a prey kill zone and see how that goes.
posted by edbles at 7:29 AM on July 11, 2022

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