Sleep with the devil cat
September 6, 2006 10:41 AM   Subscribe

How do I sleep when my boyfriend's devil cat is around?

I'm a light sleeper, so when I sleep over at my boyfriend's place, I don't get much sleep. Starting at 4 in the morning, while my boyfriend is blissfully asleep (he could probably sleep through a fire alarm) his cat will start meowing in the bedroom by the door that leads outside. This wakes me up, and I started spraying the cat with water to discourage her, but that only makes her run to the next room only to return ten minutes later and start meowing again.

What I suggested was to just let the cat outside since she seemed to be meowing to be let out, but he's paranoid of coyotes (in the middle of LA?!) and doesn't want to let her outside when it's not daytime. We could lock her out of the bedroom, but she'd probably just meow right outside the door and scratch on it all night, so that's not an ideal option either.

The bf suggested (other than, "be a deeper sleeper") that I wear earplugs, but I have trouble falling asleep with those in and they usually fall off at night.

How can I get a good night's sleep?
posted by nakedsushi to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The cat will be just fine outside... They're much better at avoiding trouble at night than in the day anyways.

Why do people think their cats are stupid and defenseless?
posted by hatsix at 10:45 AM on September 6, 2006

From what I hear, there are lots of coyotes in urban LA.
posted by mckenney at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2006

Sorry to say, either the cat has to go or you have to block the noise. If you lock the cat outside it will probably just meow at the window anyway.

I had problems getting used to earplugs, but after a few nights I was able to adapt. I found that these ones didn't fall out as much as some others -- they seem to be a little squishier and more secure. They do make my ears itchy during the day, but that's a small price to pay for a good night's sleep.

You could also try using other noise masking techniques, like a big box fan or a white noise generator.
posted by footnote at 10:50 AM on September 6, 2006

Does the cat get to go outside during the day?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:53 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The cat gets to go outside once in a while during the day, but mostly on weekends when the bf's around.

Hastix, from the bf: can you point out (to the first response) that I live near the mountains and that there are coyotes in that area, and also that if we let the cat out in the middle of the night that she'll be more inclined to whine to get out in the future
posted by nakedsushi at 10:56 AM on September 6, 2006

When I was 5, my cat was eaten by a coyote. It was in a town about 1/1000th the size of Los Angeles.

The cat probably does want out though. Or food. Or it is just fucking with you. Seriously. Cats do that.
posted by birdherder at 10:57 AM on September 6, 2006

Urban coyotes
posted by ninjew at 10:58 AM on September 6, 2006

At some point, you taught the cat that if it whines at the door, sometimes you'll let it outside. You have to stop letting the cat outside at all.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:58 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm an incredibly light sleeper and also thought I would never be able to sleep with earplugs in. Now I can't sleep without them. I'm blissfully unawares of the ferret wars that take place - strangely enough - also at 4 am. Ear plugs take some getting used to, but the ones footnote linked to are almost exactly what I use. If you put them in properly they'll stay with you for the entire night. Just make sure to change them every few weeks or so as they do get dirty. They also tend to lose their ability to smoosh nicely into your ear canal after a while.
posted by Constant Reader at 11:18 AM on September 6, 2006

I think it will be hard for you to win a direct contest of wills with the cat, though you may if (a) it is a newcomer and/or is rarely let out, so that it doesn't have too much ground for hope, and (b) it doesn't just want to mess with you. I have never had success with water because it is too easily evaded and becomes a game. You might have somewhat better luck confusing/reprogramming it. For example, if every time it meowed you got up and placed it on the bed, or clipped its claws, it might come to associate early morning calls with those outcomes, or just conclude that you're an idiot. Right now it believes, correctly, that you are understanding one another, but that you are simply resisting it.

The white noise suggestion may help, or you may just develop the ability to sleep through it. You can also try the time-honored spousal technique of waking your b.f. to deal with it, which will put him into creative solution mode.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 11:25 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

My wife and I sleep with a fan providing plenty of white noise, which covers annoying cats and allows me to sleep better.
posted by xmutex at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2006

Hm, our cat has been similarly psychotic lately. What seems to work is playing with her in the evening before we go to bed - I think it tires her out a little, and gets rid of the "must hunt kill outside now grr" instinct.

Here's what the SPCA suggested when we asked what we should do so that we were not driven to murder:

(They also had some handouts that were vaguely helpful; I can forward those if you want.)


The main thing is
to keep her as active as possible during the day. Sometimes you have
to use food/activity to switch their schedule a bit, and it can take a
little while for them to adjust. It's good that you are feeding your
cat right before bedtime. The other thing we recommend is *not*
feeding the cat first thing in the morning or giving your cat
attention immediately after getting up, because then their entire goal
is to just get you out of bed. So get up, have some tea, take your
shower, THEN feed and pet kitty. If your cat continues to be
persistent you may even want to change the feeding times to when you
get home for work and then right before bedtime if you feed two times
a day.

You also have to not give in to their cries for attention in the
morning, by getting up and feeding them, petting them, playing with
them - all things that reward the behavior will contribute to it
continuing. Sometimes even negative attention such as yelling can
reinforce the behavior since it elicits a reaction from you and may
give the cat the idea that you might eventually respond by giving them
attention or food. You have to outstubborn them at first - this may
mean a few nights of sleeping with earplugs or of less sleep (not fun
I know, I've been through this before myself...).

If you aren't around in the afternoon, try keeping him active with
things such as kitty videos (; a cat condo with a
birdfeeder to watch, plenty of solo play toys (ping pongs, fuzzy mice,
pom poms, wine corks), try food-related toys (Kitty Kong , Play N Treat ball ), cat grass, etc. Try to
have two or more interactive playsessions a day. Give him a play
session in the evening - try to squeeze in at least 10-15 minutes with
a wand toy such as a Cat Dancer or feather wand to tire him out just
before bedtime.

I hope these suggestions are helpful for you. Keep in mind that
changing this behavior definitely takes time, patience and being
stubborn about not giving in. Please let me know if you have any
posted by metaculpa at 11:45 AM on September 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

I suspect, giving my somewhat limited knowledge of cat psychology, that your cat is bored. Therefore, you getting out of bed and spraying with water is accomplishing the exact opposite effect - you're rewarding the cat by giving it something to do. This is a lose-lose situation that can be resolved pretty much only by learning to sleep through it.
posted by muddgirl at 11:47 AM on September 6, 2006

The water spraying has let her know that she's got your attention when she howls, and probably convinced her she just has to try harder to get you to do what she wants. If there's some way to (pretend to) ignore the cat when she does this (preferably all the time, including during the day), she might learn that it doesn't work. If you can't ignore her, then I think Clyde Mnestra's suggestions are great.

Whatever you do, you need to teach her that whining at the door does not result in people paying attention to her in good ways. (I know the water spraying is supposed to accomplish that, but I think it's just too indirect for this.)
posted by occhiblu at 11:50 AM on September 6, 2006

On non-preview: What everyone else said!
posted by occhiblu at 11:51 AM on September 6, 2006

Make the BF get out of bed and deal with the cat. If he's such a good sleeper he'll doze off in a few minutes afterwards.
posted by Gungho at 12:38 PM on September 6, 2006

Like stated above, you're already giving the cat attention when it whines... a single cat in an apartment will get very bored, especially at night... Unless you give it something better to do, it has a better chance of something interesting happening if it whines at the door...

I'm a big supporter of the "a spray bottle does NOT teach anything to a cat" school of thought. Having lived in South Dakota all my life, I'm familiar with 'wild'/rural coyotes... they're not smart, but they are devious. They pose no danger to cats.

An animal that has learned to live in an urban setting is obviously different than what I'm used to, so letting your cat out may be more dangerous than what I expect.

That said, you still have to give the cat something to do other than whine at the door... or be prepared to use 'alpha cat' teachings (i.e. a good hard smack on the head, or launching a pillow)... Something that it will learn the lesson quickly, not over a month.... If you can't bring yourself to really smack the cat (and I'm not saying you should leave it limping... it should get upset with you, but not cry or be physically injured), try turning on the cold spout in the tub/shower and holding the cat under that until he's good and soaked... dry him so that he's not dripping wet, but his skin is still wet, then go back to bed...
posted by hatsix at 1:01 PM on September 6, 2006

I have to agree that you are programming the cat to bother you more than you are programming her to associate being squirted with shutting up being a good idea. If the cat is fairly young, it will grow out of it. Ours did, anyway. BUT, in the meantime, playing with the cat before bed is excellent advice. If you tire her out with playing, she will sleep more or at least have less impetus to want outside. And, if she's older or there is no way to ignore her, then I think Clyde's suggestions are awesome. You need some hardcore behavioral modification.

By the way, IMHO, the cat is either in or out. If you live in a populated area where the bf is afraid the cat will get run over and/or eaten by coyotes, then the cat just needs to be an indoor cat. It's much less confusing for them if you make a decision -- otherwise they expect to come and go as they please.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2006

Cat Door?
posted by adamvasco at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2006

In my experience cats are perfectly happy to sit and meow for hours on end without respite. Add an extra cat and they'll take turns scratching at the door too, just to keep the niose quotient up. Be glad your cat hasn't learnt to open then empty your dresser drawers, nothing like a sock explosion all over the bedroom to start the morning.

The only way we've been able to deal with it is the airlock approach, shut them somewhere where there is two closed doors between us and them (easier living in a house than an apartment I guess). This minimises the carry over of noise into the bedroom and makes ignoring them possible (it's not otherwise). Confining them to the kitchen or bathroom for a few hours each morning won't hurt them any and will let you sleep. I also wear earplugs, but I don't put them in until I get woken at the first time 4 am (to minimise falling out and sore ears from overuse). I fall asleep again easily though, YMMV on this one. You're right about letting them out, they'll just scratch at the window to come back in.

Cats are incredibly persistant and can't be reasoned with. Good luck with this one.
posted by shelleycat at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2006

The cat was taught that if she meows at the door, she gets to go outside. And now someone is surprised that the cat meows at the door to go outside. Okay. Don't blame the cat for acting like a cat.

Just use better earplugs. There are plenty of kinds that are both comfortable and that won't fall asleep while you're tossing and turning, they're just a little more expensive.

That said, you still have to give the cat something to do other than whine at the door... or be prepared to use 'alpha cat' teachings (i.e. a good hard smack on the head, or launching a pillow)... Something that it will learn the lesson quickly, not over a month.... If you can't bring yourself to really smack the cat (and I'm not saying you should leave it limping... it should get upset with you, but not cry or be physically injured), try turning on the cold spout in the tub/shower and holding the cat under that until he's good and soaked... dry him so that he's not dripping wet, but his skin is still wet, then go back to bed...
posted by hatsix at 1:01 PM PST on September 6

You're fucking stupid and this is the worst advice I have ever read.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:38 PM on September 6, 2006

As another datapoint, the Irvine, CA animal shelter will not let you adopt a cat unless you sign paperwork promising never to let said cat out of your house/apartment.

Why, you ask? Coyotes, of course. They have a poster up in their lobby of a field across the street from the shelter with three coyotes lounging around in broad daylight. More come out at night.

It's not always cats they go after, either.

I live in West LA now, but still will not let my cats outside. We have possums, squirrels, and many many many cars. And I don't believe for a second that my cats are smarter than the ones I've seen as roadkill. =/
posted by DoomGerbil at 2:51 PM on September 6, 2006

Have you considered getting one of those automatic catfood dispensers that has a timer, and one of those large water feeders? If you set it up so that humans are not involved in the feeding process at all then that at least eliminates the "get up and feed me" aspect of the nagging. She will quickly learn that the feeding happens on its own and that she doesn't have to nag. A cat door can deal with the other aspect, but it may not be feasible in your situation.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:52 PM on September 6, 2006

Best answer: When the cat meows, spray your boyfriend with the water. After that the problem should sort itself out one way or another.
posted by louigi at 4:37 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

You're fucking stupid and this is the worst advice I have ever read.

It works for me! I have one cat, my roommate has another cat... both are very well behaved and show mountains of affection. The roommate's cat had a huge aggression problem until I showed my roommate how to handle the cat. My roommate thanks me now that she doesn't get cat bites that bleed every single night. (it was a rescued cat, probably abused in previous home, and despite how aggressive I've been with the cat, and it's history, he still adores me)

Cats AND dogs spent millions of years figuring out where they stood in the social chain by fighting with each other. Just because you want it to live with us 'civilized' humans doesn't mean that it doesn't look at things from the same perspective. Once the Cat/Dog has learned where it stands in the pecking order, it will behave accordingly. Your cat won't beg at a door... it'll wait patiently and quietly until you have time to let it out.

I understand that you're so civilized and proper that you wouldn't smack it (and I did mention that you shouldn't INJURE the cat, and gave an alternative that wasn't "smacking"), but you'd call a stranger "fucking stupid"...

P.S. I'd try Louigi's method first!
posted by hatsix at 6:16 PM on September 6, 2006

Well, louigi has a really valid point...

But, back when my three kittens were adapting to life with me, they used to tag team my bedroom door. Meowing, scratching, more meowing, little kitty paws grabbing the door from underneath and shaking it until I wanted to make a small throw rug out of them.

Solution? Scat Mats. I placed the Scat Mat in front of the door, plugged it in, and went to sleep. The kitties tried to get to the door, but the mild static electric shock dissuaded them.

It took only one night before they quit altogether.

It took a few mornings before I remembered not to step on it in my bare feet! Honestly, it was better than coffee for waking up fast. Didn't hurt - just surprised me.

I also bought a circular one for around my Christmas tree. I don't think Drs. Foster & Smith sell the round one, though.

Also, Mack's Earplugs.
posted by Corky at 6:18 PM on September 6, 2006

We adopted a kitten last Friday, first one in 20 years of cat-free bliss (my young son wanted him so).

Saturday morning around 4 a.m., the little bugger mistook my nose for a mouse (little bugger = the cat, not my son).

I mistook the cat for a dog and tossed him into an empty dog crate on the far side of the house.

He's spent every night in the crate since then. We've since outfitted it with a litter box, bed, food & water, etc.

My sleep remains undisturbed.
posted by jamaro at 10:02 PM on September 6, 2006

If hatsix was abusing our cat, he'd be smacking the cat around for no reason or taking out his aggression on him. And, being the passionate animal rights activist and vegan that I am, I would've left him years ago, taking Dexter with me and reporting hatsix to the authorities.

Obviously, that's not the case. Dexter is the most well-behaved, loving, relaxed, social cat I have ever met. A story to illustrate:

I was in my home office working on my computer a few weeks ago when Dexter came in, sat down next to my chair, looked up at me and meowed. I looked down at him and he immediately headed back out the door. He stopped, looked back at me and politely meowed again.

Obviously, he wanted me to follow him. We went into the kitchen where he proceeded to look up at the far counter and back at me.

I had mopped the kitchen earlier that day and put his food dish on the counter so I could mop underneath it. I had forgotten to put the dish back on the floor when it had dried. Dexter came to get me because he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's not allowed on countertops.

He knows what he can and cannot do. This is to his benefit. Plus, it gets him bonus points with the neighbors, who all absolutely adore him.
posted by hercatalyst at 2:17 PM on September 7, 2006

Oh, and just to clarify, a "smack" is just a titch harder than a pat on the head. The "cold shower" was used once after Dexter instigated a fight with our roommate's cat in the living room next to our bunny pen. Dexter was never in any danger; he was just uncomfortable and sulked for a bit.
posted by hercatalyst at 2:22 PM on September 7, 2006

"The other thing we recommend is *not*
feeding the cat first thing in the morning or giving your cat
attention immediately after getting up, because then their entire goal
is to just get you out of bed."

This does not work when your cat is a 22lb loaf of a cat like my old one was. He would push the bedroom door open, jump up on the bed, and put his big fat paw against my girlfriends (now ex, but not because of the cat. I loved that cat.) face and meow loudly.
Or, I'd get up, walk into the kitchen, and there was the cat. All 22lbs of him, wrapping himself around my legs and meowing loudly. I think that he was trying to kill me. The water bottle trick never really worked either. He'd just flatten his ears and meow even more.

If you let the cat out, it will probably just meow to be let back in 10 minutes later.
The cat will win in this situation. Find some way to insulate the room so you don't hear the furry little devil.
posted by drstein at 2:41 PM on September 7, 2006

oh well if hatsix's girlfriend says it's okay then of course
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:29 PM PST on September 7 [+fave] [!]

I know this argument seems to have petered out, but as someone who read it in the clear light of the next day, let me say: Optimus Chyme, you are being an asshole and you know it...

It is obvious from hatsix's posts that he is talking about discipline here. He's not talking about abusing his cat, he's talking about giving his new kitten a smack on the nose when she knocks a glass off the coffee table or claws at the blinds! It's about teaching the animal what is right and wrong, as we do with humans in the real world!

As hatsix said, feel free to do it your way, but if I were the original poster, I'm not sure how much advice I would take from the guy with the 300 pound trash can that he needs to empty six times a day, just so the cat doesn't get into it!

Back to the question, I agree with the majority that the right approach here is to teach the cat. When she meow's at the door, get up and give her a smack on the nose and put her out of the room. If you don't want to do it, wake your bf up and get him to do it. She needs to learn that the action (meowing at the door) produces negative consequences (a smack). I agree with others that the water spray might be giving the wrong impression, since she can run from it and it becomes a game. I'd say that it will take about a week to train her not to do it... maybe a little more if she's older...

Of course, I should bracket this advice by saying that you should make sure the cat knows you still love her, so don't forget to give her cuddles the next morning. After all, it's the behaviour you don't like, not the cat!

Oh, BTW, love this comment:

So, while I appreciate your concern for my mental well-being, I'd like to offer a counter-suggestion: that you refrain from dirtying up the gene pool, lest you end up raising kids that end up being like your cats, spoiled, self-centered and lacking respect for other people's property and rules.

Go hatsix!

posted by ranglin at 10:20 PM on September 7, 2006

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