How to prevent our cat from yowling in the middle of the night.
February 6, 2004 7:00 AM   Subscribe

Kitty downers? One of our cats is an older ragdoll. He's generally very sweet and lives to snuggle. About a year ago, however, he started up with night crying - around 3 in the morning he wakes up and will. not. shut. the. &*@#. up. He has access to food, water, clean litter; the vet says there's nothing physically wrong with him. The cat's been sleeping in the basement so that we can sleep. He's not happy with this and yowls disconsolately most of the night, so loudly that we can hear it two floors away. I'd really like to get him back to normal. Any ideas? Experience with kitty sleeping pills?
posted by mimi to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My best advice is to get a second opinion from another vet.
posted by pomegranate at 7:05 AM on February 6, 2004

Wow. Does he just want attention, or does the crying continue no matter what you do? I have a cat who, when I first got her, used to cry late at night, and I'd go downstairs and pet her for a couple minutes and she'd go to sleep. Eventually, as she became bolder, she began sleeping upstairs and the crying stopped. She still mews plaintively for attention occasionally, but only when she sees me and knows I'm likely to respond.

Um, we're going to need to send up the biscotti signal, or have Commissioner Gordon call her on the bright red biscotti-phone...
posted by Shane at 7:14 AM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: Pomegranate: He's been seen by two already, complete with expensive tests...

Shane: the crying continues no matter what. If he's at the foot of the bed, I'll pull him up for a cuddle and he continues with this "mwarw." "Mrawrw." statement, every 30-40 seconds but randomly enough that you think, "oh good maybe he's stopped." Yaah. Then he gets taken to the basement, and my sleep is ruined.
posted by mimi at 7:18 AM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: Also if I try ignoring him figuring he'll stop eventually, he keeps going until it's time to get up anyway.
posted by mimi at 7:19 AM on February 6, 2004

take him to a pet psychologist.
posted by banished at 7:26 AM on February 6, 2004

One of my cats (who has since passed away) was exactly like that - the most god awful caterwauling at the strangest times. It turned out that it was a kidney infection. Having said that, my other cat, who is also gettin on in years is now doing the same, so maybe its just senility setting in. Best of luck with it.
posted by kev23f at 7:26 AM on February 6, 2004

Here I am! Unlock the *&^ing window next time.

This isn't unusual behaviour in some cats, however (as with any sudden behaviour change) if it starts all of a sudden it can sometimes be a sign of pain or discomfort. What did the vet do in order to come to the conclusion that there's nothing physically wrong with him? Is he neutered? Are his litter habits the same? If your vet didn't do bloodwork, at very least get some done, yowling can be related to thyroid problems and kidney problems (actually high blood pressure from kidney problems), and these should be ruled out before you start treating it as a behaviour problem.

Here's the thing about cats: they tend to be active at night, especially if they sleep all day. If you give him something particularly interesting to do during the day and try to get him less sleep and more exercise (which can be difficult with a relaxed cat like a Ragdoll, I know) it may help. Train him to walk on a leash and take him for walks, get a cat dancer-type toy and spend time playing with him in the evenings - just try and get him as much exercise as you can while you're awake. Save some of his daily food and leave it down for him at night (something for him to do), make sure he has a comfy place to sleep, etc.

Keeping him away from you is likely to make the problem worse, Ragdolls have been selectively bred to be very human-friendly, and while keeping him in the basement may make it a bit easier for you to sleep, it's making him yowl more, which keeps him up at night more, which means he'll sleep more the next day, which means...well, you see where I'm going with this.

Depending on how old he is, trharlan is definitely right that this can be related to senility, in which case there's not much you can do about it, I'm afraid (it will likely still be worse if you keep him away, though). If he's over 10, maybe try getting a nightlight or leaving a light on in the hall for him, his eyesight may be going and he may be getting nervous about not being able to see as well at night. Hope this helps.
posted by biscotti at 8:10 AM on February 6, 2004

I should have added that you can discuss treating it with anti-anxiety drugs or even antihistamines (to make him sleepy) with your vet, once you've done bloodwork to make sure his kidneys and thyroid aren't the problem.
posted by biscotti at 8:11 AM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: Hi! Thanks, Biscotti. Yes, he's neutered, and both vets ran full blood panels.

That's a good point about his sleeping habits. I know that whatever his beef is, it's not making things better by having him in the basement. He does spend a good amount of time lounging in the back yard in the summer but I didn't notice any difference due to increased activity. Will try to keep him up all day (The revenge would be nice but he's so lazy I don't think he'd notice!)

He hasn't been with me his whole life, just the last 5 1/2 years of it. My friend who had him before said that he was 9 at some point, so that makes him at least 14.
posted by mimi at 8:24 AM on February 6, 2004

Good for you for taking an old boy in. Try to exercise him more (pet shops have great sparkly-streamer cat toys which are really cheap and most cats can't resist them if you drag them along the floor - if he's food-motivated, see if you can find a toy where you hide the food inside and he has to work to get it out, brain exercise is almost as good as physical exercise for animals), and maybe consider talking to the vet about antihistamines or anti-anxiety medications. It's no good if you can't sleep, and I'm sure he's not enjoying himself either.
posted by biscotti at 9:01 AM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: I'll give it a whirl, and talk to the vet soon. What sort of antihistamines? OTC or probably more likely a scrip so he doesn't overdose? Have you found that works well? (Not to go for a pill solution first, but to know about what the options are.)

Poor old Rudy! He can't fail. (I hope.)
posted by mimi at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2004

I actually haven't ever treated this problem on my own cats, so I'm not sure what specific type of antihistamines are okay for cats (cats have very short digestive tracts, so you have to be really careful with using human medications, since they can end up being extremely toxic to the cat), your vet may prefer to prescribe an anti-anxiety drug. Definitely discuss it thoroughly with the vet first, including brands, dosages and frequency of dose, and make sure you're very clear on what s/he's telling you - you want a kitty who dreams of the fishes, not one who sleeps with the fishes. Good luck!
posted by biscotti at 9:43 AM on February 6, 2004

Hmmm, my male cat (a beefy 17lb, almost-8-year-old orange neutered male) decided a few weeks ago to wake me up in the middle of the night (every night) to pet him, and also decided that, if I didn't pet him, yowling was a really good kitty thing to do. To counter it, I've been trying to play really hard with him (got a "feathers on a stick" sort of thing) about an hour or so before I go to bed. That seems to have helped the situation, but like children, all kitties are different.

Good luck with it!
posted by greengrl at 10:06 AM on February 6, 2004

Another vote for cat senility - my parents' cat did the same in the middle of the night, but thankfully would recognise the sound of them hurling abuse at her from the bedroom, and would come to her senses and shut up... usually.
posted by bifter at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2004

Is he cold? Maybe a bed with a heating pad would help?
posted by Hackworth at 10:10 AM on February 6, 2004

Hmmm, my male cat . . . decided a few weeks ago to wake me up in the middle of the night (every night) to pet him

I had a kitten who used to do that. I had a cheap candelabrum right next to my bed with three tapers in it. He'd swat one of the candles onto the floor and I'd roll over and say, "What the hell..?" Then I'd go to sleep and five minutes later, WHAP! THUNK! And I'd look over and he'd be sitting there next to another candle, staring at me and kind of grinning with that "play with me look" on his face... Heh! I had to move the candles.

He went through a stage, too, where he'd get jealous when I talked on the phone, and he'd knock things off my bookshelf. Always when I was on the phone, always the same bookshelf.
posted by Shane at 10:20 AM on February 6, 2004

I've known a cat which had a similar problem -- meowing constantly, for hours on end, throughout the night. It was taken care of for about two years by the application of, believe it or not, kitty Prozac. I'm not sure this is an appropriate treatment, but it really did appear to make the animal feel a lot better during both day and night.
posted by majick at 10:38 AM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: He shouldn't be cold, if he's on the bed he's cuddled up in my arm crook, between me & the mister (and sometimes even under the blankets). Sometimes he does head down to our feet (on top of the blanket) but it's plenty warm upstairs (old house, wierd heating).

I've tried Buspar in the past with another cat for a random pee problem, and checking my notes we did try amitriptyline with Rudy. All to no avail... will talk to doc about antihistamines. One thing's for sure, I'm not letting him get a wink of sleep today. :-P
posted by mimi at 10:41 AM on February 6, 2004

I seem to be recommending Comfort Zone a lot, but IF the cat's problem is anxiety-based, this might do the trick. I have to say, though, I lean towards the more physical problems such as senility, since the cat is elderly.
posted by JanetLand at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2004

Response by poster: Are any of these available in a liquid? Pilling him gets pretty traumatic, too. (Good thing he has no teeth...)
posted by mimi at 4:29 PM on February 6, 2004

mimi: Comfort Zone is a scent you diffuse into the air - I believe it's pheromones or something.
posted by biscotti at 10:31 PM on February 6, 2004

All you do with Comfort Zone is plug it in (to the wall outlet, I mean). Great stuff.
posted by JanetLand at 6:51 AM on February 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wierd!!! Plug it in, plug it in. Wouldn't it rock if Glade picked up on that? Heh.
posted by mimi at 12:03 PM on February 7, 2004

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