Our six-year-old neutered male cat has a behavior that disturbs our sleep. He will meow, run across the bed, push the rugs around, and jump off the chest of drawers onto the bed. He has gone for periods of time (weeks, even months) sleeping contentedly at night. We don’t understand what brings on this behavior.
We’ve tried waiting him out, which works occasionally. We have tried telling our dog (who sleeps on his mat by the bed) to “go get the cat.” He usually pushes the cat with his nose. The cat is not intimidated, and the interruption of his meowing only lasts briefly.
We have put him in the laundry room with his litter box, food, and water for several consecutive nights, but when we let him out, he goes back to his old behavior. Any suggestions other than confining him?
— Marilyn, Tucson, Arizona
Most night vocalizations are behavioral and related to boredom or not enough playtime during the day. Cats are nocturnal and so get friskier at night. The fact that your cat is keeping busy all night long indicates he has some energy to burn.
There are a few things you can do.
Feed him before you go to bed. Everyone, including cats, sleeps better on a full tummy.
Get him a cat food puzzle toy to feed him. This type of “game” engages the cat’s brain and plays on his hunting instincts, which should help tire him. An engaged cat won’t be meowing for attention.
Introduce several five-minute play sessions throughout the day to help wear him out. Make the last session at night right before bedtime.
Play music on low throughout the night. There are musical arrangements, like Through a Cat’s Ear, that have been created to calm felines.
You can always plug in feline pheromones around the house to see if that calms your cat too.
As an aside, your cat may be losing his hearing or have an underlying health problem, so take your cat to the vet if these suggestions don’t work.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal