Resetting the feline alarm clock

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Resetting the feline alarm clock

Updated Dec 21, 2021

Dear Cathy,

We rescued our cat from our local shelter two years ago. She’s the sweetest cat in every way except for one. She wakes us up at 4:00 a.m. She is relentless and does not give up until one of us gets up with her. When we come downstairs with her, she lies down and naps. She has food, water, and litter box – so there is no need for her to wake us. She is a very social cat and loves people, which I think is part of the problem: she wants human companionship.

Before bedtime, we watch TV, all the while she is napping. This may be part of the problem too. If we close our bedroom door, she scratches at it until we open it.

This behavior is wearing on us. Is there something we can do to change her behavior or at least make her leave us alone for another two hours?

– Richard and Kathleen, Orefield, Pennsylvania

Dear Richard and Kathleen,

Oh the woes of the feline alarm clock. Even though your cat is not waking you for food, I recommend getting an automatic cat feeder. Set it to feed her a little food right before bedtime and then set it to release more food 10 minutes before the time she normally wakes you up in the morning. This will get her attention and draw her to the feeder. Feed her at this time for about three days, then slowly increase the time by two minutes each day until the feeder eventually is going off around 6 a.m. Over time, she should focus more on the feeder than you. If she regresses and starts waking you up again, set the feeder back two to four minutes and begin again. The goal is to replace the pattern of waking you with another activity.

Next, play with her a few times throughout the day and before bedtime to interrupt her normal sleeping patterns. Then, keep a catnip toy near your bed so you can toss it outside the bedroom if she tries to wake you up.

Your idea of locking her out of the room may work, but only if you are strong enough to resist her attempts to get you to open the door for at least seven to ten days. (They sell ear plugs at every drug store.)

My recommendation is to go for the trifecta: combine the automatic feeder, catnip toy, and locking her out of the room (in the early morning only). Outlast her on this for about two weeks, and she should establish new patterns of behavior that will allow you to get more sleep.

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 cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal

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Cathy Rosenthal, CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist

Cathy brings more than 25 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.

Read more about Cathy here or check out her Non-Profit's page to see more ways she can help you and your organization.

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