An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Cat Disturbs Person At Night: Truman

Yo Greyce,

Truman here - and in the photo too.
I'm a big guy with a small problem: At night when we are all together (feline and human) I create a disturbance.

Purrhaps I'm not used to sleeping on a nice soft bed. You see before I got to my present home (which is quite lovely), I was shuffled around for three years and eventually sent to an animal shelter

When I joined this household, we all started sleeping on the bed together. Oliver (my feline companion) curls up next to Lady (my purrson). But during the night I tend to get on and off the bed and I have stepped on her when I want to get on to the other side. She gets impatient with me - not to mention that she doesn't like being stepped on. So now I'm relegated to the (admittedly large) bathroom. 

Other than that I'm a pretty nice guy - clean, cooperative, eager to learn, and I get along with everyone.

Any advice that would help me get used to being on the bed at night without creating a disturbance would be appreciated.

With thanks in advance,

Dear Truman,

Congratulations on having the good sense to be adopted by a lovely purrson and companionable cat. Good work!

Cats who go on and off the bed at all hours of the night may be fulfilling the the needs of nature  - a nibble of kibble if they are free fed and are hungry, a trip to the litter box, or a refreshing sip of water for a parched throat. Now you can't do much about calls of nature. Enough said.

Some of us, however, feel the need to patrol our territory throughout the night. My colleague, the late Cathryn Twinkletoes, used to engage in said behavior. She'd start out on the bed with Themselves and then hop on and off several times a night to look out of windows, re-fresh the scent trails she made with her paws, or re-mark certain walls and furnishings with her cheeks.

Why at night? Well the folks slept on the main floor of the house in a room that faces the street. Occasional street noise and/or the beam of a car's light streaming in from the slit between the curtains would encourage Cathryn to engage in this patrol. The source of the problem only became apparent when Themselves had to move to the basement guestroom for a few nights. Cathryn joined them and slept quietly throughout the night! The darker room and lack of noise solved the problem.

And when they moved back upstairs, through they couldn't do much about the noise, they did install both venetian blinds and black-out curtains which aided considerably.

 So if the bedroom location is such that noise or light is an issue, these solutions might apply to your case.

However I think something else is the major contributor. You say you've been shuffled about. I have no idea how regular your schedule has been in the past. But a neglected cat is likely to adopt a crepuscular routine - a schedule similar to cats in the wild who are most active at dawn and dusk. Such cats often patrol during the night because it is such a good time to hunt.

The solution here is somewhat different. You need some interesting and intensive play sessions to tucker you out. I'd advise at least two a day and definitely one just before bedtime (instead of lounging around by the TV).

The idea is this: An intensive play session (and you can consult my blog entries such as Cat Stalks Humans: Tux's Trials (12/11/11) for hints on proper play and suitable toys), followed by a small snack, and then bedtime. The idea is to imitate the cycle you would have in the wild - hunt and stalk prey (play), eat your kill (or kibble), groom and then have a nice long nap. Should you rise several hours later, I suggest that the installation of a suitable perch might allow for an alternative.

Before I close, let me share my routine so that readers may enjoy the challenges I present to my purrsons.

At night I go to the bedroom for a play session. Herself MUST play with me . . . or else.

Should she leave after the session, I take over her part of the bed - just to warm it, of course. I wait for Himself, who is my one-and-only, and then lie on his chest purring up a storm. It is a challenge for him to read in bed this way but so be it - my needs come first. We fall asleep together.

At some point in the night I get up a re-position myself. I may even get something to eat. I have a lovely shelf above the bed to which I sometimes retire. And I have a soft tub chair with a fleece throw, as an alternate bedroom venue.

Wait for it . . .here comes the good part.

Around 4:30 a.m. I begin cat opera. A few Puccini arias to start with. Himself sleeps through it (he never was a patron of the arts) but Herself starts to toss and turn. She will usually yell out, "Greyce, come to bed." Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. If I do, I make sure to land on her and start kneading. If she doesn't acknowledge me properly, I place my butt end near her face.

And then, from time to time, just to make things interesting, I knead her bladder (which by this time is usually full) until she rises in a hurry. Once she uses the toilet she invariably checks the kibble dish in the dining room and if empty, replenishes it. Mission accomplished. I won't, however, share with you the rather vulgar utterances she spews forth.

You may think I'm spoiled. I prefurr the term, indulged. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I've been quite ill. And illness does have it privileges. Most particularly, it is difficult for humans to re-establish control once indulgence has been given - albeit under conditions of medical crisis.

So my advice stands: Try the intensive play-and-snack-just-before-bedtime routine. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. And do let me know how it goes.

And if the worst comes to the worst, ask herself to install a nice cat bed or cat tree in that large bathroom if need be - away from the litterbox. And make sure the room is dark so you are encouraged to sleep.

Do let me know how it goes.