Cat Tries to Drum Up Attention

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, offers advice for taming a wannabe rock star cat.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: August 15, 2008 2 a.m. EDT

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Q: Our cat pounds on anything — mostly doors — all night long. It isn't a scratching behavior. She is making noise. She uses her paws to bang on walls and doors, and she even pounds on garbage cans so that they fall over. It keeps us up all night, and we don't know what to do.

We tried isolating her, but this seems to make it worse. She is a very aggressive cat with a not-so-warm personality. She has been that way since she was a kitten. She has calm, loving environment, but often lashes out in aggression. However, I do not think the pounding is aggressive. It seems as if she is saying, “I am here. Pay attention!” Please help. We can't take it anymore! 

A: From your description, it sounds like your wannabe rock star is craving attention and interaction from her favorite people. This annoying behavior can be stopped through a few actions and one non-action from you.

Every night before bed play with your cat, using a fishing pole toy. The play should imitate the hunt. Pretend that the animal at the end of the toy is a wounded animal. Encourage your kitty to chase the toy by pulling it into bags, under sofas, into and over boxes and other objects.

When you are ready to stop playing with her, don’t immediately stop the action, instead slow down the play activity gradually. Remember that you’re imitating the hunt, and the animal at the end of the fishing pole toy allegedly is wounded and tired. Finally, after slowing the action down, let your cat catch the toy one last time. Then immediately feed her. She will eat, groom and then go to sleep. Please make sure to put the toy out of your cat’s reach when you’re not playing with her. You don’t want her to get tangled up in it.

Providing her with treat balls at night that are filled with her favorite dry food or treat also will help alleviate the nighttime banging. Treat balls are hollow plastic balls that can be filled with treats or regular dry food. In order to eat the delicious treats, your cat will have to roll it around so that the food falls out of the holes. You may have to show her how it works at first.

Interactive toys such as puzzle boxes and turbo scratchers can keep her busy during the night. Tall cat trees also can provide entertainment for her.

The hardest part of stopping this behavior is not reinforcing it by reacting to it. Picking her up, yelling at her and other reactive activities play into her plan of interacting with you, her favorite human. Do your best to ignore her noise-making activities.

The combination of proper play, environmental enrichment, treat balls and not reinforcing the behavior will eventually extinguish the behavior. Don’t expect it to happen over night. It takes times for all of us animals to break bad habits.

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Reader Comments

Becky    Ellensburg, WA

6/4/2010 9:43:35 AM

Our 4 yr old male cat, Scratch, has got me trained in a bad way. I can be in the other room, in bed, or anywhere and he comes to me or my husband and meows and meows. He is an indoor/outdoor cat so I will get up from whatever I am doing, heading to the door to let him out...as he runs ahead to his half full feeding dish. He doesn't want to go outside. Seems he just wants me to be with him while he eats! I go back to my work and after a few minutes it happens again, then again. I am getting tired of this and don't know what to do. We used to have a door for him but ended up with other cats coming it. HELP!

Linda    Mandeville, LA

8/20/2008 6:47:07 PM

My cat pulls on things with his paws.

Daphne    Clinton, MS

8/19/2008 2:50:51 PM

My cat did this when he was a kitten but he has calmed down much more now and doesn't bang on things... He especially did it at night when we were trying to sleep.

Sheryl    Bloomington, IN

8/18/2008 7:27:29 PM

Good information

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