Cat's Early Morning Wake-Up Call

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains why a cat pesters his owner at the crack of dawn.

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Q: I’m a 19-year-old college student and the proud owner of three cats. We got one of them from the pound the same day they found him when he was a kitten. I have had him since I was 14, and we have been like best friends. But every day he wakes me up at 6:00 a.m., and on weekends he wakes me up at 8:00 a.m. I just pet him a bit then try to see if I can get five more minutes of sleep. But he keeps at it, pulling my hair, patting bags and ripping paper to make noise. I usually get up just long enough to open the door, but he won’t go out until I do. Why he does this?

A: Your cat wants you to interact with him. You have inadvertently been encouraging these early morning wake-up calls by petting him when he sounds his morning alarm. Just that short petting session is enough to reinforce his behavior.

It’s going to be hard, but instead of petting him, ignore his behavior. Don’t be surprised if it becomes more frantic for a little while. After a few days, this behavior will start to fade. Along with ignoring the behavior, there are a couple of other activities you should do. As soon as you get out of bed, reward him with petting, food and maybe a grooming session.

Before going to bed, play with him, using a fishing pole toy, in a way that imitates the hunt. Pretend the toy at the end of the string is a wounded animal. Never let the toy go back toward the cat. In nature, wounded animals do everything they can to get away from the predator. Encourage your cat to energetically chase the toy. At the end of the session, instead of stopping abruptly, slow the play down, maybe taking five minutes to let your cat “cool” down. After the cool down period, let him catch the toy, and then immediately feed him. He will eat, groom and then go to sleep. A reminder: Place the fishing pole toy out of reach when you are not playing with your kitty. This will keep him from accidentally getting tangled up in it.

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Reader Comments

Gina    ronkonkoma, NY

9/18/2015 9:31:42 AM

My cat jinx wakes me up every morning by 8am he grabs my face with his paws hes a poly so he wacks me with his big hands. If I don't do what he wants then he grabs but uses his nails. Also he does it at night between 9:30 & 10 pm he does the same thing with his hands but a night he rubs his cheek on my cheek-makes for a cute pic. He also throws everything off of my counters while I yell at him not too. He is fresh but I love him!!

Vendetta    McMinnville, TN

7/29/2012 4:57:32 PM

One more suggestion I would like to make that is very important. Do not leave plastic bags with handles on like the Walmart bags, lying around. My cat when she was just a kitten loved to play with them. Well one time she got the handle parts caught up around her neck. If I were not in the room she may have strangled herself. Thank God I was win the room. No more plastic sacks laying around our house.

Vendetta    MCMinnville, TN

7/29/2012 2:05:05 PM

That is a cat for you! My 7 year old female cat who is overweight to begin with sleeps with me. When I get up for any reason in the middle of the night, she automatically jumps out of bed and runs to her food bowl. If I get up 3 times or 10 times, she will run for her bowl expecting to get fed. If I don't feed her she will jump to window and make noise with the blinds. They are smart and know we will do whatever to shut them up.

Arwen    raleigh, NC

6/19/2011 10:48:11 AM

My two adult cats are really annoying in the morning. If I don't wake up when they want fed which is usually around 8am then they start up. They will walk very loudly around stomp stomp or scratch at the living room door. I have to keep it shut because I live in a small flat an they would jump on the counter and stove if allowed, but only at night. Sometimes I wish they weren't semi-nocturnal.

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