My Cat's Early Morning Meows Wake Me Up

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, shares ways to stop cats from waking owners up early.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: March 23, 2012, 8 a.m. EST

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Q: Three months ago, I adopted a 2-year-old tiger tabby cat from a local shelter. He has adjusted very well and is a very loving and affectionate cat! He is my first pet and is very spoiled.

He has, however, started a behavior that I need help to stop. He comes into my bedroom at 4:30 a.m. every day and meows until I get up, go to the couch in the front room and sleep out there. He curls up and sleeps on my lap until the alarm goes off at 7 a.m. If I don't get up when he meows he will meow for hours, waking up my fiancé. Please help!

A: Your smart cat has quickly learned that when he vocalizes in the early morning he will have you all to himself. You are reinforcing his annoying behavior by going into the front room, lying down and napping with him when he meows every morning.  

You can stop the behavior through a combination of changing how you respond to your cat's early morning demands, reinforcing him when he’s quiet and giving him alternative activities to do. Both you and your fiancé need to be consistent and not interact with him when he vocalizes in the morning. If your youngster sleeps in the bedroom at night, ignore his demands — but always reinforce him when he is quiet by snuggling and petting him. Expect your cat's behavior to become worse and then finally stop; it might mean a few sleepless nights for both you and your fiancé. If you give in to him at all, it will make the behavior stronger. In the beginning, you might have to give him brief time outs by placing him outside your bedroom and closing the door when he vocalizes. When he stops vocalizing, open the door and let him in the bedroom. Always reinforce him when he’s quiet in the morning.

Immediately before going to bed, tire him out by playing with him, using Pam Johnson-Bennett’s cat play technique that imitates the hunt. Use a fishing pole toy when playing, always dragging it away from him. Pull it over scratchers, cat trees and other high places. Make your youngster work and exercise for the toy. When you are ready to stop playing, gradually slow the movement down and finally let him catch the toy one last time. Immediately feed him a substantial meal. He will eat, groom and then go to sleep.

A tall, comfortable cat tree, placed in front of a secure window with a view will also help focus his early morning attentions off you and on to the neighborhood activities outside his window.

Don’t expect the behavior to change overnight. By consistently following the suggestions, the behavior should gradually decrease and finally cease. It will take time and a few sleepless nights.
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Reader Comments

dsfi    li;ho, KS

7/22/2012 11:58:17 PM

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haywire    Omaha, NE

7/20/2012 8:37:01 PM

Ever have a cat "snick" your neck? I mean, clawing at your neck with one claw until awake? I know he has plenty food, water, companionship...except the human kind at 5:30 in the morning...the bestI can do is bury my self and husband with blankets until the crazy cat calms.

Ben    St. Louis, MO

4/5/2012 10:33:25 PM

My cats have learned what time I get up - they're just as reliable as a conventional alarm clock, and much more pleasant too.

Ellen K    West Hollywood, CA

4/5/2012 7:21:43 PM

When my cat Clawdia was a teenager she discovered that it was hilarious fun to pounce on me from the bedside table in the middle of the night. Once I was awake and angry, of course I couldn't catch her. Then, one night when she woke me up, I lay quietly until I was awake enough to catch the little darling and banished her to the laundry room for the rest of the night. The following evening, she was dozing as I was getting ready for bed, So I gently picked her up and placed her in the laundry room for another night of solitary. That was all it took. She never attacked again in the wee hours.

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