Late Night Feline Terror

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how to keep a cat calm at night.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: April 22, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: Is there a way to get a cat on a schedule so that he sleeps through the night? My Bengal, Larry, stays up ALL NIGHT. Not only does he run around, he steals things, and the house always looks like I’ve been robbed. Things are knocked over, and if anything is left out, (papers, pens, etc.) they disappear. It’s getting to the point where I can’t even sleep because he is so loud. I don’t know what to do.

A: Persuade Larry to both give up his destructive nighttime activities and adapt to your schedule through a combination of environmental enrichment and specific activities before bed. Additionally, don’t accidentally reinforce the behavior. Intelligent cats can become easily bored and since many are much attached to their favorite people they sometimes will go to great lengths to interact with them. Larry may have discovered that redecorating the house at midnight commands your undivided attention. You might be accidentally reinforcing his destructive behaviors by interacting with him in some way whenever he engages in his nighttime antics. Picking him up, feeding him, talking to him or moving him to another room in your efforts to stop his destructive behaviors may be giving him what he wants—attention from his favorite person. 

Right before going to bed, tire Larry out through a number of activities. Start with treasure hunts. Hide his favorite treats throughout the house on furniture, shelves and in puzzle toys. The game should become increasingly difficult, so that he has to climb higher and work harder for the treats. Pam Johnson-Bennett’s method of playing which imitates the hunt will also help calm him down

Clicker training Larry every day at the same time will give him what he wants — attention from you, and it will stimulate his mind. Additionally, clicker training is fun.  I have observed that cats who are clicker trained every day are calmer and less likely to engage in destructive nighttime behaviors.

In addition to treasure hunts, clicker training and play, enhance Larry’s environment with interactive toys such as ball and tract toys and puzzle boxes. Place cat posts and horizontal scratchers throughout the house for Larry to scratch. In addition to giving themselves manicures, cats scratch when they are feeling playful and energetic. Make sure to have tall furniture with lots of shelves located throughout your house for Larry to climb and explore. Positioning a tall cat tree next to a window will focus Larry on the activities in the neighborhood. An auto feeder scheduled to open during the night will also help curb his nighttime frenzies. There are commercially available auto feeders that have compartments for ice packs, allowing you to give Larry fresh canned food at set times while you soundly sleep.

Until Larry has adapted to your schedule, keep your valuables safe from destructive paws. Use products such as museum putty for safely adhering objects to surfaces so that Larry can’t knock them over. Also, place small objects like pens and jewelry in drawers or cabinets that Larry can’t access.

With a little work and patience, Larry will adapt to your schedule and let you sleep soundly throughout the night. Enhancing Larry’s environment, engaging him in activities he enjoys before bed and not inadvertently reinforcing the behavior will help put a stop to his destructive nighttime behaviors.

Read more articles by Marilyn Krieger here>>

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0    -, MD

5/11/2011 3:51:34 AM

I9

P    P=-, VI

5/5/2011 2:56:53 AM

O

Hanna    Elk River, MN

4/26/2011 6:44:07 PM

Wonderful article thanks! I have a similar problem, though my cats not that bad.

S    Three Oaks, MI

4/26/2011 6:30:23 PM

So many good suggestions

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