Q: I have a 2-year-old rescue cat that wakes us up with loud meowing at 6 a.m. I put her in the dark basement at times or leave her upstairs, and it makes no difference.
She sleeps most evenings so I try to play with her to stay awake.
Any suggestions to get her to stop and let me sleep in another hour or two?
— B.M., Cuyahoga Falls
A: First off, thanks for giving a rescue cat a home! Now, let’s see what we can do to convince her she isn’t a rooster.
It’s interesting to note that cats in feral colonies rarely vocalize. Animal behaviorists are of the opinion that domestic cats learn to “talk” to get attention, from listening to us talk as a form of interaction.
To understand why your cat is giving you a wake-up call, it will be important to determine why she’s asking for your attention. Cats vocalize for a variety of reasons, the top three being hunger, anxiety and attention.
Do you feed your cat in the morning? Some cats very much look forward to this ritual and get too impatient to let you sleep in. Some ways to adjust this would be to start feeding in the evenings before bedtime, or even better, to hide food and treats in areas around the house for your cat to “hunt” — this can be a great source of enrichment for house cats.
Is your cat ready to play? Again, a late night play session with something interactive (like a feather toy), where you wear her out and then give her a meal, might help her sleep a little later.
Your cat is young, but it’s important to mention that as cats age, vocalizing (especially at night) can be indicative of certain diseases or vision loss, and having a checkup with your vet could be in order.
One of the biggest instigators of a cat getting too vocal is our reaction to it. It’s simply human nature to give attention or talk back when a cat “speaks” to us. Cats are smart, and they learn quickly that meowing gets them the attention they are wanting. If your cat is getting obnoxiously vocal, it is important to pay attention to how you respond to it.
Look for ways to reward quiet behavior often (such as with play, treats and affection), and strictly avoid giving attention or food when your cat is meowing to “ask” for it. Again, because cats are smart, they’ll quickly figure out that being quiet is what gets them what they want.
I hope this helps. Best of luck to you and your kitty!
— Meg Geldhof, DVM, Medical Director, One of a Kind Pet Rescue, email@example.com, 330-865-6890.
Please send questions about your pet to Kathy Antoniotti at the Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640; or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name and address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached. I will forward your questions to the expert I think is best suited to answer your particular problem. Phoned-in messages will not be taken.