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My cat will not stop waking me up - March 18th 2017, 10:28 AM

Recently my cat has taken to waking me up at ungodly hours of the morning. Mostly everyday at 5am sharp he's outside my bedroom door incessantly meowing nonstop until I get up and feed him.

First, background info:

He has a strict diet restriction because he had crystals in his urine a while back. He can now only eat a special brand of cat food from the vet. Typically I just feed him dry kibble but I've decided to try out the special canned wet food just to see.

So,

Before school, usually I'm up at 5, I'd feed him 1/2 a can. Now that I'm on break I don't get up that early. But he still does. He will not stop meowing and literally banging on my door (waking up the whole house) until I get up and feed him.

I was thinking of trying to ween him off so I gave him about 1/4 of a can as oppose to half yesterday. But guess what? He wasn't satisfied so he came right back to my door to demand more food.

How do I get this behavior to stop? Do I just make him quit cold turkey? I always feel bad for ignoring him but I literally can't deal with this and my entire household is getting aggravated as well.

I absolutely love my kitty but oh my god he's so needy haha.


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Re: My cat will not stop waking me up - March 22nd 2017, 12:56 AM

Hi there,

I am so sorry I haven't responded to this yet, and hopefully I can be a little bit of help now (assuming the problem is still persisting).

The first thing to check with any kind of behavioural change in pets is whether there has been any external change to match. Is there anything going on that might be making your cat feel stressed, and therefore more likely to demand attention? Is the change in diet making your cat feel less full and more unsatisfied? If you can't think of anything external like that, then it probably means your cat is just stuck in the routine of being fed early and doesn't like the fact that you're on break.

Is there anywhere you can confine your cat in the mornings so that he doesn't wake up the whole household? For example if my cats are restless or being demanding, we can put them in the bathroom and close the door so that (unless they're absolutely adamant that they need food or attention or to go out and therefore yowl as loudly as they can) we can't hear them. Is there a similar place you could put your cat, so that he's not at your door every morning demanding food? Obviously that's not a perfect solution, but it can help in the short term.

The situation as it stands is a pretty perfect example of (accidental) operant conditioning, in that your cat is learning how to get what he wants. The way it's working at the moment is that your cat has learned that if he makes a nuisance of himself in the mornings, you will get up and feed him. Every time you do that, you're actually reinforcing that behaviour, making it more likely to continue. Your cat has come to understand that when he's hungry, all he has to do is annoy you and then that will result in a positive consequence for him - he gets fed. It's happened enough times that he's under the impression that annoying you is the best way to get food in the morning, so he's going to keep doing it as long as it keeps getting him his reward.

So you have a couple of options that I can see. First, as you said, you could just stop feeding him in the mornings, and then wait him out and see if he gives up the behaviour. This could take a while, but eventually, if his ''needy'' behaviour is never rewarded with food, then it should become less frequent or even stop altogether. Another option is to become unpredictable, which can help get your cat out of this routine and make him less likely to demand food at a particular time. If you feed him at different times in the morning he won't know when to expect his breakfast, so he may not pester you as much. You could also try to wean him off it, although that might take a while as well so it all depends on what you think will work best and how much patience you and your family have.

Sorry again about the slow reply, and I hope some of this helped a bit. Let me know how it goes, and good luck!


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