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Meow! Meow! Meow! I bury my head underneath my pillow. Meow! Meow! Meoooooow! The high pitched meowing persists and penetrates through my feather stuffed shield. Meow! Meow! Meow! My eyes open only with the greatest of efforts. Grudgingly, I drag myself out of my warm bed and look at the clock; 3:47 am. I reach over to the night-stand and turn on the light, pain is the result, the light, so bright, the light is, so, so bright. My wife rolls over on her side and I can see the annoyed look on her scrunched up little face. "Must.... feed.... demon... cat...." I say to myself as I trudge to the kitchen to empty a can of cat food into the little yellow cat dish. The cat has by this time woken up the entire household and I wouldn't be surprised if the neighbors were also awake.
Our cat is a loud cat. Unnervingly loud. 747 jet-engine loud. And there was a time that she woke up every morning before even the sun had the nerve to peek over the horizon. Our loveable little ball of fur wanted to be fed. While the rest of the household was fast asleep our sweet little kitty wanted to have some food to suck down her gullet. This caused quite a bit of frustration for us, especially since this was not a one time thing. No, this was indeed becoming her morning ritual. Every morning, our cat would sit in front of our door and meow at the top of her little kitty lungs the most blood curdling meows I had ever had the displeasure of hearing. Our initial reaction, after caving in and feeding her several nights/early mornings in a row, was to put her in the laundry room before my wife and I went to sleep at night. This, however, was not the best solution in the world, our cuddly little black mass didn't seem to like it very much and after a while she wasn't the warm and cuddly cat we knew before.
There must to be another solution to this dilemma. Fortunately, there is. What your cat is, is what has been termed as an "alarm clock kitty", what that is, is a cat that wakes up very early (or stays up very late) and begins to meow at approximately the same time every single, bloody day in expectation of being fed. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy sleeping at night this is a natural behavior in cats and while the problem may not happen to every cat owner it happens to many. So what can you do? Even though cats have been domesticated animals for thousands of years now dating back to ancient Egypt, they still have retained most of their wild instincts and this is a cat's natural instinct; hunt and feed. Cats are predatory animals, they hunt, and the cat's natural time to hunt generally falls between dusk and dawn because most of the prey they hunt are nocturnal (rats, mice and other rodents). So, if you can't or don't want to let your cat out at night to hunt on her own what should you do?
Training your cat to stop this behavior may be fairly easy, but be warned, it will take a little patience on your part but a good night's sleep may be the reward. What you need is a cat toy, preferably a mouse or something similar, a piece of string and a stick. Attach the cat toy to a string and the string to the stick. While you are watching your bedtime TV or doing whatever your before bedtime ritual is take your cat toy and play a hunting game with her. Cats love to chase things because of their hunting instinct. Play with your cat for about 15 minutes, enough time to tire your cat out and give her the satisfaction of having hunted. During your game create as realistic a hunting scenario as you can, make noises like a mouse (or whatever animal you are emulating) squeaking or scurrying through the brush. Let your cat catch the toy from time to time so that your cat will feel as if she was involved in a successful (rather than a frustrating) hunt. Towards the end gradually slow down the game drawing your little hunt to a close. Your cat will probably be sufficiently tired by this time. At the end of the game feed your cat something you know she likes. You don't need to feed her a full sized meal, but feed her an amount sufficient enough to satisfy her hunger. A handful of cat treats or a little piece of left over pork chop may be sufficient. Then go to sleep. In all likelihood your cat will be satisfied and will not continue her ritual of waking you up every morning.
You may need to continue your hunting game with your cat for a week or two before the early morning meowing goes away, and even after it does its a good idea to play this game with your cat from time to time in order to keep the behavior from returning and to keep your cat feeling like an accomplished hunter. But if you follow this routine you should be able to satisfy your cat and get a little shut eye at the same time.
Andy Markison is an illustrator, graphic designer, animal lover and pet owner living in Germany. His website, ZapGraphix.com, sells fun and humorous pet related merchandise.