Help! My cat won’t stop waking me up stupid EARLY

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Cat o'clock
I have had my cat, Maya, for five years, and I love her to pieces… 23 hours a day. That other hour, though, I want to chuck her across my bedroom and accompany her flight with a loud string of expletives.

She used to wake me up around six for breakfast (read: she would meow, then sit on me and meow, then sit on my head and meow, then start biting my hair — I’m a heavy sleeper) which was fine, because that was about when I would wake up anyway. But now she starts at 5, or 3, or 1 effing 30 in the morning, picking at whatever might be lying around, and singing the song of her people.

I can’t stand it anymore.

Right now when she starts up, I jump out of bed and give her a smidge of food (she’s always been on a breakfast/dinner feeding schedule), then she gets less at actual breakfast time (so I guess now she’s on breakfast/dinner/early morning snack). But I would love, LOVE, to not have us all awake in the wee hours of the morning every single frickin’ day.

So, Homies, any suggestions? -ems

We’ve talked getting a cat to stop yowling if you can’t let it out, but what about when your cat is a super-annoying early riser?

Cat peoples: Give up your secret cat whisperings!

Comments on Help! My cat won’t stop waking me up stupid EARLY

  1. This has been happening with my 6 month old puppy except he wakes us up to go pee. We take him to the dog park for an hour every day and don’t give him water after 7pm but he still wakes up as early as 4am. Once he’s back inside he usually goes right back to sleep but once we’re up we can’t sleep. Any suggestions?

    • If you have an enclosed yard are you able to install a doggy door that you can unlock at night for him?

        • This will pass. My puppy needed to go out in the middle of the night for a few weeks too but now sleeps from 10.30pm – 8.30am no problem.

    • Take him out to pee. Some puppies aren’t super in control of their bladders until about 12 months. And if you aren’t using a crate yet, look into getting one. Our dog sleeps soooooo much more soundly after he’s been put up because he knows he’s “off-duty” once the door is shut.

    • Take him out to pee. 6 months is still very young – many dogs are just starting to gain relative bladder control at that age, so it’s very normal and typically expected for puppies to have to go out in the middle of the night, or very early. A crate DOES help (if you’re not using one) – my puppy is now 9 months and has been sleeping through the night in her crate since she was probably 4 months.

    • If you’re ok with him doing his business indoors, have you thought about a piddle pad or even doggy litter? Both are readily available at pet supply stores. I have two friends who routinely use piddle pads (one because the dog is old and can’t always wait to be taken outside, and the other because it’s just a terribly trained dog) and they work very well.

  2. As a dog person, I find this thread fascinating. My dog’s morning routine is set to my work schedule, but he definitely has learned what time breakfast is. My limited understanding of cats is that they don’t work quite the same way.

    I do have a somewhat related Question: What do you do when you have a neighbor cat who quite regularly yowls at 4:00 a.m. to be let in? I remember a post from a while back about neighbors who have barking dogs, but it might be awkward to approach my neighbor about their loud asshole cat.

    • Sorry, I realize I’m responding quite late and this might already be resolved – I would approach it the same way I would approach a conversation about a constantly barking dog. I’d talk to the neighbor nicely and at a time when the action wasn’t happening (so maybe go over there in the afternoon or evening, not 4am when the cat is yowling). I’d start with something like “Hi, I was just wondering if it would be possible to keep your cat indoors at night, or for you to set an alarm to let her in a bit earlier? Her (his?) 4am cries to be let in are quite loud in my apartment (house?) and it’s actually been waking me up every day.” You might not get the response you want (ie. yes, we will do that, we didn’t realize you could hear him/her) but at least that will open the conversation in a relatively pleasant way. Hopefully, the neighbor really doesn’t realize the cat is such a nuisance and will be willing to make a change once the issue is brought up.

  3. Train her with the foodz. Get up when she wakes you. Spend time with her. Do not feed her. About an hour after you get up turn on alarm clock/phone alarm and feed her instantly. Repeat with evening feed. Only feed her to the sound of the alarm. In two or three days she will get it. Alarm = food. She won’t wake you until the alarm goes off. You can then drop the night time alarm for feeding. I have to do this at the start of each summer as my cat begins to associate daylight (hello 4.30am) with food over winter. Only takes 2 or 3 days.

  4. Just wanted to add that if you shut kitten out of the bedroom and you have issues with pawing and scratching at the door, try putting up regular aluminum foil on the bottom of the door with masking tape. I had a kitten who was not a happy camper when my partner with a cat allergy moved in and he couldn’t sleep in the bed anymore without killing said partner, and that worked like a charm while he was getting used to being out of the room. He still meowed for a week or two but stopped scratching and batting at the door.

    • I’ve heard that many cats don’t like aluminum foil and will refuse to walk on it. Unfortunately, my cats have super powers and not only don’t care about walking on it, they LOVE playing with it and tearing it apart and crumpling it and batting pieces of it throughout the house. Instead of keeping them away from things, they got new ways of making noises and thought they were given toys. And yes, I did tape it down. 🙁 Anyway, definitely worth a try, but don’t be discouraged if your cats are weird like mine.

      • Don’t feel bad. I tried putting foil under our tree last holiday season and my cats didn’t care either. It seemed to remind them of their crinkle toys and added to their enjoyment as they removed all the ornaments they could reach.

  5. Having two five-month-old kittens definitely keeps us up a lot at night… and we can’t shut them out of the bedroom, because then they’ll just go after our expensive couch and table. Better to be able to shoo them away from the curtains, I guess. I’m hoping they’ll grow out of it. Reading these comments, I’m intrigued at the prospect of getting them feeders so that they don’t associate me with food. However, new question:

    What should I do about one cat being a food hog?

    My kittens are littermates. The male, Mooch, is fascinated by his sister Lea’s dish and tries to eat out of it at every feeding, even when he’s still got food in his. She’s not as assertive and lets him. I’ve tried putting them in different rooms, but they don’t like to be alone, so whoever’s on the other side of the door scratches at the door, which distracts whichever one I’m with, and then no one eats. The only way Lea finishes her food is if I sit between them and pick Mooch up and return him to his bowl when he makes a dash for Lea’s. Getting a controlled feeder sounds good in theory, but I worry that Mooch will just, well, mooch off Lea’s when I’m not there to remove him. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep him at his own dish and leave Lea’s alone?

  6. This is what most cat behaviorists would say: She’s bored to tears and that’s why she annoys you to tears. 1) Stop freefeeding; only feed in the AM and PM about an hour before bedtime. 2) Play with the kitty between PM feeding and bedtime. Cats do best with a routine like eat-play-sleep. If that doesn’t alleviate things, then play with her more at other times of day, too, because you are her one true human pet afterall. You may need to incorporate things like taking her on walks (letting her walk you), or increasing the flow of your living space. (Flow =/= chi; flow = cats like to follow a path of least resistance as they roam, and if the clear and obvious path ends, then they get stuck and kinda freak out.) That’s all the advice I can offer! Good luck!

  7. I don’t know if I had smart cats (well one was stupid) or what, but I find all these stories about their cats waking them up funny. I have never had any past cat or current cat ever wake me up for feedings, more water, or to be let out. They would give me strange looks if I have not put food/water in their bowls when I got up. But nothing past that. But my dogs I have now currently, they are the ones that wake me up to feed them (I get up really early for work, so they get used to me letting them out at 4am, hence to say on my days off I am still expected to feed and take them out by 5am at the latest, sometimes they get the time really off and think just because I am up at 2am to go to the bathroom that means feeding time).

  8. My cat was doing this, so now I lock her out of the bedroom at night and ignore her. If she cries at night, it doesn’t wake me now, and she moves on, unless I sleep in past about 8am, then she gets more aggressive in her meowing. She also does it when she hears me moving around in my room, so if I wake up and don’t want to get up and feed her, I stay as still as possible. 🙂

  9. I used to have this problem with one of my cats especially. For him, it really did seem to be mostly a food issue. After wanting to kill him for a few weeks, I finally bought an auto feeder. Mine has five different compartments you can fill with however much food you want, your can program it to rotate at different times; just set it up and let it do its thing. Obviously this is much better suited to dry food than wet, but my cat is a general food-lover and not overly picky about what form his food comes in. It took him a few nights to figure out that this new thing was trustworthy and that it really would give him food every night, but after he caught on, him waking my hubs and me up became a very, very rare occurrence.

    Sometimes one of the cats, or my dog, will decide that it’s just the perfect time to play and snuggle NOW. After a quick check to make sure they don’t legitimately need something (is the dog about to have diarrhea? If yes, PLEASE DO wake me up!) and if all is well, I’ll usually shut the offender out of the bedroom. This seems to reinforce the idea that waking me up any time does not equal snuggles any time. If shutting the door isn’t doable for whatever reason, you might look into a crate as someone else suggested. You could even get a fancy crate with special beds, etc… your cat might even really love it!

    Obviously, I’m not saying you should be heartless, just set your boundaries to maintain a healthy relationship. If she’s upset about something (a new move, your other cat died, something scary happened that day, etc) you may need to give her a little extra attention to help her through the difficulty, just like you would with a child. Right after I moved recently, about a month ago, my food-loving cat needed extra reassurances that everything was ok, and sometimes he needed them in the middle of the night. That’s ok, I get it. It’s normal for them to be upset by upheaval in their lives, but for most problems, it should resolve itself within a few days.

    In normal circumstances, give your kitty plenty of love and affection during normal waking hours, make sure she has enough to eat and drink, get the auto feeder set and maybe give her some extra special time with you before bed. I usually watch TV for a while before bed and it’s kind of a free-for-all snuggle-fest for whoever wants to join in. Every now and then one of them will wake me up for a non-urgent reason, but it’s pretty rare now that I have the auto feeder and door closing happening. Good luck!

  10. Our cat used to yowl endlessly very early in the morning, too. I agree with many others – no more snacks – you are giving her positive reinforcement for her behavior (strengthening a behavior by giving a pleasant reward). What we have found works with our cat is a remote switch hooked up to the vacuum cleaner. It’s a little mean, because she hates the vacuum, but man it works. You can buy a remote switch device online or in a home improvement store for about $20. You plug the noise-maing device into an outlet near where you want to scare the cat away, turn the device on (it won’t actually turn on yet, don’t worry), then when you want to scare the cat you click the remote that comes with the device. Click the remote again to turn it off. We close our cats out of the bedroom at night, but I think it would work even if you didn’t. Every time she cries at night, I click the remote and turn on the vacuum. She doesn’t know I’ve done it with my remote, so it just seems like a terrible magic punishment for yowling. So, she doesn’t cry anymore! The only problem is, she’s way too smart for her own good, and when the vacuum isn’t posted outside our door she is more likely to cry. But if we put the vacuum back in its place guarding our door, she’s quiet as a mouse (even when we don’t turn it on). I highly recommend it!

    P.S., remote switches are super-cool for the rest of your life, too. Never get up to turn off lights again! If they weren’t a little too pricey for it, I’d have them all over the house.

  11. Thanks so much for this post! My cat has been waking me up several times a night by scratching at the mattress next to me. I know exactly why–I recently started a full-time job, and she is very upset that Mommy is no longer home all day to give her pets and cuddles. I’ll try playing with her for a while before bed.

    Now, if anyone has any tips for keeping her off my keyboard, I’m all ears…

  12. Although it’s effective, I can’t, in good conscience, recommend my own particular method of discouraging cats from pestering you when you’re asleep. But I will share it w/you anyway, in case you want to try it. Because it does work. I don’t do it on purpose anyway. But if I’m startled out of sleep, I wake up fast, & mad, & I screech really loudly. I’m like, “WHAT THE F-U-U-U-H? WHAT??? WHAT??? H-E-E-E-Y!!!”, They happen to totally hate when I do that, so my “goosey-ness” inadvertently keeps them from bugging me at night. Unless it’s (what they think is) an emergency, like if they’ve befouled their drinking water by drooling specks of dry food into it.

    BTW, my 3 cats have fresh water, & dry food available at all times. They eat snacks of it whenever they feel like it. This is not a good practice for people who live w/cats who have starvation-fear-food issues, but none of my cats do.

  13. You must NOT under any circumstances let him know that you are awake and absolutely DO NOT EVER feed them. That is what causes the problem. Think of it this way when a toddler has a tantrum – if mom gives him candy to stop crying what is going to happen next. The kid is going to scream until he gets the candy. I have 5 cats, I fostered 11 kittens in the last 4 months. I AM the crazy cat lady. The cats wake my husband up all the time and he gets so mad that they never do me – you know why because he FEEDS them….

  14. I have the same issue! I have an automatic feeder for my kitten and he still meows non-stop for hours even after his breakfast gets dispensed at 6:30 am. I have to close my bedroom door at night because my kitten will just jump on my face the whole night. He understands when I go to bed at night and doesn’t meow as much but as soon as its 5:30 am or around that time he just starts meowing non-stop. I can’t get any sleep!!

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