Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My little boy, CJ,is a very sweet SPCA rescue and has trained me very well. I’d like to get him to stop waking me at 2:30-3:00 A.M. to feed him his wet food. How can I do this? I’ve tried closing my bedroom door, but he cries and scratches until I can’t stand it anymore and, of course, I get up and cater to him. If I feed him before going to bed I’m afraid he’ll just expect the wet food twice instead of just once in the middle of the night. Thank you for any suggestions you might have .
Siouxsie: Well, Marcia, you’re right in thinking it’s not good to reinforce CJ’s undesired behavior by getting up and catering to his desire to eat in the middle of the night.
Thomas: But as you know, cats can be very persistent when they’ve decided they want something — particularly if they’ve already gotten it once.
Kissy: It’s going to take a two-prong approach to get CJ to stop crying and scratching at the door at 2:30 in the morning.
Siouxsie: First, we’d recommend that you do something cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy refers to as an “hunt, eat, sleep” game shortly before you go to bed.
Thomas: That is, you should spend about 10 or 15 minutes playing with him using an interactive toy like a wand attached to a string that has feathers or a fake mouse on the end.
Kissy: While you’re playing, be sure to move the toy like prey: don’t just fling it around, but get him tempted by moving it like a mouse or a bird might move. A mouse scurries around and a bird hops a bit, then stops, then takes off for a little bit, and so on.
Siouxsie: As you get to know CJ’s play preferences, you can move the toy in a way that appeals to him. Be sure to let him catch it now and then.
Thomas: Once you’ve finished your play time, feed CJ a portion of his wet food.
Kissy: Once he’s hunted and eaten, the next thing he’s going to do is sleep. That’s the way our evolution has taught us to behave.
Siouxsie: The other prong in your approach is to put automatic repellent spray outside your bedroom door in order to stop him from scratching in the middle of the night.
Thomas: This product is called SSScat. It has a motion detector that attaches to a spray can. When the cat comes within a few feet of the SSScat, it sprays air (and yes, the propellant is non-toxic to cats) and causes the cat to run away.
Kissy: We’d recommend that you get two cans and put one on either side of the door. Aim one so that it sprays straight across your doorway and the other so that it points outward about 25 degrees in order to catch him even as he approaches.
Siouxsie: All the online listings we’ve seen, unfortunately, say that SSScat is on back-order until August. However, you might be able to find one on the shelves of a pet supply store.
Thomas: We think this two-pronged approach will work to keep CJ’s early-morning crying and scratching at bay.
Kissy: Good luck, Marcia. Please let us know how this technique works out for you.