Curtailing midnight meows

Owners can try remedies to curb cat's nighttime noise

Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2005


  A curious cat is reflected in a backyard pond on Friday, Feb. 18, 2005, in Prairie Village, Kan., as he contemplates taking advantage of the mild temperatures to do a little fishing. The fish escaped harm. AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, S

A curious cat is reflected in a backyard pond on Friday, Feb. 18, 2005, in Prairie Village, Kan., as he contemplates taking advantage of the mild temperatures to do a little fishing. The fish escaped harm.

AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, S

Imagine lying in bed.

It's late at night, you're tired after a long day at work and you have to get up tomorrow and do it all again. But just as you're drifting into la-la land, you hear it.

It starts out as a soft hiss, but builds with intensity until the sound grows into a growl and, finally, ends in a full blow scream reminiscent of the shower scene in Hitchcock's thriller "Psycho."

You would normally begin dialing 911 afraid for your life if it weren't for the fact that the sound was so predictably on schedule — it's your cat and you're again coping with its midnight meows.

It doesn't have to be this way. There are plenty of things a pet owner can do to curb their kitty's noises in the night.

First, it's important to rule out any underlying medical causes by bringing the cat to a veterinarian.

Hypothyroidism, uncomfortable bladder crystals, elderly cognitive impairment — many heath conditions can cause nighttime behavioral problems that veterinarians may be able to identify and treat.

Veterinarians may also recommend spaying or neutering nocturnally chatty cats, since intact animals may become more social, or often more agitated, especially during breeding cycles.

Once a veterinarian rules out a health problem, the problem is more likely behavioral.

In such a case, increasing a cat's daytime activities can help cut down on tabby's talking at night.

Pet owners with full-time jobs need not stop reading here. Many daytime activities can be done at home during the hours a pet owner is away.

Installing a bird feeder outside a window and leaving the curtains open can keep a cat's attention focused for hours when they may otherwise be napping.

Some pet owners may opt to leave the television on tuned to a nature channel where animal noises may catch their cat's fancy. Many pet supplies stores and catalogs also sell kitty entertainment videos to address this issue.

Pet owners could consider adding another pet to the home to actively engage a cat. Fish tanks seem to be hours of entertainment for many felines.

A companion cat be added, but consider this option carefully. If the newcomer is not introduced properly or if the original cat is older and used to its solitary life, the fur may fly and the nighttime behavioral problem will be worse than ever.

Pet toys can be introduced and rotated regularly to keep a cat interested. Kong-style toys can be stuffed with a favorite food item.

Furniture — such as climbing towers, perches and scratching posts — may give a cat enough exercise during the day to wear them out at night.

Catnip and natural fragrance oils — such as rose water or vanilla — can be sprinkled or spritzed around the house to enrich a cat's daily activities.

Interesting objects, such as cardboard boxes and open paper bags, also can be left out for them to play with.

The period shortly after pet owners get home should be a time for vigorous play with a cat, such as chasing, running, jumping and fetching games.

Pet owners can alter the feeding schedules of their furry friends. Cats, like humans, often like to sleep after eating. Rather than feeding a cat right after arriving home from work, split the meal by giving half then and the other half before bed.

These options are helping during the day, but it is also important for pet owners to remain vigilant during the night until the problem is solved.

Begin by not giving the cat anything that could be construed as positive attention when it's being annoying at night.

When in bed, try to ignore the cat — don't pet it, get up to feed it or even speak or yell at it.

Things to try instead can be a squirt gun or spray bottle. A brief burst of compressed air — from canisters such as those used for dusting computers and camera lenses — also can dissuade a cat from its bad behaviors.

If none of this works, the pet owner can change their behavior.

Ear plugs can be worn, music can be played softly or a fan can be turned on to muffle the sound of a feline's forays through the house.

With any or all approaches chosen to address a cat's midnight mania, be sure to be consistent. Losing resolve and giving in only prolongs the problem.

Most cats will eventually take the hint — or in the case of kittens, will outgrow the problem — at which point everyone can get a good night's sleep.

Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at

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