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Night-meows and door scratching...desperate for advice!

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by nienna, Jun 13, 2017.


  1. nienna

    nienna PetForums Newbie

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    Hi all,

    Really hoping someone can help me!

    In mid-April, I adopted a rescue cat. She’s a year and a few months old, and is a real people cat – she loves being around you, and always wants to interact. She used to be quite clingy, but has calmed down over the past couple of months.

    She’s perfect in every way apart from one: she will not stop meowing and scratching the door at night.

    She sleeps in the sitting room at night, with her food, water, bed, toys and litter tray. But she really wants to sleep with us.

    The sitting room is at the other end of the flat, but we still hear her. She starts any time between 2am and 4.30am and keeps at it intermittently – every half hour or so – until we get up. We have NEVER rewarded her behaviour by opening the door / going in to see her / even talking to her through the door, but she still persists.

    I’ve tried everything I can think of, including:

    · Routine - putting her ‘to bed’ every night at the same time, feeding her dinner at the same time, letting her out in the garden and back in at the same time, but that doesn’t seem to help with the night meowing

    · Feeding her a big meal just before sleep

    · Crazy play sessions half an hour before sleep, with chill out afterwards

    · Hours running around in the garden climbing trees in the evening

    · Feliway diffuser

    · Sticky paws tape on the door and SSScat (in this case she just meows instead of scratching, which is just as bad)

    · Letting her sleep in the bed with me (tried this for one night soon after we got her, before we got her into her routine – she was good but still woke me up by climbing on me etc.)

    · Putting ‘cat tv’ on for her

    She doesn’t want food / play / to be let outside: she just wants to be with us.

    I don’t understand why, when we’ve never rewarded her behaviour, she’s still going! Is she just very stubborn, so will take longer to give up? Or is there something else we can try?

    Honestly, I’m at my wits’ end – she’s lovely but I need my sleep!
     
  2. Paddypaws

    Paddypaws PetForums VIP

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    I am afraid I lost this particular battle many years ago after my Nellie decided that she was NOT going to settle for anything other than full bedroom access.
    Thankfully she, and all the others who have followed on from her, soon settled in to sleep peacefully through the night and nowadays I actually struggle to sleep without a cat or two sharing my space.
     
  3. nienna

    nienna PetForums Newbie

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    Thanks for your reply, Paddypaws :)
    Oof...how long did you hold out for? Do you think she'd just keep going every night, indefinitely - regardless of me not reacting? :Arghh

    I'd be willing to give it another try, but not sure my boyfriend would be so keen...
     
  4. Paddypaws

    Paddypaws PetForums VIP

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    It is over 20 years ago so can't remember how long she took to train us.
    In Nellie's case, she seemed to develop a flea bite allergy and ripped huge lumps out of herself. She was in a real state so I started bringing her to bed with us so I could monitor her and stop her tearing at her wounds in the night.
    The first 'morning after' we woke up 3 in a row with Nellie spooned in the middle of us. She never left the bed again!
     
  5. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hello @nienna - it is only a month or so since you adopted your cat and therefore she is still settling in.

    As you say she was very clingy at first, so she is evidently quite a nervous, anxious girl who lacks a bit of self-confidence. Do you know anything of her history (from the Rescue)? It is possible she was abandoned or left on her own a lot by the previous owner. Also she may have been taken away from her mum too young.

    It sounds as though she suffers separation anxiety when you leave her shut in her own room at night. You may need to introduce the separate sleeping more gradually, so that your cat's anxiety levels are not so raised. I would establish a bedtime routine for her that starts half an hour before lights out. Start by giving her one to one attention, either a game or a mini grooming session (if she allows grooming).

    Then get her room ready with water bowl, litter trays, cosy bed placed off the floor, and lastly a tasty wet food supper. Turn off the TV and put the radio on low on a soothing classical music station (Classic FM is good at night). Sit quietly with her, ignoring her while she eats her supper, and then continue to sit with her and ignore her whilst she grooms herself ready for sleep. Then when you are sure she is settled for sleep, quietly leave the room without speaking to her or looking at her and close the door. Then go to bed and close your bedroom door.

    Cats are at their most wakeful and active at dawn and dusk, the times when they would do most of their hunting. So make sure the room in which your cat sleeps has blackout linings to the curtains or blinds, so she will less likely to wake at dawn. Also consider leaving her some wet food in an autofeeder timed to open at say 4.30 am. If she is awake and hungry she will eat the food, if she is sleepy she won't bother with the food. Play it by ear.

    As she is quite a needy cat, you may need to make a short term sacrifice by spending a few nights sleeping with her in her night room. This is to establish the new routine and to reassure her she is safe. If she does disturb you in the night ignore her, pretend you are still asleep.

    If you do decide to allow her in your bedroom at night there will be no going back, and it would not be fair to shut her out of your bedroom at a later date.
     
  6. nienna

    nienna PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you very much for such a thoughtful reply, chillminx.

    Re her background, she comes from Romania, and was rescued by a lady at three and a bit months old. She was ill and losing weight, no matter how much they tried to treat her and feed her, so they decided to spay her - kill or cure. When they did, they found a dead kitten inside her -she'd got pregnant on the streets way too young and had miscarried. After she was spayed she got better quickly, and she's in fine fettle now!

    I suspect she must have left her mum too early too, as you say, because she has a habit of suckling on woolly fabric, poor thing. She did it a lot when we first got her, but does it a lot less now - I suppose she's calmed down a bit.

    Your routine components sound like a good idea - esp. the radio. I leave the radio on for her during the day, but hadn't overnight.

    I'll definitely give your routine a go, and am more than willing to sleep on the sofa for a few nights if it means she's not anxious and can happily sleep through the night.

    Sounds like it probably is separation anxiety - but why would she only start meowing halfway through the night, rather than as soon as she goes in her room?

    Thanks again for your advice!
     
    chillminx likes this.
  7. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    I think she may start meowing halfway through the night as that is when she is waking naturally. Then once awake she feels anxious.

    The time she tends to wake would be a good time to set the timed feeder to open. She may be able to start using a middle-of-the-night snack as a way of self-soothing so she can go back to sleep afterwards until you get up.

    It sounds as though she had a difficult start in life, bless her. That may be where the anxiety stems from. Wonderful that you have been able to adopt her and give her a loving, caring home. :)

    I think with her history she will need time to start feeling really safe. I have adopted cats who have taken a year to settle in.
     
  8. nienna

    nienna PetForums Newbie

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    Sorry for the late reply.

    The room she sleeps in has no curtains, so I've been waiting to order some portable black out blinds to put up, so I can at least get some sleep when I'm in there with her. They're arriving on Saturday, so I'll spend my first night with her in her room then.

    I've also ordered an automatic feeder, which arrives tomorrow.

    A couple of questions:
    - How will I know when it's time to leave her to sleep in her room without me again?
    - When she's meowing in the night, should I call out to her and tell her I'm still here? I never did this because I thought it was rewarding her behaviour, but I do it in the daytime when she's elsewhere in the flat and wants to know where I am.


    Wish us luck...we're at our wits' end and my boyfriend wants to get rid of her because she won't let him sleep :(
     
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