My Alarm Clock is Hungry

A common behavior problem that plagues my clients is best described as “the early morning wake up call”. Picture this scenario:

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You’re sound asleep and pushing some serious Z’s. Suddenly, your chest gets heavier by about seven pounds (if you’re lucky). You feel like someone or something is watching you.

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“Nah, its just a dream. I’ll just turnover and go back to sleep”. Then, the weight moves to your back. A faint purr, followed by a low toned mew is heard right next to your ear. And then….it happens. You get tapped on the face by a paw…again and again and again as the low mew becomes a demanding MEOW! What the *#!%!?!?!

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You open your eyes and notice that within inches of your face is your beloved best friend staring at you. It’s feeding time and you have no other option then to get up, get yourself together and crack open a can of cat food. You my friend, have been trained by the cutest alarm clock ever invented!

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Please pardon my puffy morning face! Oh, like you look like a beauty queen when you wake up?

As cute as this may sound to those of you who have well behaved cats that sleep in, it can be a total nightmare for those us humans who want to get a few extra hours of sleep in the morning. So, what do you do about it? Buy earplugs? Wrap yourself in a cocoon of blankets and pillows?

The first rule of the “early morning wake up call” is out-stubborning your cat. You absolutely have to ignore the cries for attention. Easier said then done? Not really. Its a matter of changing your cats routine around so that there is no reward to the behavior. Don’t feed your cat when you wake up! Switch the feeding time to the afternoon when you get home from work. Just getting out of bed at all is a reward to your cats cries for food. Your cat will try to up the ante each day to get you closer and closer to their goal. Sometimes even negative attention such as yelling can reinforce the behavior.

Be as active with your cat during the day as humanly possible. Your cat should be tired out before you go to bed. This means more than a few minutes of interactive play. Try to have 2+ interactive play-sessions a day. Give you cat a play session in the evening – try to squeeze in at least 10-15 minutes each time with the help of  a toy that keep your cat’s interest. The same old toy on the floor each night is totally boring. Switch things up a bit! Don’t forget to let your cat finish the hunt by killing the toy! Remember: Hunt-Catch-Kill-Eat. Polish off a rigorous play session with a meal.

Of course, you could lock the cat out of the room as well, but you are likely to have similar disturbances outside of the door. Try something aversive outside of the room, like sticky tape or an upside down carpet runner (with the nubby side up). You could also try a piece of cardboard on the floor with the sticky tape on it – which they will likely not want to sit on while they try to scratch at the door. Once again, DO NOT ANSWER THE CRIES FOR ATTENTION! If you follow these simple guidelines, a good night’s rest may be in your future.

(The cat pictured above is my former Sophisticat Matilda. She passed away a few years ago, but her legacy lives on. Best alarm clock ever!)

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Comments

  1. My cat nips at my face and arms to get me up, while the other starts knocking everything off my dresser. It’s like they are in on it together. It’s very frustrating (and painful!)

  2. William Gombita says:

    I get up at 6, looking much like the above photos, feed the cats, go back to bed until 7:15. Seems to work ok for all of us. I’m trainable, them, not so much.

  3. HAHAHAHAHA…..My Jackson sleeps with me. He comes to the living room at night & tells me it’s time for bed NOW! And he does exactly what this describes in the morning. But when I feel that sweet paw on my face first I just melt. Then I think “AHHHHHH, KITTY LITTER” & I’m up like a shot. LOL

  4. My cat used to do this to me. I ended up buying an auto feeder to stop the annoyance. The only trick was teaching him to associate the sound of the feeder with food as opposed to me being the feeder. It took a few days, but he no longer hassled me.

  5. Ellie McCaffrey says:

    How about getting an automatic feeder.

  6. Ha ha 5:00 every morning my bengal/ manx mix comes and cries at me “mama” (I taught her to say it) and then precedes to give me my daily facial lol. I roll over and after about 10 mins she will just curl up around my arm and go back to sleep. I believe her other owners must have been early morning people. (we adopted her from the humane society)

  7. If the door is closed, Zamboni likes to “body slam” the door till it pops open and then takes over my side of the bed and my pillow.

    • Mine too. If I take too long attending to bathroom duties, before i hit the kitchen, she body slams that door as well. My hairy alarm clock is very persistant, doesn’t take into account weekends, holidays and late nights. Howevere, she does know when I am sick Mostly, she wants her snack, an she wants it now! She has it down to the minute…she is very smart! Good job I love her to death…she is 23!

      • cherie gibbs says:

        Hi Annette i can’t believe you have a 23 year old Cat, that is incredible, and you are so lucky to have had your best friend for all
        those years.
        My Cats do the door banging, i tried all deterrents, and it just wasn’t worth the noise, who knows what the neighbours would think, lol.
        One morning Tigger jumped on my chest, practically winding me, but once i am awake , i can’t go back to sleep, and we play Pirates,
        every evening, i growl Arghhh, and he growls back, running under the mats.
        They are hilarious, we are blessed aren’t we to have beautiful furbabies.

  8. I get shovel nosing, and if that doesn’t work, he starts clawing the wall or making some other noise until I get up.

  9. I had two cats, two doors and a dry cat food dispenser: The Rottweiler would guard one door and whichever was free, the cats would use. Two times a day, I would feed canned food split between two bowls. Never had any problems and my cats were always attentive and fun. My work had me in the Bahamas and fishing in my spare time so I brought home a lot of tuna and mahi: this was an incredible treat and the plate / bowl was always cleaned spotless whereas cat food would always be left sticking to the plates.

  10. I love this. Out-stubborning my talkative friend has been difficult, and continues to be so on a daily basis. He loves to chatter in the morning, and he’ll experiment with different noises and volumes to wake us up. We simply don’t give in (sometimes it takes half an hour or more!), and eventually he falls asleep and stays at my feet until we’re ready for the day. It’s getting better week by week. šŸ™‚

  11. Do you have any suggestions for more advanced ways to tire a cat out? we have one cat who has ENDLESS energy. We’ll use a Cat Catcher or something like it to get her jumping and flipping and running until she’s breathing really hard and laying down on her side exhausted (she rarely pants but she’s obviously working hard), for about 20 minutes at a time… after about 5 minutes of rest, she’s back for more. this can go on for over an hour at a time, but we also play with her to expend her energy several other times throughout the day. (We estimate she’s getting 2 hours of hard play each day!) She’s got ENDLESS energy. We’ve made foraging toys so she has to work for her kibble (and gets wet food each evening as well), we’ve gotten interactive toys, but she really loves to run and jump after things. all we’re doing is building up her stamina! Do you have any specific energy-consuming toy or activity suggestions, by any chance? i’m at a loss!

    • Get her a pal from a shelter that is used to other cats. It is great fun to watch them entertain each other. It usually takes a few weeks.

      • we have three cats total! one doesn’t play much at all, but the other will run and play with the little “Felinestein” but gets tired after awhile and then our rambunctious cat is out looking for trouble again. I should clarify that we (the humans) play with her for a good two hours, but she’s got plenty of time to play with her BFF, plus cat toys, windows for bird watching, lots of shelves and 3 condos for climbing, and foraging toys to play for kibble when she’s in the mood. i’m at a loss. we switched them all to a healthier gluten-free and corn-free a little over a year ago, and she found this energy she didn’t know she had! She’s always been energetic and determined (she can open windows with the cranks), but now she’s got endless energy! i don’t know how she doesn’t sleep more like other cats I’ve had… the sleep she does get must be REALLY restful. šŸ™‚

  12. Teri Mills says:

    I foster kittens for our local shelter, and all 11 of them (including my own Baxter and Kurt) wait patiently until the alarm goes off. Then they all chime in and jump on the bed and generally things are chaotic until I get out of bed and feed them. On weekends Baxter’s internal alarm goes off and he starts with mama as well. If I roll over and ignore him, he licks my eyelids open.

  13. Since I work and feed them raw feeding way, I am not able to set up routine or automatic food dispenser. I feed my cat twice a day, before work and after work. Somewhere I along the way I brush their teeth, groom, pet them, play and works for me, my cat and crazy work schedule. If by any chance they bother me in the morning to get up (once in a blue moon) to feed them, I don’t. My cat get away with a lot of things because they are cats and they are my babies but not everything.

  14. kimg in sd says:

    My cat paws at my face, meows, then scratches at the blanket, putting holes into it. I try to pull the covers over my head. He still paws where my face is on the blanket. I turn my back to him, and he paws my hair so it feels like hes pulling it…. halp!!!

  15. This kitty looks exactly like my Dolly!! But She’s not my alarm clock, my Scooby Doo is! He’s not a dog, tho at times he thinks he is.. He’ll at least wait till about 7 or 8 to wake me. It’s not to be fed, it is to be let outside! He sits on my chest, paws me till I respond, then he’ll meow softly a couple of times to make sure I’m awake, then he jumps down and leads me to the back door, just like a dog!! He’s outside trained, he still uses the litter box but he prefers to go outside. He’s a very smart Ocicat mix!! I just love him!! He’s my puppy in cat’s clothing!! LOL!!!

  16. Yeah, My Bailey ( Turkish Van) does nothing of the sort. But, by the time im out of bed, you can be assured she is waiting by the coffee pot, watches me hit the on button, then starts her meows waiting for her morning treat.

  17. On mornings I want to sleep in my four cats will allow an additional hour, but that’s it. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for the cats waking me up in the morning I can’t tell you how many times I would have been late for work.

  18. iam not sure this will solve my problem kitkat get me up by hitting down the lamp and causing troubles and crying like a starving cat, my bf needs to sleep he works 4-12pm so i cant let himcry while iam getting ready for work so i have to feed him,it has goten worse with this little tiny bit of canned food mixed with his crunchy any ideas??? he is a orange tabby about 9-10 yrs old i love him so but i have not slept good in weeks, thank you chi myers of ft myers

  19. Kymm Magnusson says:

    My cat Thor is free fed, but his morning wake up plus half the night sometimes are due to wanting a treat. he will pester me first then threaten to go to my husband if i ignore him. he will scratch under hubby’s arm till he wakes up. Thor will keep at him till he gets out of bed. he wont loc him out because he will just sit and scream until hubby gets up. He isnt very good at ignoring and going back to sleep..

  20. Ha! That’s nothing – I have a cat that pages all of the phones in the house at 3:30am! Sometimes the stinker will hit the nap button on the alarm or change the wake up time! He will even throw the phone at me while I am sleeping. (no easy feat) Why, you ask? Not for food but a drink from the tub faucet!

  21. my cat is 19 and that is how she wakes me up every morning. At her age she get’s to do pretty much what she wants.

  22. What about cats are not fed only once a day? Aren’t we supposed to feed our cats a few times a day?

  23. Rita Stanley says:

    One of my cats wants a little chow early in the am. I keep a little covered bowl with his normal kitty chow on my nightstand that I put on the floor when he meows from 4 am and later. It’s just a little reach for me, and then I am back asleep. He knows he can ONLY have it at 4am, no earlier, no matter what. He’s learned he gets his little treat at the right time, and that’s that. The others may come by, too, and sample it, too. Seems to keep the peace.

  24. i used to sleep wit a mosquito net on, and my cats (i had 4 of them) used to sleep on top of it, not inside it. but they started to chew their way in thru d net šŸ™‚ so i gave up and left it open at d side. so in d mornings, they used to climb onto my bed thru d net and one of d cats in particular, he used to wake me up by first v.lightly biting my toes thru d net šŸ™‚ (it didnt hurt, just tickled abit!), then he would climb in thru d net and climb onto my chest and sit looking at my face and meowing softly and lightly biting my chin or my nose šŸ™‚ he didnt get impatient if i didnt wake up, he just seemed to love staring at my face like he was so fascinated by it for some reason – maybe he wldve been thinking “why is she furless & whiskerless like me “, i dunno šŸ™‚ but i just totally used to love to wake up to that when d first thing when u open ur eyes is his black face (he was totally black colour) and his soft purrs & meows & biting my chin, it used to make me laugh so much when i wake up. he passed away at 3 years old though šŸ˜¦ i miss him.

  25. I have a black cat called Hades who is an absolute devil in the morning. He will meow piteously for about half an hour. He throws books off the bedside table. He climbs up on top of the wardrobes and throws off the boxes. And when he’s really desperate (because I always refuse to get up) he bites the other cat till the other cat cries. My mother undoes all my good (but no so effective) work when she comes to stay – she can’t stand him sitting staring at her with his big yellow eyes meowing loudly – so she feeds him. I’m waiting for him to calm down after his 2nd birthday…

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