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Technician's Corner: Getting Along with an Early Riser

I don’t know about you, but I sure do love sharing my home with a precocious feline! She is quite a love, rolling around on the counter demanding attention anytime company comes over. She just can’t get enough chin scratching and lower back scratching! When I first brought Millie into my life, however, there was one thing that she did that really tested my patience level...she would repeatedly wake me up at 5am or earlier on my day off to demand breakfast.

I adopted Millie when she was 3 years old, so she was already pretty set in her ways. Still, I knew I had to do something to stop the madness! I started with all the usual tricks. First, I tried what all of us have probably resorted to at some point: closing the bedroom door to keep her out. Unfortunately for me and for my cat, that only made the problem worse, resulting in an even louder kitty alarm clock and several days spent waking up to the loud cries of, “MEOW, MEOW, MEOOOOOOW!” right outside my bedroom door. I obviously needed to move on to plan B, so I started giving her a snack just before bedtime in hopes that it would hold her over until later in the morning. Even that plan was not meant to be, though. It backfired, too, resulting in a cat who was not only still demanding breakfast in the wee hours of the morning, but also was bothering me about an hour before bedtime for her evening snack! Yikes! I was at my wits end, and was nearly out of ideas. 

If you are the lucky servant of a cat like this, don't worry. All hope is not lost! I did eventually find a routine that worked for me and for my cat, proving that there just might be a way to make your mornings a bit more peaceful.

First and foremost, don’t give in and get up to feed the morning cat monster!

Giving in will only encourage your feline friend to continue bothering you every morning. If you stop giving in (this may require ear plugs and will require A LOT of patience), your cat will eventually give up. Unfortunately for the human occupants of the house, though, the key word here is eventually. The determination of your cat will determine how long it takes for them to give up, and for some folks, this may not be an option. Maybe the cat wakes up the baby, the young children, a spouse with a sleeping disorder or someone who does not have the patience to try this method. If this is the case in your house, I understand! Even on my best days, I didn’t have the willpower to use this method either, but fear not my fellow cat guardian. There is still hope!

Consider trying an automatic feeder instead

When all else failed, getting an automatic feeder was a total lifesaver. I thank the universe for this invention every day. Every single day at 6am and 6pm it spits out ¼ cup of the priceless kibbles that my cat so desires. My alarm goes off at 6:30am, and I wake up to a fully satisfied, happy little cat purring on the pillow next to me, or even downstairs on the couch stretching out to digest her happy belly full of crunchies.

Even with the automatic feeder, this change in routine did not happen overnight. It took me a few weeks to discover all the kinks in my plan and get them worked out. At first Millie was trying to get her little paws up inside the feeder to pull out more kibbles, and she did push it off the counter a couple times in the process. Luckily it is quite durable! The most obvious solution would be to place the feeder on the floor, but this wasn't an option in my house since my cat shares her residence with a fairly sizable dog. Given the opportunity, the dog would gladly help her knock it over, and his big labrador paws are much more destructive than her little kitty paws. Instead, I solved this problem by putting it on the lower shelf of my kitchen cart. There is a guard rail that keeps it from being pushed off the shelf, and it’s secure enough that even the dog can’t knock it over. The feeder holds about 5lbs of kibble, and can dispense food up to three times a day. My kitty has a bit of a weight problem, so she only gets two meals a day, but she is happy with the system none the less!

Depending on your home's specific needs, you might need to modify the plan accordingly. For example, if you live in a household with two cats who share food well, the automatic feeder method is still an easy possibility, since you can simply set the feeder to dispense a larger amount. If your cats don't share food well, you might need to purchase two separate feeders and set them to dispense food at the same time in different rooms of the house. Start by separating the cats into those respective rooms with their feeders for a couple nights so that they figure out where their feeder is and when it will shoot out that morning meal. Once they know where to go, they will not need to be restricted to those areas overnight anymore! 

Reset the clock with nighttime entertainment

In addition to predictable mealtimes (which require no human intervention), the other thing that has helped reduce my cat's morning energy level is enticing her to hunt and play at night. Most cats (even those who prefer to lounge around) will have a favorite toy or two that they love to chase. If you don't know what your cat likes, try a variety! Laser pointers, "cat dancers," plush toys, catnip crinkle toys...the options are numerous! My cat prefers a couple of classic "cat dancer" style toys: one is a long piece of brightly colored fleece attached to a small plastic handle, and the other is a small clump of brightly colored feathers attached to a long string on the end of a long plastic handle. I entice her to chase them by moving them constantly, sometimes slower, then a bit faster like a little mouse, or up through the air like a bird! To keep her playing longer, when she catches the toy I give her a small treat (like a single crunchy greenie treat), and then I pull the toy away from her claws and we’re off again! With a little encouragement, she’s quite an intense huntress! I try to keep her interested and moving around for about 10-15 minutes, and have found that this makes a big impact in resetting her internal clock and keeping her morning energy level in check. 

These two simple fixes—tiring my cat out in the evening with vigorous play, and using the automatic feeder for meals—have significantly improved my quality of life and made it possible to live in harmony with my cat. I don’t resent her for waking me up anymore, and my day isn’t off to a sour start by being woken up before my alarm goes off every morning. Mildred my little grey cat is quite happy too. She knows exactly when her meals are coming and they are never late, even if I’m held up at work, or if I want to sleep in on a Saturday!

 

I hope that this helps you improve your morning relationship with your feline friend, and allows you to get the much needed rest you deserve!

- Abby, Technician Team Leader