Has your started waking you up early and often? That was the problem faced by a reader, and I teamed up with my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to respond.
Q: Our 11-year-old male cat has some new behaviors. He used to sleep at the foot of our bed, but now he cuddles, purrs and sleeps with me. At about 4 a.m., he starts walking around the bed, meowing and nibbling on my fingers and chewing on my husband’s hair. If we shut him out of our room, he cries and paws at the door relentlessly. I don’t mind having him in the room until the nibbling and meowing start. Is the nibbling an alpha behavior?
A: It’s great that your cat is so affectionate, but I can certainly see how the early-morning attention could get old — fast! The nibbling isn’t alpha behavior, because that’s not a concept that applies to cats (or to dogs, for that matter). Your cat does want your attention, whether it’s because he wants to eat breakfast — now! — or because to him it seems like a good time for some interaction.
The other possibility is that his behavior is changing because he is showing early signs of dementia.
As with any change in behavior, we recommend taking your cat in for a veterinary exam to rule out underlying health problems. Sometimes being obnoxious is the only way cats have to tell us that they’re not feeling well.
If your cat gets a clean bill of health, he may simply be ready for breakfast at that time of the morning. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. Your cat’s body clock may be telling him that it’s time to eat. To ensure uninterrupted sleep for yourself, try purchasing a feeder with a timer. You can set it to go off just before the time your cat normally wakes you. If you feed canned food, look for a feeder with an ice pack to keep food chilled.
Read more, including the top 10 reasons to take your pet to the ER vet, in this week’s Pet Connection!