I have always been a good sleeper. Eight hours easily. Not anymore.
My 16 year old Maine Coon cat has decided to meow in my face at least 3 times during the night. With my sleep interrupted so often, I find myself tired during the day. And, I’ve lost my husband. More about that later.
This is new behavior for my cat, so I did what any addicted internet surfer would do. I checked out websites, blogs and chat forums for hours.
First, all of the sites agree that a physical exam is the first step. I took Ms. Blue (who was named for her grey color which for some reason is called blue by cat people) to the cat vet. $400 later I got the good news that everything checked out perfectly, except for her high blood pressure. Of course, the fact that she relentlessly hissed, lunged and clawed at the vet and her assistant probably accounted for that spike. The vet happily reported that Blue could live many more years.
So, she has no obvious physical ailments.
Next, the sites say that hearing problems could be causing her to vocalize more loudly than normal. There are apparently expensive tests for hearing loss, but cat hearing aids aren’t an option as far as I know. I can’t rule hearing loss out, but there’s no solution anyway.
What about senior dementia? Just like people, aging cats can get confused and might be signaling this confusion during the wee hours of the morning. Cats can’t be asked to name the month, day and year, or the current president’s name or to count backward from 10. So, I can’t rule dementia out either, although I haven’t noticed her wandering aimlessly or losing stuff.
And then there is the possibility that in her old age, she just wants more attention. This one is the most likely, in my opinion. She definitely hangs around me more. And she begs for her Temptations treats every night before I go to bed, a practice I started several years ago when I thought it was cute. Yes, it’s possible that her middle of the night meows are for treats (which I never give her), but I don’t think so.
I think she wants to be petted. If I touch her, she settles down.
But the websites agree … DON’T DO IT! You’re reinforcing the behavior by rewarding her, they say. Ignore her, they say. Only pet her when she is quiet during the day, they say. And, don’t scold her, knock her off the bed or swat her either. She could decide that any kind of attention is good attention and come back for more.
So, what else is recommended?
- Feed her a meal before bedtime since a full stomach might make her sleepy. (I’m trying that one, but so far it’s not working.)
- Play with her during the day, and then again right before bedtime, to tire her out. Sounds promising, but at 16 years of age she has no interest whatsoever in cat toys. If I bounce a fake mouse on a string in front of her nose, she might deign to swat it twice. Then she puts her head back down and goes to sleep. It tires me out trying to tire her out. And yes, she sleeps all day so that she can be awake enough to keep me awake at night.
- And, finally, add a second cat to the family so that they can play with each other and leave you alone. They’ve got to be kidding! If Ms. Blue didn’t immediately kill the other cat, the thought of them frolicking together in the house during the night is scary. Wouldn’t I be exchanging one problem for another?
So, what can I do? My husband – after threatening to move into the guest room several times because of his interrupted sleep – actually moved last night. “I have to get up early for a meeting and don’t want to be tired”, he said. He was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning, which I was not. I’m taking bets on whether he’ll move back into our room tonight.
What is his solution? Put her in a big cage with her litter box, food and treats and place it in the furthest reaches of the house, far away from our bedroom. Then let her meow all night if she wants.
Did I mention that he’s a dog person?
I told him that I hope I don’t start wandering aimlessly or losing things. Maybe I should be checking to see if he is doing any online shopping for extra large cages.
P.S. Seriously, I’m open to all suggestions!
P.S.S. During my internet surfing, I spotted a YouTube video that I used to think was funny. Enjoy … or not.