Cat Scratching Walls At Night To Wake Me Up

wahine01

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Hi all, my 7 month old cat has started scratching the walls at night to wake us up and it's driving us crazy. He'll do it around midnight, 3am, 4am or sometimes all three! I don't know why he started doing this but it needs to stop. We are renting the house we live in and I'm terrified we'll be charged to repaint the whole house when we eventually move out!

I'm not sure why he started doing this, for a couple of months he would sleep through the night or if he woke up would just go entertain himself, eat some dry food, use the litter box then go back to bed. Then he ripped a big hole in the bottom of our bed and climbed inside, this upset me but at least it's our own property and not the landlords. Lately he's just started scratching the walls, making that awful nails down a chalkboard sound. We try to ignore him but eventually I have to do something, and at 3am it's not positive attention! Generally I bang on the wall really hard which makes him stop for about a minute. This repeats a few times until he eventually stops. One night I got so angry that I locked him in his carrier for 10 minutes, he calmed down until around 5am. Spraying the walls with citrus scented spray seems to work for one night but the smells makes me feel ill, I also have to spray every single wall every night!

We play with him and feed him before bed, he has lots of toys left out too. He's desexed as well. He's a mainly indoor cat but we do spend some time outside each evening with a harness and lead, just to enrich his environment.

When we first got him we shut him out of the room and he was fine. I started leaving the bedroom door open over autumn/winter as our ducted heating doesn't work in the bedroom so I have to leave to door open to keep the room warm. He was fine sleeping on the bed for a couple of months then this destructive behaviour started. If we try to shut him out now I'm afraid he'll leave deep claw marks in the walls and doors! Please help, we need sleep and we need to save our house!
 
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wahine01

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My 7 month old, desexed, male cat Pebble has started scratching the walls at night to get our attention. He's also ripped a big hole in the bottom of our bed and climbs inside. This doesn't worry me as much as the bed is ours but the walls do worry me as we rent our house and we are liable to pay for any damage caused when we eventually move out.

We try ignoring him but he won't stop until one of us gives a reaction. Usually it's me banging on the wall really hard. This stops him for about a minute then he'll go another nails down the chalkboard drawn out scratch. Bang on the wall. Repeat process until he gets bored of that. I know giving a reaction is the wrong thing to do but I'm really scared about him leaving big deep claw marks in the wall, even with trimmed claws this can happen.

Sometimes spraying the wall with citrus spray works but the smell can make me feel ill. I also need to spray every wall every single night.

Wen used to shut him out of our room when we first got him but the heating in our room doesn't work, now that it's colder we need to leave to door open to keep the room warm. The scratching and clawing only started a few weeks ago, before that he would entertain himself if he woke up in the night.

Please help, we need sleep, need to stop this destructive attention seeking behaviour and need to save our house!
 

orange&white

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Worst case scenario: You may need to buy a few gallons of paint before you move out to get your deposit back (or figure a lost deposit is just part of the cost of cat ownership divided by the number of months you live there). OK, so that's the worst that can happen. Now for potential solutions.

You're cat is entering the terrible teenage years, which means that for the next several months, he may act like an alien from another planet...but then he'll calm down into a wonderful adult.

You say you're already playing with him a lot and feeding him before bed...so you're already doing what most people would recommend first. Sounds like you need a crafty way to protect the walls with some type of covering.

Cheap and easy: Place cat scratching posts close to the places he has chosen to scratch and try to redirect by rubbing cat nip or using cat nip spray on the posts. Your mileage may vary on effectiveness.

Not as cheap but easy and maybe more effective: See if a local carpet company has "close out" carpet remnants that you can have for free or purchase cheaply. Thumb tack those along the walls. Now you may be looking at purchasing a small jar of putty to cover tack holes and a tiny can of matching paint, but the cat cannot destroy the wall texture as well as the paint. Even really inexpensive blankets might work instead of carpet.

Not sure on cost: There is a double-sticky sided product sold in large squares. Other members may have experience with this and can tell you if the "sticky" part might damage the wall, but apparently cats don't like to touch sticky stuff. Another thing some cats don't like: tin foil.

He will outgrow this phase, but it will take a few months. They all go through it to a greater or lesser degree.
 
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wahine01

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Thanks for your reply.

We have scratching posts in each room already, he climbs up on top of them to get to the wall!

Fixing anything to the walls (carpet, tape etc) isn't really an option, we are not allowed to do this as part of our lease and we have inspections every 6 months so even if I did it on the sly I would need to take it all down and cover any evidence before the inspection. I even had to get the landlords permission to put up a couple of framed posters with those 3M stick on hooks, but we were warned we have to pay for any damage they might cause to the walls.

Is there any way I can address the behaviour other than attaching a bunch of stuff to every inch of wall in the house that he can reach (he doesn't go for particular spots, just where he can reach)?
 

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If the cat is scratching the walls in another room, it isn't to wake you up. He either is chasing something like light or shadows on the wall or he just likes the feel of drywall on his claws. When he was able to sleep in your room was he scratching at the bedroom walls or what other destructive behavior was he exhibiting?
 
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wahine01

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We have a narrow house so I think when he's scratching the wall in the living room or hall which are just next to our bedroom it is to get attention.

Do you mean when we wasn't allowed in our room was he destructive? He's been allowed in our room since April and is still allowed in there. He wasn't destructive when we wasn't allowed in our room, he was only 3 & 4 months old at that stage, he also wasn't destructive when we started letting him in our room. He tried to sleep on our heads/pillows for a while but got sick of that when I started laying my head (gently) on him when he would try it with me. We find a bit of "over loving" helps with some of his attention seeking, such as laying my head on him, or holding him for a long time kind of tightly when he's meowing a lot. Apart from the wall scratching he has ripped the hole in our bed, scratches the carpet (not such a big deal) and during the day he can go through phases of meowing a lot of jumping up on the counter.
 

susanm9006

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If he is still allowed in your room then he isn't scratching to wake you up. I would suggest getting up when you hear him and checking to see where he is and exactly what he is doing. Kittens really don't simply sit and scratch, so there has to be something he is playing with or chasing or trying to get. If you can figure it out you may be able to redirect his play to a better spot.
 
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wahine01

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He meows and looks in our direction when he's scratching the wall, like he knows it's wrong and will get a reaction (which it does because I've been woken from a deep sleep and sometimes just jump up due to getting a fright from the noise of the scratching).
 

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You could try those Soft Paw claw covers. Personally, I hate the things as they look like they could possibly damage the cat's claws/paws, but they might work as a temporary solution...he might not enjoy scratching (anything) with them on.
 

susanm9006

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Sorry, but kittens just do not have the ability to judge whether their actions are right or wrong or to estimate what the impact of those actions have on their human who is in another room sleeping. Some very smart adult cats might to some extent but not a kitten.
 
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wahine01

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Sorry, but kittens just do not have the ability to judge whether their actions are right or wrong or to estimate what the impact of those actions have on their human who is in another room sleeping. Some very smart adult cats might to some extent but not a kitten.
Either way I'm quite sure he's doing it for attention, there's never anything in the room or on the walls when I have got up to see why he's scratching.
 
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wahine01

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When he is scratching it's usually when he's tearing around the house like a lunatic, jumping from couch to couch or just running up and down the hall, I think he's trying to entice us out to play. How do we teach him that 11pm, or 3am or 4:15am or all 3 aren't playtime for us?
 

orange&white

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The cat crazies, or "zoomies" (running, meowing, scratching) in the middle of the night is very typical during the adolescent phase. He is testing boundaries, mostly his boundaries. Whether he is intentionally testing your boundaries, no one knows.

When I adopted another kitten this year, I thought "Do I really want to go through that again???" That being the 4-8 months of teenage adolescent mutant-ninja cat where they drive you crazy, and yes...some things get broken/destroyed. More or less with different cats.

For the next few months, your fine sense of humor will be your best friend while you chant "This too shall pass. This too shall pass."...because it will, and he'll calm down and stop being a night terror. You can also tell him repeatedly, "It's a good thing you're so cute."

I would also talk to the landlord about temporarily hanging blankets or carpet remnants on the wall (say 4-6 months), and explain that you're wanting to do that to protect, not damage, his property.
 

susanm9006

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Again, his wild playing isn't to wake you or entice you to play. He isn't being naughty, he is just being a cat. If he were home all alone, he would be doing the same thing because most cats and especially kittens don't sleep through the night and usually get up and play at some point. Just this morning at 4:30 my seven year old cat who barely moves during the day was up running wind sprints in the hallway and howling at her imaginary playmates.

You can try to rewire his sleep play circuit a bit by playing with him in the evening so he is ready to sleep at your bedtime but he is still likely to be up and playing crazily at some point before morning.
 

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For the next few months, your fine sense of humor will be your best friend while you chant "This too shall pass. This too shall pass."...because it will, and he'll calm down and stop being a night terror. You can also tell him repeatedly, "It's a good thing you're so cute."
Oh my God! If I ever had a dollar for every time I say those exact same mantras!
 

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Again, his wild playing isn't to wake you or entice you to play. He isn't being naughty, he is just being a cat.
I'm sorry but I disagree. Bruce pounces on us or bites our toes in the middle of the night. Half the times when we wake up there's a toy on the bed... He wants to play fetch!

So I believe they realise some actions have some results, like scratching the wall will wake my human. And maybe, just maybe he will give me some attention. Even if it's not positive attention or play time.
 

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[QUOTE="So I believe they realise some actions have some results, like scratching the wall will wake my human. And maybe, just maybe he will give me some attention. Even if it's not positive attention or play time.[/QUOTE]

I agree with Madzoya. I have a high-energy two-year-old and she definitely scratches at the wall (or jumps up and pushes framed paintings around) to get attention. Any attention. I believe it is pent-up energy and she needs to expend it--she just hopes that it will cause me to stop what I'm doing and hang out with her for a little fun. I notice that when I give her lots and lots of playtime, the behavior stops. When she does scratch the walls, I pick her up and move her away from the wall but I don't play with her at that point because I don't want her to associate scratching with a reward.

My guess is that your cat is doing it in the middle of the night because of this pent up energy and need for attention. I think in a cat as young as yours, he'll hopefully outgrow the middle of the night sessions. See if you can add 5 more minutes to playtime before you go to bed. Sounds like you have a frisky kitten. Kittens have more energy than we can imagine!!!! Good luck
 

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I'm so sorry it's taken so long for you to get a reply. sorry-apology-smiley-emoticon.gif I'm not sure how your post was overlooked for so long. :paperbag:

You've already tried one of the possibilities that I was going to suggest - spraying the wall with citrus. That's not going to work if you have to spray it every night, much less if the smell makes you sick!

Have you considered getting your boy a wall-hung scratching post? It's true it involves putting hardware into the wall but filling a few holes would be worth it if it meant you could get a decent night's sleep. Although I do understand that this is more of an attention getting behavior than a need for a scratcher, something like this might help. (Please forgive me for using a U.S. source -this is just to give you an idea of what I mean.)

71cAqhxxP7L._SL1500_.jpg

My cats also scratch the walls sometimes when they are bored but since I hung a scratcher on the wall, they don't scratch the walls as often as before.

Another thing you might try is to get him a puzzle feeder. There are many different types on the market but one that I've found very helpful is the Catit Senses Food Tree. I don't know if this particular one is available in Australia but there is probably something like it out there.

41pYhmBP07L._AC_US218_.jpg
One way to get your cat to sleep through the night is to wear him out with a good play session right before bedtime. A wand toy is one of the best ways to do this, something like Da Bird is irrestible to many cats.

You'll find a lot more information and ideas in this article: How To Stop My Cat From Waking Me Up At Night?

I hope you are able to resolve the problem quickly. :sleepycat: You really have my sympathy since I've spent my fair share of sleep deprived days and they were utterly miserable! :hugs:
 

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You could place stuff on the floor that he doesn't like so he can't get to the wall. They sell pads that deter cats, but for this much space, you may want to see if you could come up with a home remedy. Trick would be to create a tactile feeling he doesn't like and place it around the perimeter.
 

sargon

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I'll second the idea of a scratching post by the wall. If you can't hang one, a large post one like an "ultimate scratching post" up against a wall should help a lot.

One other possibility is to go the other way. instead of a repellent, you might try using a Feliawy diffuser at night. One reason cats scratch is to reduce anxiety, and it may be that your cat gets anxious when you are asleep leading to the behavior.

Like others, I suspect the main issue is probably boredom, though, especially given your cat's age. In that case, a toy that can be played with may help. if you don't have one, a "Bergan Turbo Scratcher" is fairly popular and affordable (it even includes a scratching pad as part of the toy)

 
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