Changing early morning habits

Mark Kirkland

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Hi everyone,

I'm here at a point of desperation looking for advice on my beautiful little cat Cosy, who I adopted in the middle of March this year and absolutely adore. I've never had a cat before and she's really special to me, however.... we have a problem and I can't find the solution.

She's an 18 year old domestic short-hair whose previous owner sadly died. She lived with another older cat and the adoption agency said they barely acknowledged each other so felt she was fine being adopted alone. She was also adopted as an indoor cat. She's in good health for her age, a slight heart murmer however around two weeks ago was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and is now taking medication twice a day.

She was described as quiet and contented when I got her, and that's mostly true however my issue is early mornings. My flat is largely open plan, with open plan kitchen and living room and a mezzanine bedroom overlooking both - so it's one big open space. Basically.... noise carries through the whole place.

When she first arrived, she slept under my bed however would waken me at 5am so after a few days I decided to draw a firm line that she had to sleep downstairs. This was a disaster, I held the line for about three weeks however from 3am till 8am she yowled... loudly. It took me to breaking point and I gave in and she's now got full access to the bedroom. She's in and out of it all day and sleeps quite contently on my bed each night however if she leaves the room for any reason, she yowls downstairs for hours and hours - this happens ever morning about 4am. If I get up for any reason, she'll see it as a chance to rush upstairs back into the bedroom. It's like she doesn't understand that the door is always open for her even when I'm in bed. Even when I'm going to bed, if she's left downstairs she'll quickly start to yowl until I go down and usher her upstairs. She doesn't particularly like my acoustic guitar and goes upstairs when I reach for it, so I've started reaching for my guitar as part of the bed-time routine just to try and get her in the bedroom and settled (not something I particularly want to do).

When she does get up I'm trying to ignore her as I don't want her making an association with me getting up and getting back into the bedroom. However, it's been weeks and even with earplugs in and a memory foam pillow over my head I'm not getting any sleep. It's starting to affect my work and I look absolutely exhausted all the time.

I've tried advice to get her sleeping well at night. I play with her late at night. She's always got a clean litter tray, plenty of water. I've recently bought an automatic feeder to go off near the time when she usually gets up (which she usually ignores). She's got toys and a treat puzzle - (none of which she's particularly interested in). I know the thyroid problem might be contributing here.

All that aside, I'm convinced the fundamental issue is that she doesn't seem to understand that when I'm in bed she can still come and go. I'm at my wits end on how to change this behaviour?

Any help would be appreciated!
 

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Robyn5678

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Aww she’s cute! I don’t have any advice but I can sympathize! 3 out of my 4 (they are all under 1 year old) decide 3am is the perfect time to run around the house at full speed and sound like a herd of elephants. My 17 year old picks random times (usually in the middle of the night) to just walk around the house yowling and letting me know she’s still around but doesn’t want my attention.
 

PushPurrCatPaws

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... my beautiful little cat Cosy, who I adopted in the middle of March this year ...

She's an 18 year old domestic short-hair whose previous owner sadly died. ... She's in good health for her age, a slight heart murmer however around two weeks ago was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and is now taking medication twice a day.

She was described as quiet and contented when I got her, and that's mostly true however my issue is early mornings. ...
Having been recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, have you checked with the vet to see how long it might take for her medication to "settle in" and possibly help her a bit more? Her howling could be associated with the hyperthyroidism; it's pretty common for cats with this condition.
 

FeebysOwner

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:yeah: Given most vets want to re-check a cat's thyroid level 3-4 weeks after starting hyper-T meds, that is a good chance that her body is still adapting. What was herT-4 level and what is her dosage - not to mention what particular one is she on?

Thyroid or not, she might be hungry and just hasn't gotten to the point of understanding what the timed feeder is all about. To start with on this aspect, make sure she is near the feeder, have it set to come on while she is there with you, and then show her what that means. I don't know if the feeder makes any kind of specific noise when coming on, but you might consider affixing a little bell to the lid so that is the noise she hears when it opens.

You also need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a whole new life for her, and you likely don't know what kind of routine she was used to before you - and routine tends to be very important to older cats. A cat that age is going to take a lot longer time than a couple of months to adapt. The howling is probably due to a level of insecurity and neediness - both of which come with age, not to mention such an abrupt change in her life.

You could also add a timed feeder to your bedroom to see if that might help her feel more secure eating at overnight because she can be near you.

Night lights, as mentioned above, in various places around the house is also a good idea.
 

Margot Lane

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Timed feeder definitely helped me. Gives the cat a focus & lets me sleep in. That is one mighty cute cat.
 

Astragal14

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You also need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a whole new life for her, and you likely don't know what kind of routine she was used to before you - and routine tends to be very important to older cats. A cat that age is going to take a lot longer time than a couple of months to adapt. The howling is probably due to a level of insecurity and neediness - both of which come with age, not to mention such an abrupt change in her life.
This is so important, especially given her age and that she's probably insecure without the anchors of her former family. Maybe it would help to change her environment by adding things she finds soothing. Some things we use at our home include:

Feliway diffuser - we have ours plugged into a WeMo outlet and it turns on in the early mornings and evenings, and it turns off overnight. Maybe you could try one overnight instead. (we turn ours off when they're sleeping, plus it saves money since Feliway is expensive)

Calming music - our cats love David Teie's Music for Cats, and I'm sure there's other calming music made especially for cats. Maybe it could help to play this overnight or when she wakes up.
Home | Music for Cats | David Teie

Comforting bedding - both our cats love wool cave beds, one of our cats love hooded beds and our other cat loves large bolster beds. The brand Best Friends by Shari is known for their "calming cuddler" beds. We haven't tried these but I know people who highly recommend them.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MV0IX66/?tag=thecatsite

Cosy is an adorable kitty and it's so wonderful of you for adopting her!!
 

Maria Bayote

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Cosy is beautiful! Thank you for taking her in.

Cats are usually alert and awake from 3am onwards, and will sleep again after they have taken their early breakfast or have been exhausted from play. My cats are doing that to me, too, particularly the youngest one, Graham. If I ignore her she would meow right on my ear until I give in. I sometimes joke to my husband that i feel like a new mother nursing a baby, because I have no real straight sleep since forever. What I just do is at around 3 or 4am I'd feed them wet food, then get back to bed. The dry food that is left for them to eat overnight is not enough for them, and that is why they keep fussing. This seems to do the trick. But then again, I have to wake up 30 minutes later to prepare for work.

I hope it gets better for you. Check if any of the very good suggestions given here can resolve the problem.

Keep us informed.
 
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Mark Kirkland

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Aww she’s cute! I don’t have any advice but I can sympathize! 3 out of my 4 (they are all under 1 year old) decide 3am is the perfect time to run around the house at full speed and sound like a herd of elephants. My 17 year old picks random times (usually in the middle of the night) to just walk around the house yowling and letting me know she’s still around but doesn’t want my attention.
Thanks Robun5678 - it's reassuring to know I'm not alone here!

Do you have a night light in the living room? That helped my friend's senior cat
I don't, however there's a lot of ambient light still comes through the windows so it's never really that dark. Her behaviour tends to start at sunrise too, so I don't think darkness is an issue here.

That's really helpful, I think I've implemented most of the suggestions there but I now understand that early morning is hunting time for her.

Having been recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, have you checked with the vet to see how long it might take for her medication to "settle in" and possibly help her a bit more? Her howling could be associated with the hyperthyroidism; it's pretty common for cats with this condition.
I'm pinning a lot of hope on the hyperthyroidism being the cause here (although prepared for it not to be). We're due to see the vet again on the 13th of June so I'll hold off till then and see if the meds are making a difference.

:yeah: Given most vets want to re-check a cat's thyroid level 3-4 weeks after starting hyper-T meds, that is a good chance that her body is still adapting. What was herT-4 level and what is her dosage - not to mention what particular one is she on?

Thyroid or not, she might be hungry and just hasn't gotten to the point of understanding what the timed feeder is all about. To start with on this aspect, make sure she is near the feeder, have it set to come on while she is there with you, and then show her what that means. I don't know if the feeder makes any kind of specific noise when coming on, but you might consider affixing a little bell to the lid so that is the noise she hears when it opens.

You also need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a whole new life for her, and you likely don't know what kind of routine she was used to before you - and routine tends to be very important to older cats. A cat that age is going to take a lot longer time than a couple of months to adapt. The howling is probably due to a level of insecurity and neediness - both of which come with age, not to mention such an abrupt change in her life.

You could also add a timed feeder to your bedroom to see if that might help her feel more secure eating at overnight because she can be near you.

Night lights, as mentioned above, in various places around the house is also a good idea.
Thanks FeebysOwner. I'm not sure what the T-4 levels were, but she's on Fellimazole 2.5mg twice daily now.

Your point about the feeder is a good one - she's still uneasy around it however eventually does eat. It's a rotating feeder which makes quite a loud mechanical noise - it actually gives us both a fright when the house is quiet. If I'm around I encourage her to investigate it after it's activated - I'm hoping to build the association with the noise into a positive one. I'm maybe expecting a bit too much from her just now - looking for a quick fix because I'm desperate to get a proper sleep.

I have noticed that she's eating less since I put the timed feeder in. It might be that unfamiliarity with it, but I'm also wondering if it's the medication bringing her appetite down to a "normal" range. When I took her to the vets she had lost weight (3.25kg down to 2.8kg) and that was despite eating 4x 85kg pouches a day. Now she's probably eating 2.5 / 3 pouches over the course of the day.

You're absolutely right about me needing to be sensitive to her routine, she lived with the same owner for 18 years. I'll admit I haven't been particularly consistent with feeding times in particular until I got this automatic feeder. She must be a confused little thing at times.


Timed feeder definitely helped me. Gives the cat a focus & lets me sleep in. That is one mighty cute cat.
Thanks Margot Lane! I'm really hoping she gets used to the timer and into a routine. And yeah, she's absolutely adorable!


This is so important, especially given her age and that she's probably insecure without the anchors of her former family. Maybe it would help to change her environment by adding things she finds soothing. Some things we use at our home include:

Feliway diffuser - we have ours plugged into a WeMo outlet and it turns on in the early mornings and evenings, and it turns off overnight. Maybe you could try one overnight instead. (we turn ours off when they're sleeping, plus it saves money since Feliway is expensive)

Calming music - our cats love David Teie's Music for Cats, and I'm sure there's other calming music made especially for cats. Maybe it could help to play this overnight or when she wakes up.
Home | Music for Cats | David Teie

Comforting bedding - both our cats love wool cave beds, one of our cats love hooded beds and our other cat loves large bolster beds. The brand Best Friends by Shari is known for their "calming cuddler" beds. We haven't tried these but I know people who highly recommend them.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MV0IX66/?tag=thecatsite

Cosy is an adorable kitty and it's so wonderful of you for adopting her!!
Thanks Astragal14! Funny you should say this, I picked up a calming diffuser yesterday (not Feliway, but the same idea) and I got a furry cave bed for her too. Doing everything I can to try make her feel relaxed around here. I'll look into the music too! I did notice she seemed a little more settled this morning - still up early but rather than yowling downstairs for hours she was in and out my bedroom, and even went back to sleep a few times. Baby steps!
 
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Mark Kirkland

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Cosy is beautiful! Thank you for taking her in.

Cats are usually alert and awake from 3am onwards, and will sleep again after they have taken their early breakfast or have been exhausted from play. My cats are doing that to me, too, particularly the youngest one, Graham. If I ignore her she would meow right on my ear until I give in. I sometimes joke to my husband that i feel like a new mother nursing a baby, because I have no real straight sleep since forever. What I just do is at around 3 or 4am I'd feed them wet food, then get back to bed. The dry food that is left for them to eat overnight is not enough for them, and that is why they keep fussing. This seems to do the trick. But then again, I have to wake up 30 minutes later to prepare for work.

I hope it gets better for you. Check if any of the very good suggestions given here can resolve the problem.

Keep us informed.
Thank you Maria! It's such a tricky thing, as I've learned Cosy has absolutely no qualms about making a noise until she gets what she wants - even if it means 5 hours of yowling.

Interesting that you get up to feed the cats. All the advice I've read is to not respond at all, but obviously if she's yowling it's for a reason. She doesn't just get bored and go back to sleep. I'll let you know if the automatic feeder is helpful here!
 
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