Help me silence the nightly symphony of whines!

GraciesParent

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Hello!

Does anyone have any surefire (or, at this point, even halfway effective) strategies to help me get my cat, Gracie, to stop whining/yowling for her nighttime/overnight food?

She's fed four small meals a day: breakfast around 7am (wet food), daytime kibbles around 9am, dinner around 5pm (wet food), and then overnight kibbles around 10pm, right before I go to bed.

She only whines/yowls before the kibble meals. She loves her wet food and finishes it quickly, but never vocalizes for it. And while she'll whine/yowl a bit for the daytime kibbles, the pre-overnight-kibbles whining/yowling is LOUD and goes non-stop from about 9:30pm onwards. On and on and on. I live in an apartment, so I can only imagine that anyone passing outside my front door thinks I'm letting her starve!

I've tried ignoring her, but she just carries on. I've tried adjusting MY bedtime, to kind of throw her off the schedule (only by about 10-15 minutes earlier/later) -- no dice. I've tried giving her a small pre-snack (when she's quiet and relaxed and loafing on the couch), which is just a portion of her overnight serving, between 8:30 and 9pm, hoping it would lessen her desperation/yowls, but that didn't work, either.

So far, the ONLY thing that's worked even a little is giving her a small wet-food pre-snack around 9pm... but, even then, it just delays the onset of the whines/yowls until closer to 10pm.

It's driving me nuts, and only started a few months ago after she started getting a daily antihistamine for her allergies (which she gets with her pre-snack at 8:30pm). The antihistamine has worked like a charm for her sneezing/snoofles, but has clearly awakened her sense of smell AND her appetite.

There's only so long I can ignore the whining before having to give her the food (which, I'm well aware, she sees as a "reward" for all the whines) because I eventually have to go to bed.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them! :-) Thanks in advance!
 

ArtNJ

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Is money an issue preventing a switch to all wet food? Certainly understandable if so. If that isn't at issue, switching seems simplest.

Generally speaking, I recommend that the last meal of the day be wet food, since it has more volume for the calories, and should help the cat feel full.

More broadly, the first step in these things is to rule out genuine hunger. It doesn't sound terribly like that is the case here, since this appears to be a protest to get the preferred food, but lets at least think it through.
 
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GraciesParent

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Thanks, A ArtNJ !

She gets a very pricey wet food, and feeding it to her twice a day is as far as my budget will allow. It's also hard to find good wet "food for fatties" (as I affectionately refer to weight-control food). Her kibble is a weight-control formula, and she's been on it for almost two years.

Plus, whatever I feed her at the very end of the day has to be quick-prep (e.g., dropping kibbles into a bowl) so that it can literally be done in a few seconds. I drop them in, head to my bedroom and close the door -- she doesn't sleep in my room at night.

She's definitely not hungry -- there are only three hours between dinner and pre-snack, and then maybe one hour between pre-snack and overnight kibbles.

Before the antihistamine, she'd get dinner at 5pm and there was zero whining/yowling. She often wouldn't even get up to go to the bowl for her overnight kibbles when I'd drop them in at 10pm, choosing instead to graze on them all night. She was THAT disinterested. Now, she scarfs those overnight kibbles down in a matter of minutes.

Could the antihistamine have caused that much of an intense appetite boost? And only at night? (She gets the antihistamine w/ her snack at 8:30pm... could it be causing a big hunger pang an hour or so later?) When I did stop giving it to her for a few days earlier this year, her appetite dropped and she was back to grazing, presumably because she couldn't smell the food as well.
 
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GraciesParent

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OR... and this just hit me now... could it be because she gets two (exactly two, LOL) treats w/ the kibbles but never with the wet food? This has always been the case, though, including before the antihistamine (when she would NOT yowl for the kibbles).
 

ArtNJ

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You could check the antihistamine info online, dunno how likely that is. Totally understand on the food cost issue! You could look into a cheaper non-weight control moist food -- it has a lot less calories for its volume to begin with. Diet food tends to be necessary when a cat eats a lot of dry food. You might be able to keep the cat happy with 4 meals of 9 lives wet food at about the same total calories.

Other than that, going to go back to the suggestion to switch the feedings so that moist is right before bed. It doesn't take that long to fork food out of the can. Granted, I hate the nightime ritual with my two cats, but thats because my cats sleep in the basement, and the young one will not go with just the food -- I have to throw a couple of treats. And sometimes even that doesnt work, lol.
 
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GraciesParent

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We'll see if I get desperate enough to try the wet-food-overnight option. The problem is that, though relatively quick, the process of prepping the wet food (scooping it out, adding a bit of water, warming it a bit in the microwave, etc.) then wakes me up so that I'm no longer drowsy... so then *I* don't get to sleep! Dropping kibbles into the bowl takes two seconds, tops, and can be done in the dark (which I do).

I may try the cheap-wet-food pre-snack, though. Thanks for the suggestions!
 

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I would recommend a nice big wet food meal at 10 p.m. -- I give my kitty a small wet food dinner at 5 p.m. and a bigger wet food dinner at 930 p.m. Also very helpful is an overnight feeder which I set ~15 kibble into after prepping her 930 meal -- it opens at 2 a.m. so she has a snack and won't bother me/throw up bile before breakfast. You can also get one that lets you program multiple times so she can have a little automatic kibble snack during the day (e.g., 3 p.m.) and won't be as voracious at 5 p.m.

Also just my two cents, but I think weight loss food tends to be less effective than tracking calories and weight loss progress. Since wet food provides a lot more volume for fewer calories, I definitely try to use it as much as possible (with exception of overnight kibbles and the occasional feeding if I'm out during a regularly scheduled lunch). She's gone from 18.5 lbs in October 2021 to 14.5 now.
 
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GraciesParent

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Thanks, suzeanna suzeanna ! I've thought about an automatic feeder, so that may be an option.

Last night, I tried giving her the majority of her overnight snack at 9:30pm, before she started her symphony, and it seemed to work. She was (mostly) quiet until I went to bed at 10:20pm, at which time I gave her the rest of her overnight snack.
 

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Ha! Diet kibble is like diet French fries. Kibble is high in carbohydrates, something a cat gets no nutritional value from. What the cat's body does with carbs is pack it away as body fat. If you want your cat to lose weight, change it's diet to wet or raw. Wet food may not be marketed as "weight loss" but the label should tell you how much to feed your cat to maintain what weight and how many calories is in each serving. The label will tell you what the percentages are for moisture, protein, fat, carbs and other stuff. You'll need to do math to accurately figure out the percentages of content minus the water.

First, no more grazing. No more putting out food for your cat to eat anytime it wants. Free feeding works against you when teaching your cat good manners.

First, change your night time routine. Make time to play with your cat before the last meal of the day. Time it so the cat eats about an hour to half hour before bedtime. Remember, the purpose of a cat is to hunt, catch, kill eat. Used wand toy and get your cat to chase it as energetically as possible. Be the prey. Make your cat hunt the toy, work at catching it and get the cat so caught up in the hunt it kills the toy. Get your cat to the point its panting. Let the cat rest for a minute or two and repeat. This will drain the energy from your cat. Then feed your cat. After the workout, your cat will feel the meal was well deserved- after all, it had to work hard for it.

After the meal, there's usually a bit of a spike of energy from the food, plus the excitement from the activity of getting ready for bed. Feeding your cat about an hour before bedtime gives your cat to settle down for the night along with the rest of the family. You want your cat to sleep when everyone else does, not snack.

Another thing is, completely ignore your cat when it whines. Paying attention to the whining is rewarding the behavior. Wait until the cat is quiet for at least ten seconds, then pet/play/ give treat to reward the good behavior. It may take time to get the whining to stop, but stick to your guns and your cat will get the idea.

Cats are always trying things to see what happens. They're curious, intelligent animals. When they make something happen ("I whine, parents pay attention") they'll repeat the experiment until it becomes a part of their daily routine. Ignore the annoying behavior and the cat will eventually figure out "Too much effort for no return." Reward good manners and the cat will say "I like that!"
 
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GraciesParent

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Thanks, Cat McCannon Cat McCannon -- she isn't free-fed, though. She gets her meals, they stay out for a while and are eventually removed if she hasn't eaten. Though, that rarely happens these days! :-) She used to graze (on measured amounts of food, because I do keep track of calories), but that was pre-antihistamine. Now, food rarely lasts more than 10 minutes in the bowl.

And I do give her a big evening play session (as well as multiple play sessions throughout the day). It hasn't made much difference -- when we play until she's pooped, she's just as vocal afterward as she is if we don't play at all.

To be clear, she's quiet all night and doesn't whine for food in the morning at all. So, that's not an issue. It's just that half-hour or so right before bedtime when she starts up, so I figure it has something to do with the anticipation of getting her overnight snack (or some kind of temporary side effect spurred by the antihistamine) that's driving the behaviour.
 

Cat McCannon

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Ah. Belle can be like that, sometimes. If I stay up past our bedtime, she’ll start with “Prrrrt!” and getting hyperactive until I get the message. Once I go to bed, she settles down.
 
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GraciesParent

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She gets a serving of overnight kibbles at 10pm, which she eats through the night. Sometimes, there are still a few kibbles left in the bowl in the morning. So, she's not going without food for nine hours. And she doesn't whine for food in the morning, so I know she's not excessively hungry -- there are days when I put her breakfast down and it's a half-hour before she even starts eating it.

Turns out the antihistamine doesn't affect the pre-bed whining/yowling. I took her off it for a few days to see if it made a difference (happily, none of her sneezing/snoofling returned, which was great!), but the symphony was unaffected.

Being off the antihistamine DID affect her appetite, though. It takes her a lot longer to finish meals (hours instead of minutes) when she's NOT on it.
 
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