Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Sam is a sweet, wonderful 11-year-old Maine Coon(ish) rescue. Such a good boy! He’s always been very healthy, clean, great with using the litter box (usually poops once a day), very sweet to his little 6-year-old tuxedo cat brother Bram, terrific and friendly with people… Just an absolute love. We recently moved into a new place which of course unsettled him and he developed a new behavior: every morning around 4 or 5 a.m.he was waking up to yowl and look for attention. He also got in the habit up pooping while he was up. We took him to the vet and had full tests and thank goodness he’s fine. We were encouraged to ignore the yowling and as hard as it was, we did and that has mostly stopped. However, he seems to have altered his body schedule. He now always wakes up at night to poop. He goes to the box, makes a ton of noise, makes a poop, and then comes back to bed. Do you have any suggestions or advice for betting him back on a daytime elimination schedule? Seriously, anything between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. would be A-OK with us! Regarding feeding: as of now, we free feed them dry food and give them wet once a day. We tried feeding wet in the evening instead of the morning but that didn’t help. We even tried feeding less wet twice a day. We have not tried a dry food auto-feeder but are willing to try anything! I work at home so I can and will accommodate any suggesting if tweaking the feeding schedule might help? Thank you SOOOO much for your time and help!
Thomas: Well, Alix, this is a new one on us. We haven’t seen any information on how to get cats on an elimination schedule, but we think we’ve got a couple of ideas that might help. And thanks for sending the photo of your kitties cuddling; it’s so sweet that we’ve used it as our featured photo this week!
Bella: The first thing you should know is that cats don’t have the same idea about when it’s appropriate to use the bathroom as people do. You probably know that it’s polite not to flush if you get up to pee in the wee hours of the morning, but your cats don’t operate the same way. For them it’s “when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.”
Tara: So, how do you get cats to go at a time that’s more convenient for you?
Thomas: Well, altering the feeding schedule is definitely a part of it, and here’s why.
Bella: Most healthy cats poop at least once a day, and typically that happens about half an hour after they eat.
Tara: So in order to change your cat’s elimination schedule, you will have to change his feeding schedule.
Thomas: First of all, we recommend not free-feeding. If your cat can eat whenever he wants, he may eat a big snack at 4 a.m and then have to poop as a result.
Bella: Start by feeding your cats twice a day, once in the morning around, say, 6 or 7 a.m., and once in the evening about 12 hours later.
Tara: We’d recommend sticking with canned food, since that’s closer to a cat’s natural diet than kibble is. Also, canned food contains more moisture, which will help keep Sam from getting constipated.
Thomas: Then we’d recommend adding play into your cat’s life.
Bella: We’d say that about half an hour before you want to go to bed, you give him a big, long round of interactive play. Thing-on-a-string toys like Neko Flies or Da Bird are good choices for play time because they get cats excited and into “hunting mode.”
Tara: A good, long round of play can also help curb nighttime howling and yowling behavior, too.
Thomas: But keep in mind that cats are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. It’s not fair to ask a cat not to adhere to their natural wakefulness schedule, but we think you can get your cat on a more convenient elimination schedule through feeding twice a day and a good round of play before bedtime.
Bella: You can also try moving the litter box to a place in your home where the noise won’t interfere with your sleep as much.
Tara: Also try adding another litter box if you only have one. It’s possible that there may be some competition for the litter box, so adding one can help you get your older cat back onto a daytime elimination schedule. Why? Because if there are two litter boxes in two very different parts of your home, the dominant cat can’t guard it.
Thomas: That’s right. It is possible that your younger cat is making it so that the older one can’t use the box when the younger one is awake, thus possibly contributing to the 4 a.m. pooping.
Bella: So, Alix–between changing both cats to scheduled feeding of canned food, you’ll help to get them on a more regular daytime elimination schedule. Add some good, hard play at the end of the day to help keep Sam sleeping all night. Get another litter box to eliminate territory-guarding issues.
Tara: And if all else fails, try getting a white noise generator for your bedroom to block out the sound of Sam’s midnight pooping.
Thomas: What about you other readers? Have you had a midnight pooper? What did you do to keep the behavior from harming your sleep schedule? Please share your tips in the comments!