Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’m really worried about my cat. His behavior when it comes to bed time is extremely strange. I have had my kitten for about a month now. I found him outside and he was skin and bones, so I decided to keep him. Louie is about 6 months old, my vet said. Every night it’s the same thing: he whines and paces around my room until I turn some sort of light source on and bites my arms and feet when I comfort him. This behavior, like I said earlier, is only at night. I don’t know if he is scared of the dark or has some sort of PTSD. But I’m worried.
Thomas: Well, Hannah, we think what your kitten might need is some pre-bedtime play.
Bella: You see, cats are crepuscular–which means they’re most active at dawn and dusk–and this is especially true of kittens.
Tara: And the best way to resolve bedtime behavior problems is to help your kitten “get his ya-yas out,” so to speak.
Thomas: Bella’s five years old, and she still gets the ya-yas at dawn and dusk. Sometimes I wonder if she’ll ever grow out of it.
Bella: Thomas! That’s not nice! I can’t help it if I’m a naturally high-energy cat. Besides, you chase Tara, and that’s not nice, either.
Tara: Yeah, that’s not nice!
Thomas: Oh, Tara, I just want to be your friend. I’ll try harder to stop chasing you.
Tara: I know, Thomas. It’s just that I need a slow approach.
Bella: Anyway, Hannah. A kitten that does biting and scratching behavior is definitely one who needs some positive re-training. And we think that if you give him a good play session before bed, he’ll go to sleep and do so without biting you.
Thomas: Now, you’d think that playing with a cat would be an easy thing to do, but there are some proper ways to play.
Bella: First of all, never use your hands and feet as toys. We don’t think you’re doing that on purpose; we just think your kitten’s got so much energy that he’s biting at whatever is moving.
Tara: So the first thing you’ll need to do is get a couple of “thing on a string” toys. Our favorites include Da Bird and Neko Flies, but any good, lightweight string toy will do.
Thomas: Now, how do you play with a cat? It’s a bit more complicated than flinging the toy everywhere.
Bella: You have to make the toy act like prey. Jiggle it around on the floor, make it run when it “sees” your kitten coming in for the pounce.
Tara: And let your kitten catch the toy and “kill” it with all his might.
Thomas: Make him run and jump as you move the toy like a mouse or a bird. Get him panting and worn out!
Bella: Then give him a little bit of food.
Tara: Playing and then a bit of food allows your kitten to exercise his prey drive in the natural “hunt, kill, eat, sleep” pattern. Since you’ve given him hunt, kill, and eat, he should go to sleep shortly after that.
Thomas: So, Hannah, if you give your little guy a good, tiring play session just before bedtime, followed by a little snack, he should calm down and go to sleep for you.
Bella: But keep in mind that the snack shouldn’t be extra food. Take the snack out of his usual daily ration in order to keep his weight at a good level. So, let’s say you feed him half a cup of dry food a day. Take some of the kibbles out of his evening meal and save them for after the play session.
Tara: Likewise, if you feed one can of wet food a day, leave a spoonful in the can for his after-play treat.
Thomas: By letting your kitten exercise his natural hunting and playing behavior, you should be able to resolve his behavior issues.
Bella: What about you other readers? Have you had a cat that whined and cried at bedtime, and then bit you while you were going to sleep? What did you do to solve the problem?
Tara: Please share your thoughts in the comments!
ooh, just in case he’s scared of the dark you could try a little night light??
Kittens are such little balls of high energy. The advice you have been given by some very smart cats here is really on the money. I would just add one little other piece of advice – oh my- my one -and-a-half year old Oriental cat, Aki Pataki Baracki is whispering in my ear- reminding me to tell you that feeding him a little snack after you play with him will complete the feline rhythm of “hunt- kill- eat- groom-sleep”. Kittens sleep well on a full belly- so purrhaps that would help too. Do keep us posted with an update about how your kitten is progressing. Headbonks to you.
Yes, we definitely feel a snack after play is in order. After all, we’re burning off lots of calories when we play!
I agree with you that playing with the kitten before bed is the thing to try! The solution to almost every cat problem ends up being “play with the cat”. This isn’t because cats need to
play”, but it is because of what you said – they are a predatory, crepuscular species. “Play” ends up being the fix to correct so many behavior problems.