Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I recently adopted Gizmo -– she is 4 years old. Her owners surrendered her, not sure why. The one thing she does that I don’t understand is: she touches my eyes at night with her paw when I’m sleeping until I open them and then she just stares at me. If I don’t acknowledge her, she will claw on the bedding until I get after her. She runs away and back in she comes … and the process starts all over again. If I didn’t need sleep; this wouldn’t be a bother. Any advice?
~ Confused in Michigan
Siouxsie: I can certainly see why you’re confused by Gizmo’s behavior!
Thomas: Judging from a quick internet search, it’s not all that unusual for cats to tap their people to wake them up.
Bella: In fact, Siouxsie does that to Mama in the morning, just before the alarm clock starts beeping. She also walks across her head and pokes at the tapestry on the wall above the bed.
Siouxie: Don’t even get me started on the tricks you use to annoy Mama, you sassy little kitten!
Bella: I’m not a kitten anymore. I’m almost 2!
Siouxsie: You are too a kitten!
Bella: Am not!
Siouxsie: Are too!
Thomas: Ladies, please. Our reader needs our help. You can argue and swat later.
Bella: Siouxsie’s mean.
Thomas: Well, Confused, I’m sorry to say that the only way we can think of to stop this behavior is to keep Gizmo out of your room while you’re sleeping.
Bella: That would be awful! I can’t imagine not being able to sleep next to Mama at night!
Siouxsie: Sometimes humans need to sleep, though, little one.
Thomas: Another thing you could do is see if Gizmo would like to get under the blankets with you.
Siouxsie: That’s true. Sometimes I poke Mama when I want to sleep under the covers. It takes me a little while to settle in, but Mama tolerates it and then I have a nice, long snooze.
Bella: I’ve heard stories about cats that woke their people up for health reasons, too, like, maybe they have sleep apnea and they stop breathing from time to time while they’re asleep.
Thomas: Of course, we’ve got no idea whether such a thing would apply to you, but if you’ve had some concerns about your own health, you might want to get them checked out.
Siouxsie: But if you’re healthy and Gizmo is waking you up for attention, the only way to stop her from doing that is to stop reinforcing the behavior by waking up and paying attention to her.
Bella: Maybe you should have a big, long play session just before you go to bed. If you get Gizmo tired out with a feather toy or a thing on a string, she may let you sleep all night.
Thomas: So, start with the long play session — and as long as Gizmo is healthy, it’s okay to play her until she’s panting — just before bed. Then close the bedroom door and let her stay in the other part of the house.
Siouxsie: If she cries at the door, try using some sort of deterrent like a motion-activated air spray canister, so that when she gets near the door she gets the air spray treatment and learns to stay away.
Bella: Eventually you can try opening the door again and see if she behaves herself.
Thomas: Good luck, Confused in Michigan. Please let us know how things turn out.