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New cat--two issues (LONG)

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
As some of you may know, I adopted a five-year-old male from a shelter about 10 weeks ago. He was only in the shelter for about a month, but he was picked up as a stray, and I have no idea about his prior home, although he obviously was raised by humans. As behavior goes, he's a gem. He's incredibly affectionate and loves to be stroked and will sometimes "snuggle" in my arms or lap for 30-40 minutes. He loves anyone who comes into the house and expects them to fuss over him and basks in the attention. He used his litter box perfectly from day 1, and he has never sprayed at all--although I had Feliway diffusers up and running for his first month--possibly not necessary, given his laid back personality. But there are two issues that I still have that I'd like advice about if anyone knows what I can do:

1. I prefer to give him access to food at all times, a practice that worked well with my former cat. However, if he'd like a 'snack,' he will "whine" for me to feed him--even though there's fresh food in his dishes (he eats mainly wet, but I keep dry available to him). And when I go into the kitchen (where his food is), he will go crazy, demanding to be fed but ignoring the food that's readily accessible. I have to "show" him the food before he'll eat, and I think he assumes that I'm feeding him because then he will eat (I don't expect him to eat "old" wet food, but often it's only a hour or two since I've put it down and is perfectly fresh). Will he ever stop his antics over being fed and just eat on his own? By the way, a few times I've noticed in the morning that he had been nibbling on the dry food during the night, so he DOES eat on his own. My guess is that his behavior is just a vestige of his past when he probably was fed on a schedule (certainly I know that they did that at the shelter). I guess my question is whether I can get him to stop being so hysterical about eating. I know I'm feeding him enough (possibly too much), so he's never really hungry, but he acts as though he's starving (I know he's not because right after one of his "scenes," I'll give him fresh food, and he'll barely touch it).

2. Bigger problem for me is that his internal clock requires him to wake me at 2:00 a.m. almost precisely. I've tried ignoring him, but it's difficult to ignore a cat who is resting next to your face and patting you with his paws. I move him away, and he just comes back. I've discovered that if I get up with him and feed him, he'll go right to sleep--and so can I. But I'd really prefer that he wake me a little later. I'm used to getting up at 4:00 am, so can you think of any way to shift his internal clock by a couple of hours? I've tried feeding him before we go to bed so that he won't be hungry at 2:00 am, but he doesn't eat the food then. I know I can make him sleep in another room, but I think it's better for our relationship if he sleeps with me--which he prefers, of course. Advice?

Thanks for any help you can offer. His name is Grigio (Italian for 'grey'), by the way, because he's almost solid grey with white markings on face, belly, and back paws.
post #2 of 6
Anytime anyone goes in the kitchen, my 'beggar brigade' comes marching in. lol Grigio (I love that name by the way!) is smart like my kitties, they know where the good food comes from. By giving into his whining in the kitchen, you are only reinforcing the fact that you + kitchen = a snack for Grigio! He's is obviously not starving, but I know that guilty feeling you get when you deny them. Maybe if you get some small treats you can give him one when your in the kitchen if he gets all worked up.

As for his internal clock, maybe you can bring in a small bowl of his food into your bedroom at night? That's what I do since I know my little ones are always hungry. lol..... Or maybe delay his wet dinner until right before you go to bed so he'll be full.
post #3 of 6
My cat has/had the same two problems. She was hysterical about eating, and still is to an extent, but like a baby/child she has learned through time that I'm not going to re-feed her, or feed her out of her normal time frame just because she wants to. I think that will go away.

As for the more serious issue, mine does that as well. Precisely an hour before I get up for work or class. I've learned to keep sleeping. It's startling at first, but just as I've learned to deal with my boyfriend's knee in my back at random times in the night, I've learned that she's going to paw me and scream in my face in the morning and I fall right back asleep once she initially wakes me up. I don't think there's any certain way to get rid of these two behaviors. Just a learning process for her/him.
post #4 of 6
As to the latter problem, getting up and feeding the cat immediately is exactly the way to train them as an alarm clock.

I'd just leave some dry food out.
post #5 of 6
My Spooky used to wake me up in the middle of the night, but he never wanted food – he just wanted attention. I taught him that waking me up does nothing positive for him by just locking him out of my room when he would wake me up. He would wake me up, I’d tell him no and roll over. He’d try again and I would pick him up, put him out of my room and go back to sleep, ignoring his crying at the door. Then once my alarm went off I would immediately let him back in the room and lavish him with attention and treats. It took about a month of this every night before he started leaving me alone at night, and will only bother me now once the alarm goes off.

As far as the feeding issue - I don't know. My cats will eat wet food, but are seriously addicted to kibble. So they'd rather eat that anyday anyhow! Good luck with that!
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
THANKS for your helpful replies. First, it's nice to know that he's not the only one who does this!

I'm going to keep to a feeding schedule and try to ignore his whining whenever I'm in the kitchen. Honestly, the way he carries on, you'd think he was starving to death! But you're right that it's not really hunger. I've found that if I totally ignore him, he walks over and inspects his food dishes (I make sure they are never empty)--and most often doesn't eat anything.

I think my problem with the waking me at night is that I haven't been consistent. One night I was especially tired and I did what one of you suggested--I just put him out of the bedroom and closed the door and went back to sleep. He survived. I probably need to do that more often. As far as food goes, he ALWAYS has a bowl of dry available, along with his water bowl, so he doesn't have to wake me even if he's hungry. As you point out, by getting up and feeding him, I'm just reinforcing that behavior. I knew that, but I just found it easier (and made me feel less guilty than closing him out of the bedroom). But I DO want to stop the behavior, and I think that banishing him when he wakes me is the best solution.

Thanks again for affirming the fact that Grigio is just a normal cat!
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