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Cause of cat's behavior problem may be ME!

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I've mentioned Red Cat's anxiety problem in a couple of other threads. He was about three years old when I got him; he's been here for five years. He was an incredibly scared kitty when I got him. He'd been abandoned in winter, then treated as an outdoor cat by a second family. He is still so terrified of others that the second thing (after getting the demanded petting) he does after coming in from outside each day is to check to make certain I've left the storage room door unlatched as an emergency hiding spot, should anyone else arrive. So he is high-strung, like I am, and I don't expect to be able to change his basic personality.

But I have been confused about why he started licking his belly hairless and pulling his hair out about a year ago. It started a bit before my husband died, but became much worse afterward. He wasn't very attached to my husband, so the vet's suggestion that Red Cat might still be in mourning just didn't seem plausible.

But lately I've been reading quite a bit on this and other websites about cats. And one thing I came across several times in the past few days was that cats like routine. Oh, oh!

Then I read one should try to think like a cat. In trying that, I come up with something like this: I just don't know what to do with that woman. I've been trying to train her for five years, and nothing I do seems to help. I can't get her to go to bed at a reasonable hour. I never know when she is going to eat or sleep or sew or be at that stupid computer. She may be on one schedule for a day or two, then something totally different. I'm to the point I am just pulling my hair out over this!

Do you think that could be the problem? I do have a sleep disorder. If awakened for any reason after three or four hours of sleep, I'm unable to get back to sleep for at least another three or four hours, so I often get up and get on the computer or sew or do housework. Then I take a long nap later, sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon. And I eat whenever. Dinner might be 5:00 one night and midnight the next. Schedules were crazy when my husband was alive, but at least then I kept meals closer to the same time each day. So the schedule, if one can call it that, is much more chaotic now.

If this is the problem affecting Red Cat, this is going to be far more difficult than just giving him a pill or giving him more attention. I'm going to have to change ME! Yikes!
post #2 of 10
Your schedule sounds very familiar. I've named it the SINGLE SCHEDULE. Since I don't have to worry about anyone else during the week, I eat when I want, if I want. I sleep on the couch or in bed or in the guest room. Since I'm involved with a show, several nights a week I don't get home till about midnight. Some nights I'll grab a bite to eat before going to sleep, some nights I'll head right to bed. Weekends, when my SO is home, I go to the MARRIED SCHEDULE. I wake at an early hour, make breakfast, eat lunch at noon, dinner at 6. We go to bed IN bed at the same time.

My boys take a few hours to adjust to the new schedule each time. Pip hides on Friday night when my SO comes home, and doesn't come out for about an hour. That used to be all night. He's getting better. Frantic doesn't know where to sleep on the weekends. During the week he snuggles with me till I fall asleep. I have another snuggler on the weekend. I sometimes wake up to find Frantic clinging to the 6" edge of the bed by my side, trying to sleep.

On the weekends, I make a point of paying special attention to the boys. I make time to snuggle and play. So does Bob. During the week, I try to make sure I at least go to bed, not sleep on the couch.

post #3 of 10
Wow, you've sure put a lot of thought into this! I suspect you may be right, too - my cats sure seem to know exactly what time it is, and even weekend schedule shifts bother them - they would prefer we not sleep late.

Hopefully you've found the solution.
post #4 of 10
That sounds pretty reasonable to me! Cats do indeed like routines. Even the ferals I care for have routines...you can almost set your watch by their comings and goings!

I'll bet that getting into more of a rountine will help both the cat AND you!
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well, I got thinking. Almost every night Red Cat starts telling me to go to bed about 8:00 or 9:00. Maybe once a month I might go at 9:00. But often it isn't until midnight and sometimes 2:00. He may come into the computer room and start meowing several times before I finally go to bed. On rare occasions he will go to bed (my bed upstairs) without me. Sometimes he goes to his little "nap bed" on the sofa in my sewing room downstairs. Or sometimes he will just lay on the floor in the computer room and periodically remind me to go to bed. But he may be upset that he is missing out on his favorite petting session. Because the longest petting session of the day is usually after I go to bed and he snuggles in. And now that I think about it, sometimes when I wait too late to go to bed, he isn't much interested in the petting. Hmmmmm.

Here I have been thinking all along that it is just me now, so the crazy hours I keep don't affect anybody else. Guess I'll have to give serious consideration to how much I really am willing to change. Seems like a consistent bedtime may be the most important change, even if I do end up getting up in the middle of the night.
post #6 of 10
That does sound like a reasonable explanation for Red Cat's behavior, so it might be a good idea to try sticking to some sort of schedule and see if it helps. Our cat is fairly flexible, since he's grown up with my teaching schedule being changed every six months, and my husband working constantly changing shifts, but any extraordinary deviations (my getting home two or three hours late, or my husband filling in for somebody nights) lead to vocal protests on his part. He also has a "thing" about his bowls. Dry food has to be in a stainless steel or ceramic pet food bowl, and placed on the right. Cat milk has to be served in a china cereal bowl, and be placed on the left. Canned food (or meat/fish/cheese) is to be offered on a glass salad dish, and be placed either on the right, or in the middle, if there's any dry food left. It sounds crazy, but that's the way he likes it. I have a whole collection of his various preferred bowls/dishes stacked a certain way in the cabinet, so that my husband or catsitter doesn't forget if I'm not home to feed JC (I've gotten transatlantic phone calls about this - "The cat is standing in front of his food and yowling his head off - what's wrong?").
Could you try getting ready for bed around nine, and snuggling/cuddling with Red Cat until he's had enough? Maybe he'd stay in bed and sleep afterwards, and you could get up again, if need be.
post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 
jcat - Oh, that is hilarious about your cat's preference about serving dishes. Good thing he doesn't ask for a crystal bowl and a silver platter! Come to think of it, though, my cats do have a funny thing a bit similar. Purdy will not drink out of a water bowl on his own placemat, but goes to drink out of the one on Red Cat's placemat about five feet away. Red Cat used to drink out of the water bowl on his placemat, but after Purdy started drinking out of it, he refuses. Instead he goes upstairs and drinks out of one in the tub. Crazy cats! Maybe they aren't really any more crazy than we humans, though.

Well, I tried going to bed at 10:00 last night, but Red Cat didn't want his usual cuddling. But then I woke up at 2:15, so came down to the computer. And both cats came with me. Purdy landed on my lap and Red Cat on the floor. We all went back to bed about 6:00. Will see what kind of schedule evolves over time, but I guess keeping anything consistent will be better than what it has been in the past.
post #8 of 10
Hi TwofatCats,
First of all let me say that I am VERY hesitant to write this, but your sleeeping paterns sound a lot like mine. I'm a nurse and health educator with Bipolar Disorder...I AM NOT SAYING YOU HAVE BIPOLAR but with the loss of your husband you could have a low level depression. Even with all the meds I'm on I still have sleep trouble....sometimes I think I am part cat, as I am very nocturnal. Have you looked into counseling? It's really hard to change your habits without some help. In the same way if you were diabetic, you wouldn't treat yourself. Sorry if I'm being a budinski, I apologize, if I am. If you need to email me you can francienol@aol.com Good Luck!!!
post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Mom of Franz - No problem. And no depression here. I know my husband is in a good place and will wait for me even if it is another 40 years before I join him. And I plan to get every bit of enjoyment out of this life while I can. I could live to be as old as Methuselah and not have enough time to do all the things I'd like to do in this life!

BTW, I do have a sister with bipolar. But as for me, I've just had sleep problems all my life. They have just become worse as I got older. My doctor did refer me to a sleep specialist a couple of years ago, but I cancelled the appointment after keeping a sleep diary and seeing that it was either my ill husband or the cats who were waking me after 2-4 hours of sleep six times out of seven. And I figured I couldn't do anything about waking due to the former (I cared for him 24/7 for the last four years), and I wouldn't do anything about the cats. I like them sleeping with me! And now, the first thing they would tell me is to get more exercise, and I'm too lazy to do that. But I could at least bring a little bit more order to my life if I'd just listen to Red Cat when he tells me to go to bed! LOL! Maybe I'll work out a schedule of 12-hour days. That would suit both my body clock and the cats. Red Cat is always game for a nice long afternoon nap with me. (Purdy prefers his on the front steps.)
post #10 of 10
Two fat Cats,
Glad I didn't offend! Boy you had a rough time with caring for your husband...yes he is in a better place. I know what you mean about having this type of sleep pattern all my life...I was Queen of The Late Late Show at 10! One thing that helped me in the past, though I don't practice it enough now, is biofeedback...practically put me in a coma! lol
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