The Norman Transcript

May 9, 2013

Cats upsetting owners’ sleep


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: Six months ago, I rescued a young male cat from the city street near my apartment. I thought he would be a good companion for our 5-year-old male cat who is home alone during the day, and he is indeed very sweet.

I took the new kitty to be neutered and was told he was in good condition, considering he came from the street. He and our older cat have gotten to be very close and enjoy playing together. The problem is, these cats wake us up early in the morning, and it’s killing us.

They tear through the apartment, running up and down the hall, tackling each other. They scratch and knock things off the dressers, as if they were trying to make as much noise as possible.

I feed them consistently at 9 a.m. (when I like to get up) and 10 p.m., yet they wake us up at 6 a.m. I am at my wits’ end, and I am considering giving up the second cat. I know our older cat likes the companionship, but the lack of sleep is ruining our lives. And I cannot bear the idea of letting the cats win by feeding them whenever they wake up. If I close them out of the room, they just scratch on the door, which is even worse. Please help.

— S.W., Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dear S.W.: Sleep interruption and sleep deprivation are serious issues, and by all accounts, a common malady — not just among those who live with early-to-rise cats. Cats love to make noise when they are playing together, and I think it would be tragic if they have to part forever. Is there no separate room with light-proof, covered windows where they could spend the night together? You could try making the bathroom cozy for them and shut them in with soft (i.e. quiet) toys to play with, along with food, water and catnip, and have all breakable things put away. As a last resort, there may be another person in your apartment complex who would take the new cat and they could get together for playtime early evenings and weekends. If you are feeding them only at 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. (a dog’s feeding schedule), you need to change that to at least four smaller feedings daily.

Dear Dr. Fox: I need help in welcoming a cat to my household. I have two dogs, a 2-year-old Lhasa apso female and a 5-year-old male corgi/sheltie/beagle mix. The dogs bark enthusiastically at every cat they see.

My father will be coming to live with us in an apartment in the basement of our home. He will be bringing his 12-year-old cat, Harry, who is in good health. The cat has always gone from inside the house to outdoors several times a day. He has never used a litter box. I expect this routine to continue when Harry comes to our house.

My dogs have visited the cat at my father’s current home. They bark and bark. Harry attempts to go outside and disappear until the dogs are gone, or he hides inside the house. He previously lived peacefully with my father’s late lab mix.

Harry will have an entrance to the house separate from the dogs. I should be able to keep the dogs out of the cat’s living area, but I am afraid they will bark nonstop to alert us that there is a cat in the house. I fear, too, Harry will run away from his new home with these dogs in it.

How can I get the animals to exist harmoniously together?

— K.L., Woodbridge, Va.

Dear K.L.: First, I do not condone letting cats wander outdoors unless they are in an escape-proof enclosure with protection from the weather if they are left out. Alternatively, your father should get his cat used to wearing a harness, perhaps initially also with a collar and double leash.

My fear is that in a new place and hearing the dogs bark, the cat will try to get out and probably set out for his old home. It is imperative to keep him indoors for at least four to six weeks, install extra screen doors for security and never let him out except on leashes or into a secure cat house.

Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.