Natural Cat Behavior
Like most New Yorkers, I work late, so when I arrive home, the only thing on my mind is my nice cushion. Cats are inherently nocturnal and have historically followed a crepuscular hunting cycle, meaning they are most active around dawn and twilight. Not to worry. After a substantial breakfast and some grooming, three sets of eyeballs disperse. Instead of eating, the owner of the second set starts darting across the floor. Yahoo! It’s time to have some fun. My lovely Lil’ Pete will occasionally put a toy mouse behind a piece of furniture in anticipation of my going to get it for him (he’s taught me well!).
I couldn’t be bothered; you can also buy squeaking mouse toys that hang from your door on an elastic rope. He had a good time with his feline pals, but I’m way more amusing. Even if I were home, he would most likely sleep the entire day away. Instead, four pairs of gleaming eyes stare at me, hungry. For this, their vision is very specialized: They have a mirror-like structure in their retinas called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back to the rods (parts of the eye that contribute to vision). They can see in one-sixth the amount of light that a human uses.
Although they cannot see in complete darkness, they can detect motions and objects that people miss. It’s no wonder they’re so active at night while we’re not!
Keep your cat entertained while you’re at work.
You can keep your cat occupied throughout the day so he is less active at night and sleeps better. Toy mice are excellent for this, so provide your cat with toys that he can swat around on his own. Some even have catnip in them. Rotate these toys on a frequent basis because cats, like humans, become tired of playing with the same object day after day. After all, he’s had plenty of time to slumber since I haven’t been home all day. Cats like to swat at these. To keep these toys fresh, dip them in a bag of catnip on a regular basis. Your cat will be convinced that they are spanking new.
During the day, your cat can watch interactive videos like Pet-A-Vision Inc.’s Video Catnip. Before leaving the house, program your VCR to start at a specified time, like mid-afternoon. If your cat enjoys watching television, he will sit in front of it and be mesmerized by the sight of larger-than-life birds swooping and squirrels darting across the screen. Place a chair in front of the screen so that the image is at the cat’s eye level, and he will be able to “catch” these elusive critters.
Panic Mouse is another excellent interactive toy. A fuzzy soft ball dangles from a battery-powered wand that swings it around at various speeds and angles. You can leave it on for hours when you leave your house! This toy also comes with a digital timer that can be set to run from a quarter-hour to two hours.
Paper bags may be a lot of fun as a low-cost alternative. Cats love to charge into open paper bags. A few fluffy mice or a teaspoon of catnip at the bottom will make them much more appealing.
Another good approach to keep your cat engaged is to place a bird feeder outside your window. Put a cat perch on the ledge and you’ve got yourself some reality TV!!! Nothing beats being up close and personal with live birds.
Things to Do When You Get Home
Yes, you’re tired, but playing with your cat for 15 minutes will help both your cat and the dark bags under your eyes. Lil’ Pete adores being chased around the house. Pooping him only takes five minutes of my evening! He also enjoys it when I swat his toy mouse at him. Like Michael Jordan, he leaps into the air and lobs the mouse into the air.
Cat dancers and kitty teasers that move like mice and birds can also be used. Lil’ Pete is cuddly and enjoys being embraced, so I sweep him into my arms for a final five minutes of quality time. I caressed his belly while we rubbed noses. It is not enjoyed by all cats, but for those who do, it is a relaxing way to decompress after a play session. Then, to send him to bed properly, I finish the evening with Lil’ Pete’s main meal. After a substantial meal, cats are more likely to nap.
What Should You Do If Your Cat Wakes You Up in the Middle of the Night to Play?
Some cats should not be allowed in the bedroom because they may chew on your moving toes or swipe at your twitching eyelids while you sleep. If your cat cries and scratches at the door, try distracting him with something he dislikes while he watches the door, such as a vinyl carpet runner (put upside-down to reveal the knobby side) or double-sided adhesive tape.
If your generally well-behaved cat starts wandering restlessly at night, crying, or wanting additional food, there may be an underlying medical problem, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which is easily treated with medication. Examine him with your veterinarian. Excessive midnight crying can also be triggered by age-related impairments such as loss of hearing, vision, or smell. Try shifting your cat’s food and water bowls closer to his bed and situating his litter box along a path that is easy to follow. Allowing the cat to sleep next to you may be relaxing for both of you.
Consider an automatic feeder with a built-in timer that dispenses food on a predetermined schedule if your cat wakes you up in the middle of the night to be fed. Configure it to open once or twice per night. Instead of harassing you, teach your cat to wait by the feeder. Feeding your cat several little meals throughout the day may also help to minimize his or her nighttime appetite. Save the largest meal for right before bed. Good evening!
Wondering about Litter Box Etiquette? Check it out on our latest post!