Marc Morrone Newsday columnist Marc Morrone

Marc Morrone was born in 1960 in the Bronx and, when he was 2, his family moved to

We have two 6-month-old kittens that we adopted over the summer. They have now taken to jumping on our bed at 1 a.m. to wake us up and play and beg for food. If we get up and give them a can of food they will then leave us alone half the time but the other half they then just jump all over the bed and chase our feet under the covers. We tried keeping the bedroom door closed at night, but then they throw themselves against it and cry all night long and we end up awake anyway. There is always dry food out for them and we tried putting out a can of food for them right before we go to bed but they eat it right away and then beg for more later. What can you suggest? -- Nichole Walker, Smithtown

 

The only thing you can do is to no longer reward them for begging in the middle of the night. If they do not get the reward ever, then they will no longer pursue the behavior. That is the short answer.

 

The real-life answer is longer. First of all you have to look at the situation from the cat's point of view. Nowadays, cats are home alone all day long and they basically sleep all day so their day begins when ours is ending. That is why young cats in particular are so active all night long. You really have to just keep the door closed and deal with the banging and crying for at least 10 days, and then they will most likely quit.

When my wife and I were first married we lived in a studio apartment with a Castro convertible daybed to sleep on and we had three cats. They insisted on waking us up all night long and we had no bedroom door to close to keep them out. We tried keeping them in the bathroom at night but that did not work because if we had to use the bathroom at night then there was drama. So I ended up getting a humongous dog cage and setting it up with shelves and beds and a litter box and every night we put the cats in the cage. They wailed and moaned for a few days but after that they settled down.

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One bit of technology that exists these days that did not back then is an automatic cat feeder for canned food. It keeps the food sealed and fresh. You set the attached timer to go off in the middle of the night and then the top of the feeder opens up and exposes the cat food. This will help your cats to entertain themselves at night until they grow up and are content to end up sleeping all day long and all night long. What a life they have.

The winter has been brutal for all, but we wonder how the animals cope with the frigid temperatures. We have a couple of rabbits that visit all year. Today we saw one nibbling on one of our bushes. We do leave some lettuce and bread out, which usually disappears. Where do they stay to keep from freezing? The birds and squirrels seem to be OK. We leave seed and suet for the birds although the squirrels help themselves, too. We have an electrically heated bird bath that the squirrels and birds both use. What other food can we leave out, especially for the rabbits? -- Carol and John Cahill, Ronkonkoma

I have always wondered the same thing. How do these animals cope with the cold? And if you think it was bad here, just try to imagine winters in Minnesota where it can be 20 or 30 below zero.

The scientific answer is that animals survive winter by migrating, hibernating or adapting. All three are amazing. How in the world can a little warbler that weighs only a couple of ounces fly all the way from Canada to Mexico on those teeny wings and then manage to come back to the same area again in the spring?

Hibernation sounds like the easy way out, but that brings up all sorts of other issues: How does a chipmunk sleep underground all winter without the need to urinate? Or how does a turtle -- which breaths air -- sleep underwater in a pond that is covered with two feet of ice and not suffocate?

Some frogs that hibernate under leaf litter in forests produce a natural antifreeze so that even though the blood in their bodies may freeze solid, their cell walls won't.

However, the animals that adapt to winter get the prize in my book. To see a chickadee or a kinglet bouncing around from branch to branch in the forest in the frigid winter looking and actually finding food is unbelievable, especially when I go back into my nice warm house and see my pet zebra finches and canaries that start to shiver when the temperature goes below 60 degrees.

These animals all adapt by finding food and shelter in the most obscure places. Some birds find hollow cavities that will just fit their bodies and tuck in at night using their little bit of body heat to warm the cavity enough to keep them from freezing. Squirrels and white-footed deer mice line their nests with leaves and any other insulating material they can find.

However, the cottontail rabbits that you mentioned have a very hard time as they do not live in burrows as European rabbits do nor can they build a nest as squirrels do. By winter's end they have usually eaten any and all available grass, but they can still survive well on bark from shrubs and trees. At this time of the year, the sap is starting to rise and the bark is full of sugars and other nutrients, so supplemental feeding is not usually a necessity for cottontails. But natural cover is what's hard for them to find in this day of well manicured yards. Wild rabbits need brush, thickets of shrubs like forsythia or rugosa roses to crawl into at night to block off the winter weather. If you really want to help the bunnies on your property, then leave a corner of your yard in a thick and natural state for them to call home in the winter.