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Night-owl cat gets loud and keeps family awake

Most night vocalizations are related to boredom.

Most night vocalizations are related to boredom. Credit:

Q Our 6-year-old neutered male cat has a behavior that disturbs our sleep. He will meow, run across the bed, push the rugs around, and jump off the chest of drawers onto the bed. He has gone for periods of time (weeks, even months) sleeping contently at night. We don't understand what brings on this behavior.

We've tried waiting him out, which works occasionally. We have tried telling our dog (who sleeps on his mat by the bed) to "go get the cat." He usually pushes the cat with his nose. The cat is not intimidated, and the interruption of his meowing only lasts briefly.

We have put him in the laundry room with his litter box, food, and water for several consecutive nights, but when we let him out, he goes back to his old behavior. Any suggestions other than confining him?

— Marilyn, Arizona

A Most night vocalizations are behavioral and related to boredom or not enough playtime during the day. Cats are nocturnal and so get friskier at night. The fact that your cat is keeping busy all night long indicates he has some energy to burn.

There are a few things you can do.

1. Feed him before you go to bed. Everyone, including cats, sleeps better on a full tummy.

2. Get him a cat food puzzle toy to feed him. This type of "game" engages the cat's brain and plays on his hunting instincts, which should help tire him. An engaged cat won't be meowing for attention.

3. Introduce several five-minute play sessions throughout the day to help wear him out. Make the last session at night right before bedtime.

4. Play music on low throughout the night. There are musical arrangements, like "Through a Cat's Ear," that have been created to calm felines.

5. You can always plug in feline pheromones around the house to see if that calms your cat too.

Your cat may be losing his hearing or have an underlying health problem, so take your cat to the vet if these suggestions don't work.

Q We have a 4-year-old old Chiweenie who likes only four people and one other dog. He is afraid of everyone else. We want to go on vacation in the RV and leave him at home because otherwise, we wouldn't be able to do anything or go anywhere. My sons are not able to take care of him sufficiently since they work all day. What can I do? I feel guilty boarding him in a kennel for seven to 10 days since he's afraid of people and dogs he doesn't know. My other dog, a husky/Aussie mix, is very friendly and will stay with a friend of mine. I don't want to put her in a kennel too just to provide company for the Chiweenie. We could take the Chiweenie with us, but then we would have to find day care while we went sightseeing. Do you have any other ideas?

— Sue B., via email

A If your dog is afraid of everyone, then going to a kennel or a day care while on the road would be stressful for your dog. Any chance one of your sons can sleep over at your house at night with a pet sitter coming by during the day to let him out?

If you find a pet sitter who can come by during the day or who can sleep over while you are gone, there are ways you can get your dog acclimated to this new person. Get Adaptil, a dog pheromone, and have her spray it on her shoes, pant legs and up to her waist before coming in to meet your dog. These pheromones mimic a momma dog's scent and will allow your Chiweenie to relax more around this new person.

The pet sitter should not touch or pick up your dog in any way. It could take a few visits before she lets the pet sitter approach her. The pet sitter can toss a few treats onto the floor for your Chiweenie to eat. Your dog may not eat the treats at first, but when he does, you will know he is relaxing around this new person.

You also can ask your veterinarian for a mild sedative for your dog during a first-time meeting with a potential pet sitter. If your Chiweenie is chill and the pet sitter smells like a momma dog's pheromones, chances are they will like each other well enough for her to come by (or sleep over) while you are gone.

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