Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cat Bomb

As most of you know, Dean and I have a problem child named Wrigley. This is a picture of him as a kitten that I found in my archives. See that absolutely demonic, possessed look he has on his face? 5 years later he still gets that look on his face. Every morning at 2 a.m. to be precise.

I reassured Deano that he would "grow out of it", and as a full grown adult, he has more energy and gumption than our not-yet one-year old. He was totally insane as a kitten, I'm shocked he survived to see 5 years old and his first few months with us were filled with jokes of why he might have been abandoned by his previous owners. No, I realize pet abandoning is not funny. But sometimes humor is all you have when you are sleep deprived because an eight pound creature is terrorizing you at all hours of the night.

After we returned from our trip to D.C., he was out of control for three nights. His chosen method of distraction was sitting on my pillow alternately howling (while loudly purring) and slapping my face. I had tried gently tossing him off the bed and squirting him with a water bottle, both tactics making him even more aggressive. Finally, too dysfunctional to work last Wednesday morning, I googled "cat behavior" and clicked on an article entitled Midnight Meowers. Perfect.

I actually learned quite a bit about cat behavior and why my naughty boy-kitty does what he does. Apparently it's not all that uncommon, and could have been predicted by us working long hours and just returning home from a long weekend. He wants attention and his body is tuned to be at its highest energy in the wee hours of the morning. One of the things the article advised was to have an intense play-session with your cat just before bed to tire him out so that he'll sleep through the night. Right. Like I needed one more thing to do nightly before I can finally hit the sack, but I was desperate.

So we dragged out his favorite piece of string, which attracted McLovin. Wrigley just sat watching while McLovin went nuts over the string. I brought out some catnip filled stuffed toys and Nellie promptly started attacking them and raking at them with her hind feet. Then we started throwing bouncy balls and rolling plastic balls filled with bells and beads. Allison chased all of them, Wrigley chased none of them. It was like a circus in there with three of the cats running around like crazy, Deano and me clapping our hands and chasing them in hopes Wrigley's interest would be piqued by the commotion. Finally, we brought out the piece de resistance: the nylon spring tube. We usually keep it coiled up and bring it out only on rare occasions. Wrigley's favorite mode of play is stalk and pounce so he finally got up after seeing the tube as a hiding place. He proceeded to hide in there and pounce out, attacking whomever walked past. Finally, success. After about an hour things started winding down and Deano and I felt like we could sleep through anything. We sat down on the couch and studied our surroundings, which consisted of the floor littered with strings, toys, and plastic balls. Empty soda cans were knocked over and papers strewn all over as Wrigley had skidded on them chasing the other kitties. According to Dean, it looked like a bomb had gone off in the apartment. A cat bomb.

But by God it worked! We do the routine now every night after we're done cleaning up dinner. I don't know how long it will last, but for the summer it is okay to watch the baseball game in the periphery while giving Wrigley his nightly dose of "running the crazies out". Not to mention it gets the others some much needed exercise as well. And the best part is Wrigley sleeps through the night, spooning against me and just as sweet as can be.


fermicat said...

We'll have to try this with Silvio. We are at wit's end with him. Every early morning, he wakes up absurdly early and starts with the incessant meowing. He doesn't shut up until one of us gets up and takes a shower.

Tonight he has started the meowing routine already. Argh!!!

Jeni said...

Reading the title of your post, knowing you are a true cat lover too and often write about various issues pertaining to raising kittens into fairly well-behaved cats, I thought -ok, I hoped -your post might deal with litter training. Our cats -the two adults who are litter-trained -and the occasional kitten who stumbles into the litter box, must all have some kind of digestion issue or something because after they've visited there, the stench in the house is often overwhelming! You could clean/change the litter in the box hourly and within 5-10 minutes of doing that, one of these furballs would venture in there and set off a "bomb" of sorts. Never fails! But our biggest problem right now is in how to fully train four kittens -each of which seems to have found a fairly well hidden place in which to go do their business. We can't figure out which kitten likes which corner right now, can't seem to catch any of them in the act either to move them directly to the litter box to give them the right ideas. Any suggestions? Feel free to let fly with 'em!
(Oh -one cat, not sure which -woke me up in the middle of the night last night howling -very, very loud and mournful!)

Hot4Teacha said...

Nat, that is awesome! I knew Wrig was being a pest, but every night? How did you guys not muzzle him before this? I would have freaked out long long ago!

But the play-the-crazies-out plan sounds purr-fect. And the other kitties obviously get in on the fun, too. It would be great to see a before and after picture of your living room when you do this; I can only imagine!!

Anonymous said...

I heard you took a nasty fall in DC. I hope you are alright.

Natalie said...

I suggest you do the same thing as me and google "cat behavior". Offhand I can't find the same article I read, but this one seems similar. Besides making sure he is worn out before bed, the other thing to make sure he isn't too hungry early in the morning. I don't know if you free feed or not. We do, but if for some reason Wrigley doesn't like the brand I bought, it's the same thing at like 5:30. I think they also suggest buying high fiber food so that they'll feel full longer if you don't want to free feed. Good luck! Let me know what you try and if it works!

Hmmm. It sounds a lot like intestinal parasites to me. If they are allowed outside at all they can easily pick up any one of a variety of parasites. Take one of the adults to a vet so they can do a fecal exam and check for parasites and if they find one or more, tell them you need medicine for all the cats and they usually will not require you to bring in the others. Unless you have suddenly changed their food to something very unusual, that's what it sounds like to me.

As for the kittens, going in the litter box should come naturally, but there are a couple of reasons they might not like it. One, of course could be that it stinks! If your adults are constantly "dropping bombs" in there, the kittens are going to find it a hostile environment and want to go somewhere else. Cats are very finicky and if the litter box is too crowded or smells bad they will find someplace else to go, so once the problem is solved with the adults, make sure the litter boxes are kept fresh and clean, and make sure you have several. They recommend 1 per cat + 1 extra. That seems like a lot and we only have 2 between our four, but we clean them twice a day and when we move will probably get one more because as it is if we don't clean them that at least once a day, Nellie pees in Deano's laundry.

Lastly, you should make sure they can get in there okay. If the sides are too tall for them still, get a smaller box until they "graduate" to an adult box. Like a training potty. You can buy small ones or even get a small pan from the small animal section in the pet store.

Let me know how it works out!

Well, it's been off and on the whole time. Not every night, but at least half the time. This has been working for over a week now and we are very relieved. I wanted to take pictures but I never remember. I will try, it is quite the scene. Wrigley is very lucky we have put up with him, though I couldn't bear the even entertain our other options. He is literally like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - so unbelievable cute and sweet and cuddly during the day and a terror at night. I read that even his aggressive behavior are just attempts to engage us and any attention we give him is views positively by him. But now that he is sleeping through the night, he is a perfect cat all around.

Natalie said...

Only my pride was wounded!

Dianne said...

I used to do that with Siren. He's better now unless I've been gone all day.

I know it's little comfort but I adore the mischevious ones, the wild ones, the defiant ones

I guess that's why they always end up here ;)

Christopher said...

Wrigley is truly a one-off. I've never seen another cat in his league. I'm glad you've found something that is giving you some relief - at least for now.

gabrielle said...

"But sometimes humor is all you have when you are sleep deprived because an eight pound creature is terrorizing you at all hours of the night."

This could apply to other out of control creatures that we madly love. BTW, the same techniques minus the catnip work for hyperactive wee ones. The trick is to tire them out first.

"You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats."
- Colonial American Proverb

Kalajian said...

Good Job. Who would have thought the answer for Wiggly Wrigley was to make him wiggle!! Seems logical to me now that you tried it and it works. Make him wiggle when you want him to. :)

Anonymous said...

He is the picture of innocence. Perhaps he sleeps all day when you are gone and thinks its time to be up in the middle of the night.

Natalie said...


I adore the mischievous ones

Okay, then you'll be happy when Wrigley winds up at your door step! Just kidding. We adore them too, they overflow with character. But he is a handful, a handful that is worth it.

I know. He actually gave us pause when considering to add McLovin to our family. I am embarrassed to say that part of the selling point was that he couldn't possibly be as much as a handful as Wrigley with only 3 legs. He'll make us rethink getting another, until we rescue an irresistible kitten again.

Love the quote. Yes, I know Wrigley is giving us practice for wee ones. Unfortunately, he is not leaving much room in our schedule or patience for them. Still hoping he'll settle down just a little before we add furless creatures into the mix.

Have you ever known a cat who so fits his name? Maybe if we would have called him, "Calmly" things would have worked out different.

Sometimes we think he sleeps all day. But strangely he is always awake when we are home on the weekends. Just yesterday he was walking around bored and howling all day. He howls out the window whenever anyone walks by the house. Yes, perfectly innocent.