ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: Stinky, at the age of 5 months, adopted us by walking in the back door. The weird thing is his habit of waking me at 3 a.m. He will come back every five minutes to stare at me and give his little pathetic meow. It does no good to lock him out of the bedroom; he will sit outside and sing the song of his people. We are convinced that he just wants me to get up and play, and what better time to play for a nocturnal animal?
Dr. Nichol: Stinky isn’t weird. Lots of cats abuse their owners for late-night amusement – but not at the Nichol house. Our two cats, along with their border collie, stay nestled snug in their beds in the laundry room. At bedtime I tuck them in, read them a story, and close the door. (Actually, I just close the door.)
You are right about feline motivations. Cats are natural predators who wait until dark to bedevil warm-blooded creatures with a pulse. If you’re not moving enough to satisfy Stinky he’ll do whatever it takes. You need to stop being his surrogate gerbil.
Your life will improve if you: (a) put Stinky outside at night or (b) give him a full range of feline-specific indoor opportunities for climbing, perching, hiding, stalking, hunting, and dismembering. (The correct answer is b.) If you encourage simulated killing just after dusk your gadfly will drift off to sleep with visions of maimed rodents dancing in his little head. I have posted an excellent list of Feline Environmental Enrichments on my website, drjeffnichol.com. The most important is a floor-to-ceiling cat tree.
If Stinky continues chanting your name from across the house he may need to have his day/night sleep cycle adjusted. Giving him 1.5 mg. of melatonin at bedtime for one week may reset his internal clock, allowing you to remain blissfully and indefinitely unconscious.
Finally, does your cat know the feline translation of his name? Maybe that ‘song of his people’ is his devious way of exacting retribution for his moniker. I’m a veterinarian. I know these things because I speak cat.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.