Q&A: How can I prevent the 5:00am breakfast call?

One of the most ubiquitous complaints about living with cats is the early morning, middle of the night breakfast demand. Most folks take these cheeky wake-up calls in stride, only mumbling about them to other cat lovers who can sympathize without demonizing the beloved, if sometimes aggravating, furry family members. Others have to take things a step further and lock the cats out of the bedroom at night, sometimes provoking an entirely different set of problems.

    There are, however, a couple of ways to prevent these early morning frustrations. First, feed your cats at least three times a day, as close to the same time as you can every day – even on weekends! – and offer the last meal immediately before you retire for the night. Second, either hiss at or completely ignore any cat that bothers you while you are sleeping (these are communication signals cats understand to mean “leave me alone!”). As difficult as it may be, resist the urge to pet, feed, yell at or otherwise give attention to a pestering cat.

      Finally, never, ever feed your cats immediately after waking, as it conveys that your waking up means breakfast, and it’s a simple thing for them to learn they can cause you to wake at whim. Instead, find some routine daily activity and feed your kitties right after that activity every morning. If you can ignore them beyond a casual greeting until that point, even better. The intent is to help them develop an association between the new activity and getting fed; like Pavlov’s dogs, you want them to respond to some action other than your rising as a signal that breakfast is imminent. Finishing your first cup of coffee, getting dressed, or brushing your teeth are all great choices.

        Make this change to your daily routine today and in no time at all, your four-leggeds will associate the new activity with chow-time and will contentedly snuggle with you ’till your alarm calls you to duty (although you may have an audience while you’re nursing that coffee or gargling that mouthwash!).