By. Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M.; B.Sc.
Most of us that have ever lived with a cat can agree that cats seem to have a concept of time that is often out of sync with that of our own. Take for example their preferred sleep-wake cycle. Cats want to sleep through most of the day rousing themselves mostly just to change their body position, eat or visit their facilities. Then they start to liven up in the early evening and want to play and solicit from us our undivided attention, which is most often the time when we humans are wanting to read, spend some time on our computer devices or simply put up our feet and relax. If gently rebuffed, many cats will then resort to pawing delicately at our books or newspaper pages or standing on the zzzzzzzzzzzzzz of our keyboard, all the while plaintively meowing and staring directly at our faces until we give up and give them the attention they want.
Fortunately, there are numerous quite simple and inexpensive solutions that can solve the problems associated with the demand for entertainment from a bored cat. Of course, ultimately, direct owner interaction is what most cats want. Thus, the majority of young cats and many athletic adult cats enjoy fetching cat toys for their owners and chasing after objects that are swung about. Very inexpensive, homemade chase objects are often appreciated even more than commercial ones. For example, paper towel or toilet paper roll ends cut into small sections and scissor-fringed then tied to long laces can make great interactive chase toys.
For evenings when direct interaction is not possible, cat-feeding toys, puzzle toys and cat treat mazes are available commercially to help keep them entertained. Much less expensively, ice cube trays containing frozen food or plastic soda bottles with cutout holes to periodically release food can serve as an entertainment centre for cats prone to boredom.
Another example of common discord between a person’s natural circadian rhythms and a cat’s is that the majority of cats are early risers. It doesn’t matter a hoot to them, of course that you may have been tossing and turning most of the night suffering from insomnia and have finally managed to drift off in the early morning hours, or perhaps are trying to catch up on some sleep from a late evening out. In the early hours of the morning they want food and attention; period the end. A cat can become very irritating or even frantic until his or her needs are met. Most cat owners can relate to the experience of having their cat jumping onto their stomach or pawing at their face to attract their attention in the early hours of the morning. If they are kept in a separate room, cats can demonstrate mild to extreme behavior ranging from plaintive non-stop meowing to howling, scratching at doors, jumping up at door handles and even banging into walls until their needs are met.
Again, fortunately, there are effective methods available, should the need arise, to help calm the early riser and to help him or her sleep a little longer. Sometimes all that is required is additional play and vigorous exercise sessions just prior to their bedtime. For the more laid-back cats that prefer to sleep through the majority of the day, waking them up or keeping them more active throughout the day will benefit their overall health as well as help to keep them asleep a little longer in the mornings. It also may help to modify a cat’s feeding schedule to include bedtime feeding or to use a timed automatic feeder that will deliver a pre-measured amount of food at a programmed early hour.
For the more frantic early risers, there are alternative relaxation agents such as pheromone sprays and diffusers and medications such as tranquilizers, antihistamines and hormones such as melatonin that can help. Of course, it is important to consult with your veterinarian before considering giving any of these or any other medications to your furry friend.
“ So hush little baby, (“Kitty”) don’t you cry, Daddy loves you and so do I”.