Desperate

Friday, January 08, 2010

Question

I love my partner of four years, and I love his elderly cat. But lately I am having some trouble with the darn cat. It seems like she starts to scream the minute that we go to bed. She continues to cry all night long. He sleeps through it without any problem but I am waking up in the middle of the night, going to check on the cat (which she loves), and then I have trouble going back to sleep.

I would never ever ask him to get rid of the cat! They are so attached, the two of them, it would break his heart. And I would miss her too. But why is she doing this? If she was a dog, I would have some ideas about training that might help. But she is a cat, and their ways are mysterious to me.

By the way, her screaming gets even worse if we start to have sex. Is she just jealous? I am getting cranky with both of them because I am sleep-deprived. Please help save my marriage and my cat!!

Answer

Things obviously can't continue this way. I can tell you are feeling a lot of stress. The only choices you see is to demand that your partner give up the cat, or continue to put up with her nocturnal caterwauling. Fortunately, there are more choices than that.

The cat does sound like she is jealous. If she is too distracting when you are making love, there is nothing wrong with putting her in another room and closing the door. If you do this a couple of times, she may get the message that this is the price she will pay for getting in the way, and dial it down a few notches.

Cats feel pain and anxiety, which can get worse as they age. Consult a good veterinarian. There are medications that can help with both. There is also a spray you can use around your home that mimics facial pheromones that reassure cats and help them to feel happier. Feliway is one of the brand names it's sold under.

Has anything changed in her environment? Older cats can be sensitive to furniture that's been rearranged, a new barking dog next door, the loss of a favorite spot to sun themselves, new food, a new apartment or bed, or a relocated litter box.

While it is difficult to train cats to do tricks, cats are very good at training us to do them. Getting up in the middle of the night is something she has come to expect from you. She is yelling for you to come and entertain her. Invest in some good ear plugs and do your damndest to stay in bed no matter what. If you do have to make a quick trip to the bathroom, for example, keep your interaction with the cat to a minimum. Above all else, do not feed her!

If you have a room in the house that is remote enough, you might also consider putting her in there, with her food and water and a litter box, when it's bedtime. She might not like it much, especially at first, but eventually it will become the evening routine, and she will settle down and sleep. Prepare for a contest of wills. She will probably become noisier before she accepts the separation.

You have a right to enjoy the company of your lover and the kitty. Setting some boundaries with her is not the same thing as being mean to her. Share this letter with your sweetie. Devise an action plan that both of you feel good about. Cats will respond to consistently, but it may take several weeks before you can see improvement. The visit to the vet is paramount; she may be having pain from a toothache or an infection that should be treated ASAP.