How to prevent early-morning feline food demands

It’s a cat’s world, and we just live in it. At no time is this more true than in the middle of the night when your feline family member decides it’s breakfast time. After all, you may have to go to work but your cat can catch a few ZZZs any time. Here’s my advice to a sleep-deprived reader.

Q: We took in a neighborhood cat. We love him, but he wakes us up at 3 a.m. every day wanting to be fed. Help! We need our sleep.

A: Cats are wonderful, but they have some innate body clock differences that can sometimes make them a challenge as housemates.

Cats are what we call crepuscular, a fancy way of saying that they’re most likely to be active at dawn and dusk. It sounds like your cat doesn’t even wait until dawn to do his hunting — i.e., demand that you feed him. And you’re not alone; this is a common problem for many cat lovers.

The good news is that pet experts and manufacturers are making great efforts to provide cats with toys and other ways to get food that don’t involve waking up their people at the crack of dawn, let alone earlier.

A cat’s normal hunting behavior involves multiple forays for prey daily, not all of which are successful. Simply setting down a bowl of food twice a day doesn’t present a cat with any challenge to brain or body. But puzzle feeders allow you to mimic a cat’s natural feeding behavior, from the hunt to the satisfaction of eating.

Whether you feed canned or dry food, you can find a puzzle toy that works with it. Experts at FearFreeHappyHomes.com recommend buying or making an assortment of food puzzles so you can continually challenge your cat’s hunting skills. Fill them with your cat’s normal amount of food for the day, and hide them around the house so your cat can use his nose and other senses to find food without gobbling it all up at once and then demanding more from you at 0-dark-30.

For more information about food puzzles, both homemade and commercial, check out foodpuzzlesforcats.com.

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

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