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I have a pair of 6-month-old kittens. About a month ago, they decided that their day should begin before 4am. (Note that they have dry food available all the time, and get some wet at the beginning and end of the day.) Prior to that, serenading was heard more like 5:30am. So, I've been 'ferberizing'(*) them -- I go to sleep with earplugs in place, and I don't open the door and let them into the bedroom until I'm ready. After about two weeks of this, the first serious serenade usually comes along at 5:20am. So, what's a reasonable ambition here? Should I just decide that 5:30am is the start of the cat day, at least for now? Or would further struggle result in relative quiet until 6:00am?

Based on the answers so far, I think a bit of elaboration is in order.

This is not my first trip to the cat rodeo; I am well aware that a closed door is a moral insult to the average domestic cat. However, we've never owned a cat who was prepared to be a polite 'midnight visitor' -- whether it's playing hockey with items on dressers or licking exposed ears. In the past, household geometry permitted a division of territory into cat vs. person that put the evil door far enough away from our bedroom that any complaining was not a big issue.

Thus, the initial yes-or-no character of this question: "Is it reasonable to think that they will learn that companionship and canned cat food will only arrive at time X, and so it's not worth the effort to make a fuss earlier?"

As of when I'm writing this addendum, we have a pair of answers: "Yes" and "Maybe (depending on their motivations, and here are some other strategies, and maybe canned cat food first thing is not such a brilliant plan.)"

A finding of 'No' leads either towards a reconsideration of household geometry options, or an exploration of how to leave the bedroom door open at night without serving as a 2am trampoline (a subject for another question).

(*) Note that we are not literally following ferber by trying to gradually increase the amount of time; in the case at hand, I'm pretty sure that this would only serve to teach them that endurance is a winning strategy.

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    I used "corporal cuddling" when a cat gets close trying to wake me...grab close and talk in screechy baby talk. Result is that not only does that cat let me sleep in, but the elder cats have trained the new generations of cats to do the same over 30 years. – Oldcat Jan 18 '16 at 22:31
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First of all, closing the bedroom door will likely not work. Cats do NOT like closed doors. So, now, not only are they meowing for food, they are meowing for you to open the door.

They are only 6 months, so you'll have to continue showing some patience (ear plugs is a good start). You said they always have food available. I'm guessing this is dry food. There are a couple things you can try...

  1. The best option, by far, would be to get your kitties an automatic feeder. You program it to drop a little dry food two or three times a day. If they want to eat at 4 am, program it to drop food at that time. They will come to realize that the feeder gives the food and you don't. So, likely they will stop meowing at you because they will be busy eating and then, of course, cleaning themselves. If you have one cat that is food dominate, you may need two automatic feeders programmed at the same time. Just be sure not to over feed and have lots of water available.

If for some reason you don't want to do automatic feeders, you can try some of the following:

  1. In the evening, try giving them wet food. Be sure to give the wet food at the same time every night. Cats are creatures of habit, and pretty soon your cats will tell you what time it is, even if you forget to feed them. They will get into the habit that the really good food comes at night, and hopefully won't bother you when sleeping in the morning.

  2. When you get up, don't feed the cats their dry food right away. Get ready for work and eat your own breakfast. Then, feed the cats. They will be meowing incessantly, but they will learn to calm down, as long as you are consistent.

  3. You could also try keeping a small bowl of dry cat food in your bedroom. This will remind them that they are not really hungry (they just want the consistent habit of you putting food in their dish).

Best wishes to you and your new kitty family!

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Honestly, you can train the cats to whatever time you want as long as you're consistent about it.

My husband is a lighter sleeper than I am, and more easily annoyed by the cats. They often wake him up at 6 am. When he's not home they don't start bothering me until at least 9 am because when I'm asleep I'm dead to the world and they know bothering me won't get them anywhere.

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