I adopted a 7 year old female cat several weeks ago through an organization at a pet store. She had a litter of kittens when they found her who were adopted and she ended up at the pet store to get more exposure after that. She was there in a cage for several months and then I adopted her.

She did none of the hiding or lack of eating they mentioned might occur, ate wet and dry food, drank water and used the box all on the first night. She was hesitant with me a bit at first, and maybe still is to some degree.

But its been 3 weeks now and she's since then started sleeping in the bed a portion of the time, sat on my stomach once for long petting and plays regularly.

But the energy for play she has has become more than I can control. We play for maybe even an hour at a time, and it feels like I stop before she wants still. I have tried to make sure she's on a regular feeding schedule, and play several times a day to good various lengths each time.
But if I try to go off and do my stuff she seems to get upset or put. She doesn't want to be petted at those times and wails from the other room to get my attention. She doesn't spot or wreck things, but will get up on things and knock cards off a table or go where she thinks I don't want her to.

She also seems to think I only require the naps that she does. I love the little girl, but I feel exhausted and like I've given all my time and thoughts to her when I'm not at work. The wailing stops after a few moments but is such a grating noise , especially when she's fine and I'm supposed to ignore her at those moments according to some experts.

We've made some good progress, but this hitch of play depending on me and waking me up or getting annoyed when I won't or am just too tired is making me feel like giving her back so someone else better suited can take her in. But I swear I don't want to do that.

I wonder if someone out there has had similar issues or can offer encouragement. Thank you for reading this until the end.

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  • 7
    Have you tried some mechanical/electrical toys to keep her busy? Like an automatic laser pointer, chase toys, ball tracks, etc. – Stig Tore Dec 7 at 7:32
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    Yes. She actually likes the laser pointer to start off the play session for a few moments, then seems to need to switch to a string toy of some kind to chase and grab onto. The electric toy was too frenetic for her, only getting a few swats the first evening. There's a chance she just has tons of pent up energy from time in a cage, but it is more than I can regularly give, though I admit I may have set this standard at the onset. Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it. – Karl Dec 7 at 7:38
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    she has a ball track, but someone mentioned an open top one that she may like. I will try that as it's easy enough to get. – Karl Dec 7 at 7:39
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    This sounds like fairly standard cat behavior to me. – Bradley Uffner Dec 7 at 13:20
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    Sounds just like a normal cat to me. – Steve Dec 7 at 23:17

Your cat has been on an emotional rollercoaster ride in the pet shop and possibly before this too. She's been meeting lots of people and having little stability in her life, so you need to give her time to put this behind her.

If you make some elevated spaces where the cat can see you, she will most likely start to calm down and start to relax more.

You need to create some fixed routines where you engage the cat in play first and then you feed her. Food will make her tired and more relaxed; this will mimic how cats first hunt, eat their prey, and then sleep.

The cat needs you to be there for her and she needs to feel she can trust you. How long this might take is up to your cat and you (I have had cats that needed two months to fully settle down in a new home).

The play is a good way for your cat to get the stress out of her body, and she will calm down. Just give her the time she needs.

  • 5
    I thank you for the reply and experience. I forget at this time of frustration it is still early yet in our shared space, and she was found on the street with a litter, than moved around a bunch of times, to a foster home where she took care of more kittens too. She seemed to have had her share of other cats according to the agency representative but was tolerant of the open space and others during cage cleaning. I took her to the vet on the way home first day to save another trek out too. I will give her, and me more time. You're really great to answer so late and to listen to my concerns. – Karl Dec 7 at 8:32

You have a happy cat

Summarizing the current state of affairs, I would categorize your cat's behavior as happy, but overreaching into dependent/entitled behavior.

First of all, you did a good job, it's clearly a happy cat. You shouldn't change the good things you do for her, as she clearly likes you and your interactions with her.

But you're going to have to set some boundaries here. And these boundaries can only be enforced, which requires you to stay strong and not fold/cave to the cat no matter how much it pleads.

I'll address the separate misbehaviors.

Meowing for attention

The only solution here is to ignore the cat. Don't respond, don't pet her. Pretend as if you are incapable of hearing the meowing.
If you're unsure whether the meows genuinely require attention, you can check in on the cat the first time. Again don't engage other than looking at her in silence, and if nothing requires your attention, walk away and ignore subsequent meows.

This means you'll initially have to endure meowing sessions without being able to stop them. But eventually, the cat will understand that you are not going to change your mind because she asks you to (by meowing), and thus her meowing is wasted effort, which will lead her to no longer bother with meowing.

This can take a long time, depending on how stubborn your cat is.

Do not punish the cat for meowing. While I generally advocate minor punishments for misbehaviors (e.g. telling them off, spraying some water in their direction, ...), I strongly suggest that you don't do this when asking for attention. If you do, you run the risk of teaching your cat not to come to you with problems, which may be detrimental in cases where you need the cat to come to you (illness, danger, ...)


Interrupting your sleep time

You need to ignore the cat. If her behavior is too intrusive for you to ignore and she physically wakes you up, then you have to "be grumpy" (mind the quotes, it's acting) whenever your sleep is disturbed.

This can be done by (softly but assertively) pushing them off the bed, throwing something (soft!) near them, spraying water, calling their name, or potentially placating them by letting them cuddle with you. This depends on what you're willing to put up with, and what the cat responds to.

In our case, I state their name in a particular tone of voice, and they are all well aware that his means they've misbehaved and they tend to correct their own behavior then. To prove that point, I was recounting past events to my girlfiend, I quoted myself stating the cat's name in an annoyed fashing, and (at the time of telling the story) the cat immediately stopped what it was doing at the time; he clearly understood my tone of voice correctly even though he wasn't actually misbehaving at the time. When I state his name with a happier tone of voice, he doesn't actually stop what he's doing.


More play energy than you can handle

This is also something you shouldn't punish, as this is either the cat's natural behavior or something you've taught her. In either case, it's not her fault.

The short answer here is that you don't have to play with her if you don't want to play. It takes two to tango, and if one party is unwilling to play, then the other party can't force them. This works in either direction.

What you can do is provide alternatives for playing. Because our cats love the laser and will never stop playing until they're physically exhausted, we bought them an automatic laser toy.
The toy is not as good as us (because it goes is a relatively predictable circle), but it suffices for extra plays. We still have to (and want to) play with them, but if we tire of playing and they do not, the automatic toy can pick up the slack.

What you should provide highly depends on what your cat likes. For example, one of our cats absolutely loves hair ties. If you throw a hair tie once, he will pounce on it, thus moving it, and pouncing on it again. The cycle repeats until he is tired of playing or loses the hair tie.

Of course, having a second cat is one of the better options here but obviously not necessarily feasible for you. If your cat is the only pet in the house, you'll need to direct more attention to them not being bored whenever you're not available.


Going where she's not allowed to go

This should be responded to consistently, regardless of whether it's because you're refusing to play with her or not.

In our case, there are a few places the cats are not allowed to touch. The kitchen bench and the tv dinner tables are the two big items here.

For the kitchen bench, we always respond by dropping whatever it is we're doing, stating the cat's name a few times (incrementing in volume), and physically removing them from the counter. We don't pick them up, but rather "sweep" them off by pushing them sideways so they have to jump off themselves.
They still get up on the counter once in a while but they tend to walk away when they've been caught.

For the tv dinner tables, the rule is that they cannot touch the tables. End of discussion.
They're allowed to sit besides me and look at the food, they're allowed to lean in (but not over the table) for a sniff, but the moment any part of them touches the table, they are no longer allowed on the couch either, and the odds of me giving them a taste drop to zero.

This creates an interesting punishment strategy: if they respect the "no touching" rule, they are able to at least observe and sniff at a distance. If they are particularly good (not needing me to stop them), they often get a bit of the food as a reward for following the rules.
If they disrespect the rule, they lose access to everything, including observing, sniffing, and potentially getting some of the food.

This has worked, the cats now tend to only look at (and silently stare at me, asking for) food, but they do not touch the table or badger me for food unless I offer it to them.

  • 3
    Good reply. My personal approach to the cats waking me up is gently putting my arms around them, pulling them in, and going back to sleep. You'll often see this same behavior among cats. It'll either end in the cat feeling uncomfortable and leaving, or cuddling up for a nap with you. – Stig Tore Dec 7 at 13:41
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    @StigTore: I do the same except when they wake me up for food. They tend to softly tap me (or my face), so pulling them in is counterproductive to sleeping. I ignore them, or when they use their nails I throw the blanket over them. I only takes a short period of consistent responses for them to stop doing things they know are going to bother you. – Flater Dec 7 at 13:52
  • @StigTore, that's exactly what I do as well. It's worked very well with my cats. – mhwombat Dec 7 at 21:58

the answers provided already are spot on information, but I got to thinking...

Your cat sounds like she used to be an outdoors cat, and now she is predominantly indoors? This can cause cats to go a little "stir-crazy" where they can be over demanding and act up a little bit. The stimulus of outdoors is a very hard thing to make up for inside the house.

Simple toys can be a good idea. Balls and small plush mice with feathers - things she can throw around and chase at her own leisure.

Ensure things like mint and catnip are kept away from your cat. (mouthwash/toothpaste smells send my cat into a troublesome rampage)

Another thought I had: Has she been "snipped"? Cats can go into season as short a period as every three weeks. With females this can cause them to become VERY demanding, affectionate, aggressive, they can also make that awful wailing noise you described.

Lastly, cats don't hold grudges. If you want to do something else, gently picking her up and placing her on the floor beside you with a little pet to the head enough times should tell her you don't want to play right now. She might get the grump on, but she'll get over it :)

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  • When mine started literally climbing the walls it was time to be an indoor outdoor cat. Only if yours isn't declawed though... – Mazura Dec 7 at 20:41

Ok, how to deal with this is going to vary a bit from cat to cat. Some of it might work, some might not.

As mentioned in my comment, I'd experiment with automatic toys, and specifically toys designed for high energy breeds like Bengals and Savannahs. This could take a lot of experimentation. Maybe look into cat furniture to allow her to basically traverse the entire room at a high level (from the floor up a cat tree, and around the room from shelf to shelf).

Other than that you seem to be mostly handling it as it should be. A few tips might be to set aside scheduled playtimes, and ignore play at other times. And as you mentioned: Ignore her meowing for more play when playtime is over. This should make the meowing less severe over time, and should be helped even more as you figure out some toys to assist you.

This part is very dependant on her mood and inclination: You might want to look into possibly getting her a friend to play with. BUT you definitely want to try before you buy with this one, as the cats (or other species) will have to get along very well for that kind of high energy play to be acceptable.

But as mentioned it's basically going to be about getting an acceptable setup for toys, and setting and following rules and schedules. Also try not to worry about her not wanting cuddles after finishing a play session, this is perfectly normal. It usually takes cats a little while to switch gears.

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    Thank you so much for your replies. and at such a late hour. You have me more at ease and even purring a bit as I type. Thought that wouldn't happen after today. But seriously, it's appreciated. She's a good cat. I was and am just feeling a bit worn down at the moment. – Karl Dec 7 at 8:25

Try to increase the energy she uses up playing.

You said she liked the laser pointer, this is good, but make her really RUN after it. If you can clear a place in a hallway or something to create a really long area to run in, that would be good.

You said she also likes string toys, also good, but if she mostly likes to grab them and then sit and "disembowel" them she's not using much energy. Instead, try and make her really work to catch the toy in the first place. More running is a good start, but also climbing and crawling into confined spaces (think climbing up the cat tree, jumping off, and going through a low-cost cat tunnel). Climbing will use up a ton of energy.

Brain puzzles. If you can put her food in a "cat food puzzle". Here is a huge list of really simple examples: Food Puzzles for Cats From a cardboard tube (toilet paper tube) with the ends blocked and a few holes cut in it so that the cat knocks it around and the food falls out, to putting food in a confined space (ice cube tray) so that the cat has to pull each piece of food out individually. Sometimes even when the cat is physically tired, they are mentally bored, so this keeps them entertained.

Forgot to add, this too shall pass. Are you sure about the 8 years old age? Some of this kind of sounds more like a young adult cat (1-2 years old, and yes, they can easily have kittens at 1 year old), but they usually calm down by around 3. Even if you have an exceptional cat who is still super active at 8 years old, I suspect she will start slowing down with age in a year or two. But the time you spend bonding with her is yours forever.

One more: It's sometimes possible to teach a cat to fetch (and also other tricks, like "sit", "high five", etc.). Trick training is a great way to use up some mental energy, and training a high-energy activity like fetch is a double win. If she already had a litter of kittens in the wild, then fetch is a natural behavior since mom will bring back food for the kittens when they are old enough to start solids.

  • Thank you to all of you who responded, I'm so appreciative for reading my long frazzled essay and taking the time to provide insight and encouragement. I had not considered the outdoor cat possibility previously. Obviously she was when found with the kittens, but possibly before that had the option of being outdoors. In Naperville the cat leash law made us keep our two cats indoors the last year of their lives or so and it did drive them crazy and their health deteriorated rapidly. There were just some things they took care of, stomach issues, desire to hunt and overload of energy, outdoors. – Karl Dec 8 at 2:41
  • I do believe I was the one who started extended playtime, as the little gal I met at the pet store did not have any energy and just kind of sat on top of the cat tree to be left alone. I was happy to see her play and even gallop and get faster and more into it. I had not considered she would surpass my daily efforts to appease her. I have since, the last day or 2 pulled back, and made sure to do feeding after instead of before play. She still isn't jazzed about it, but this morning she slept out on her pet bed the first time, and after play went to the cat tree and looked out the window. – Karl Dec 8 at 2:45
  • This cat tree attention was also new. And this hasn't really seemed to harm our connection , the pulling back on play a bit. There hasn't been much wailing today, and she was all purrs when I came home tonight, brushing against a bag in the kitchen and a cabinet. this, as you all have said, will take time, but I feel thanks to you all my stress/worry fever has broken in part. My thanks to all of you for your time, consideration and knowledge. – Karl Dec 8 at 2:48
  • user3067860, I wanted to add there is slight contention about her age. The age was surmised by the vet who initially inspected her by plaque build up and teeth removed previously I guess, but the person at the adoption agency felt 7 was old to be found with a litter, so there's no definite answer. So she may be closer in age to the behavior patterns you think she fits with, or somewhere in between. Either way, thank you for your wisdom and experience. It has calmed me and will help her. – Karl Dec 8 at 7:14

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