How to retrain a cat

Cat attacking a sleeping woman
This is what I put up with when His Royal Fluffiness was a kitten. Yes, that’s me. I dress up to sleep.

When His Royal Fluffiness (HRF) was a kitten he had a lot of energy. Think of a squirrel that’s overdosed on caffeine.

He liked to pounce and bite. He also slept during the day. That meant most of his playing went on at night in our bedroom.

One night my sixth sense booted me awake. It was a good thing it did, because this was headed for my face.

Pouncing cat

I flung up my arms and catapulted HRF across the room. (Gently, of course.)

In the morning, my husband and I decided something needed to be done. We took HRF to the vet for his vaccinations and asked the vet’s advice.

“You could retrain him to sleep when you do,” she said confidently.

“How?”

“Just keep him awake during the day. He’ll be so tired he’ll sleep all night.”

We exchanged a dubious look.

So HRF wouldn’t doze under a bush in secret, we locked him in the bedroom where we were working.

2:00 pm: HRF decides it’s bedtime. He curls up on the bed and hides his face under his tail.

I give him an energetic pat and he gets up. He sits and watches us work.

2:02 pm: HRF really is sleepy. He curls up on the bed again.

2:03 pm: I pat him and wake him up. My work is not going well.

2:04-2:09 pm: We repeat the previous two steps.

2:09 pm: HRF is really very tired, thank you very much, and is not pleased about being disturbed.

I pat him. His head stays down.

I jiggle him around a bit. His head comes up, ears flat and he swipes at my hand with his claws extended. I yank my hand away and he plunges his nose back into his tail.

2:10 pm: I lift HRF onto his feet. He scratches me and curls up and sleeps.

2:11 pm: …

Me: It’s not working and he’s getting grumpy.

Husband: We only have to keep him awake for… eight more hours.

Me: …

2:13 pm: HRF looks sound asleep. I prod him. No response. I pick him up and he uncurls.

2:13:10 pm: HRF goes back to sleep.

2:14-2:17 pm: We cycle between HRF sleeping and me picking him up and waking him.

2:17 pm: I pick HRF up and he doesn’t wake. He doesn’t even uncurl, he just flops in my arms.

Me: He won’t wake up.

Husband: Shake him.

I jiggle him gently (and feel mean about it). His head comes up. As soon as I stop shaking he goes back to sleep.

Me: Wake up.

HRF: …

Me: Do you want me to keep shaking you?

HRF: …

Me: I can’t keep him awake.

Husband: …

2:18 pm: After 18 minutes of war, HRF wins and we let him sleep on the bed. He’s so tired he sleeps all afternoon, and by night he’s ready to play.

We never did train him to sleep during the night. He’s a cat–he’ll sleep exactly when he darn well pleases, and we’re his people so we’ll like it.

Sleeping cat

Have you ever tried to retrain a cat? Did you do any better than we did? How on earth did you manage that?

If you have a friend who’s been defeated by a cat, why not share this post with them? It won’t help them win, but they might feel better about losing.

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

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