Q My eight-year-old moggy is friendly and affectionate – he will rub your hand for attention when you’re sitting on the sofa and won’t give up until you pet him, but he’s also very vocal and wakes us up almost every night. What may be causing this and is there anything we can do to stop him miaowing in the middle of the night?
Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini says: You have a splendid example of attention-seeking, which, because you find his affectionate behaviour acceptable, has been constantly rewarded. The best way to curb this is to make sure you never respond to the demands he makes. That means no eye contact, inadvertently stroking or petting and absolutely no laughing, talking or shouting at him.
I suggest you silently look away, draw your hands across your chest and, if necessary, get up and walk out of the room. When your cat has given up, pay him as much attention as you want to – but as soon as he starts to demand it, repeat your ignoring tactic.
What you are trying to teach him is that demands fail to receive any rewards, but not demanding gets him loads of attention.
At night you will need to shut him out of your bedroom – and make sure you don’t slip up by talking to him if you have to go to the loo in the night. Giving him something that smells strongly of you, like an old towel you’ve slept with at night, may help reassure him.
Buy earplugs and warn the neighbours about the noise if necessary – then really work hard. A bright cat like this can learn to behave differently!