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Your mission, if you accept it: help break Oliver of bad habit
Dear Dr. Spiegel, Please help! My cat insists on waking up my husband and me by crying and scratching at the door to be fed every morning at about 4:00a.m.!! If we let her in the room, she jumps on us and purrs very loudly and disturbs us. One of us usually gives in and feeds her so we can get back to sleep, but this has been going on for over a month and we can't take it anymore! Oliver is a 6 year old female cat (with a boy's name!). We love her dearly, but also love to sleep past 4:00a.m.! Any suggestions? Sincerely, S.C. Newark P.S. I've tried using a water gun when we let her in the room to keep her from jumping on us. She manages to outsmart me, and jumps on me when I'm not ready to squirt her. P.P.S. Once we feed her, she curls up between us and goes right to sleep. Oliver's usual feeding times are at 5:00p.m. and 7:00a.m. We also tried feeding her dinner at 9:00p.m. She still cried for breakfast at 4:00a.m.!
Dear S.C., Alas, defeated by your own cat. By opting for the quick fix, you've reinforced Oliver's crafty notion that waking you at 4:00a.m. is the thing to do. So now you suffer. I could offer the solace of my advice here and now, but instead I think this is a time that some lessons should be learned and some fun should be had. Bad pet (and people) habits do not go away by giving into them. They only grow stronger. Whether your dog is barking for attention, your kids are screaming or whining for you to put on Power Rangers or feed them cookies for dinner, or your cat is standing on your face purring for her breakfast, becoming a slave to their demands is like announcing, "I am here to serve your needs. You may use me and abuse me. Also please note: ...the more threatening your behavior is to my sanity, the quicker I'll respond to satisfy your desires." You can't allow that to happen. The short term benefits of immediate peace, quiet, and sleep don't even come close to outweighing the long term pains you'll suffer for creating horrible habits in your dependents (animal or otherwise) by reinforcing their unwanted behaviors. READERS, here is your opportunity to get your two cents in! Who among you is shrewd enough to outwit Oliver, the cunning, breakfast- craving feline, and restore rest to the sleep-impaired home of S.C.? I hereby announce a contest of wits. Send or fax me your creative solutions to this furry food fancying dilemma. All responses must be received by St. Patrick's Day, this Friday, March 17th. Winning letters will be published Sunday, March 26th, and then maybe S.C. and her hubby will be able to "rest in peace" ...No!! That is not an acceptable solution!