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Question: What is causing my cat's sudden behavior changes?

We adopted 2 kitten brothers from our local shelter 9 months ago. They are both healthy and active, but Baby is definitely having nightmares. He tosses & turns & makes noises at night. Baby is very loving but a little more cautious than Biggie.

We recently traveled with them for 14 days & everything went well. We were very proud of them. Just recently though, about daylight savings, something seemed to change. Their sleep habits changed and Baby is backing up & running from us especially after waking, 75% of the time. They seem healthy & normal otherwise. What do you think the cause could be & how can we correct it?

Answer: I don't pretend to be the one-source-knows-all expert on complex situations such as you outline. What I do know is that sudden behavioral changes always indicate a problem, as you are aware of.

As you probably know, cats are creatures of habit and intensely dislike changes of any kind - even innocuous changes such as moving furniture. Your cats have a lot of history behind them, with many changes in their short lives.

You do not have control over their history prior to the time you adopted them. However you do have control over their present environment. Just recently, they have been through. . .read the rest of my reply.

Readers: After you have read my complete reply, feel free to share your own advice for this problem. You may also use the online form linked at the bottom of the article, if you have had success in dealing with a similar problem. I am also particularly interest if other readers have noticed behavioral problems in their cats since the Daylight Savings Time change. Please give your best advice. I have advised the reader who emailed these questions that it will be posted here, so he will be looking for answers in addition to mine. Off-topic comments and unrelated questions will be deleted.


March 22, 2009 at 7:47 pm
(1) Franny Syufy says:

Mary Anne Miller offers this advice: “Franny, tell the gentleman to spray some bedding with Feliway spray and also, to burn a night light for the kitty. I have had some kittens that have night terrors. One was a drowning victim, the other tossed down a dry well and left to die. I surmised they were afraid of the dark. Another comfort is harp music and warmth, either a heated cat bed, or a pet pad. Hope this helps”

March 23, 2009 at 6:50 am
(2) Cathy in Rochester says:

My rescue cat Paco has night terrors too. He was a rescue cat so I have to assume he was mistreated as well. Not a night goes by where he doesn’t wake up and claw whatever is near. In many cases, my exposed face. It takes him a good thirty seconds of thrashing to snap out of it and realize where he is. He has an angry, yet vacant look in his eyes when he’s out of it, if that makes sense. My son gave me a mosquito head net that I wear to bed to limit the scratching. I’ve never thought to use a night light or soothing music. Thanks for the suggestion!

March 24, 2009 at 12:57 pm
(3) stuart the nubian says:

What causes night terrors? Actually, what are night terrors?


March 24, 2009 at 2:21 pm
(4) marta gasper says:

I’m with Mary Anne and Cathy..Feliway seems to be very indicated here. And for kittens a night light would help even if they didn’t have such a traumatic experiences as Cathy’s(think monster under the bed for kids). I keep a night light in the room my fosters sleep, even with older fosters. My vet keeps a night light in their kitten room.
Back to Baby and Biggie; their being on a trip can be traumatic. Even if thet were very good during it. I don’t think that daylight savings time has anything to do with it because it is a very imperciptible change to a cat. If there are often strangers in the house for sale that would account for it.
I know most of my cats act freaked out for a while after somebody stopping by and of course a repairman in.
And lastly they are still growing and are very impressionable so gentle reassurance and TLC from the owners + Feliway and/or flower essences would help inmensily.

March 26, 2009 at 9:44 am
(5) Illivich Hukinfzvev says:

I’ve tried soothing tactics in the past but they don’t seem to work for my crew of three. I used loud noises and music to desensitize my brunch. They seem to respond better now. When it’s quiet, it’s good. When it’s a bit lound, it’s still good.


March 26, 2009 at 2:12 pm
(6) Dorina says:

I love the Feliway products. They have a spray you can use in their carrier and a plug in you can leave in Baby’s favorite room or where he sleeps. Works well for my kitties and sometimes it can take several weeks to take effect.

You can get behavorial meds from your vet if there is no improvement.

My personal opinion is that Baby has had several experiences he may not enjoy: car ride and a 14-day trip. He may be associating you picking him up with travel. Perhaps some extra TLC and tell him that you don’t plan a trip for a long time, that he is in his forever home with you and should you find that you need to travel again…you will always bring him back home with you, you love him. I know some folks will find it silly but I swear that they can understand. My MIL calls me the cat whisperer as I always calm her cats down by speaking with them.

March 26, 2009 at 9:00 pm
(7) Amy says:

Are you kidding me? DST? How about the fact that they make a cat travel? That’s ridiculous, get a dog. Traveling will stress any cat, I don’t care if they don’t seem affected. Remember, cats hide their stress and fear innately. Stop making them travel, ask or hire someone to care for them in your home when you are traveling.

March 27, 2009 at 1:13 am
(8) Jen says:

In addition to Feliway, you might try some Bach Flowers- such as a combination of Rescue Remedy, Aspen and Mimulus (for fears both known and unknown). You can put 7-10 drops of each into wet food, drinking water, or directly into your hands and then gently stroke Baby, if he’ll let you. You could also put the same amounts into a spray bottle, add about 1 oz of distilled or spring water and spray the bedding, favorite places to rest, etc. Back Flowers will do no harm, and can be quite helpful.
If you are willing to try an animal communicator, she/he might be able to find out what happened to cause the change in Baby and have some suggestions to help him return to his previous happy self. Good luck

March 27, 2009 at 1:24 am
(9) Jen says:

In addition to Feliway, you might try Back Flower Essences such as a combination of Rescue Remedy, Aspen and Mimulus (for fears both known and unknown). Add 7-10 drops directly into wet food or drinking water, or a few drops of each into your hands and gently stroke Baby around his head, ears and body, if he’ll let you. Repeat several times a day for a week or more. Also, add the same number of drops of each to 1 oz. of distilled or spring water (not tap water)and put in a small spray bottle. Spray any place that Baby likes to hang out frequently. Flower essences are benign and can be very helpful.
An animal communicator might be able to find out from Baby what has caused the change and have suggestions as to how to help Baby return to his earlier happy self. Good luck

March 27, 2009 at 10:31 am
(10) Florence, Vancouver, Canada says:

We moved our house in June of last year, after having been in the same place for our cats’ entire lives. Their reaction was interesting and sad!!!! We put them in their cages and the reaction was typical — they thought they were going to the vet!!!! Yelling and fussing. When the taxi turned right out of our street, instead of left for the vet, they went dead quiet — they didn’t know what to think!!! Poor babies. And when I got them to our new home, they would come out of their carriers. These are cats who have been with us since they were kittens. It was only after “Dad” got there that they started to settle down — I.e. come out from under the bathroom vanity.

But whenever they have had to have long visits to the vet when they were ill, they have had nightmares, especially our female kitty!!! Just give Baby lots of love and encourage lots of cuddles.

March 27, 2009 at 11:18 am
(11) Bryan Q. says:

Amy, try a little compassion, will you please? I happen to be a traveling salesman who recently lost his life partner. I have no other way of taking care of my two babies other than bringing them with me on my travels. I refuse to give them away!


June 11, 2009 at 6:05 pm
(12) Hilda says:

One of my cats is very easily scared, and the only thing related to that is, when his Mom was pregnant with him we had a tree fall on our house due to a very big storm, and all the kittens born later, seem to have this fear of unknown noises especially loud ones. So who knows what your cat has gone through in it’s past. Cats need time to adjust much more so than dogs, and most cats do not like traveling either. But more than anything, let your cat tell YOU when and what it needs. Cats need TIME, and only patience, listening to your cat, talking to it softly and reassuringly, will ensure your cat, that it’s safe and okay around you. Making your cat do something, especially such as coming out of hiding, will almost always backfire. Learn to speak cat language, and you’ll know what they’re saying and asking. Sounds weird, but cats DO talk and communicate with those people that know how to talk and listen to them in return.

June 4, 2012 at 1:50 am
(13) Noelle says:

Okay I was wondering if anyone could help me my cat has been acting very strange lately and I don’t know whats wrong with her. She is eating normally and going to the bathroom but she just keeps meowing at me and wanting in and out of our room. I will let her in she will stay in for a few minutes and want out. then a few minutes later meow at my door and this will go on and on. I have been packing slowly for a few months but nothing has moved in about a month. If anyone can help me out it would be great. And yes she is fixed and she is around 10 years of age.

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