Q:My 8 year old orange tabby will "cry" non stop when I turn off all the lights at bedtime. This has gone on for about a year. Why does he do this?

Quick, quick, quick!

What does your cat have in common with a rainbow trout?

Any guesses?

Way back in the 90’s, I studied rainbow trout. Large, foot long fish at a fish farm. One of the studies I did was tracking their behaviour at dawn and dusk. At dawn, they would rise from the bottom, increase their activity to get food. At dusk, they would similarly increase their activity to do what a rainbow trout does.


There is scientific word for this - it’s called a crepuscular rhythm. It means you are more active when the lights go on or off.

Rainbow trout have a crepuscular organization of their time. And so do cats.

I recently went to Africa, for a project with Vets Without Borders / Vetoquinol. Boy, do things get going at dusk! The weirdest thing happened. The African plain reminded me of high school. You have cliques - groups of animals that hang out together, rove in groups. There are species that look like jocks, nerds, cool kids and some of those birds looked gothic. And more or less they looked like they left each other alone…until the sun started to go down….


Well, let’s assume your cat his healthy, with no issues going on. Her thyroid is cool, and she has no problems.  

If that assumption is true, then you have a cat who is asking to be stimulated. It doesn't matter that she didn't do this for year 1 to 7. You are going to bed, but your cat is getting all ready for action…and then gets bored…moowww…mooow…moooow…you know that one, where they sound like a cow in heat?

So what do you do?

Two things.

First, get them stimulated. Check out how Ingrid does that here www.fundamentallyfeline.com/videos/

Second, before you turn out the lights before bed, try this. Before bed play with him. Whatever he likes the most. When he is done playing, feed him (if he’s not hungry, you’ll need to get him hungry by taking the food away a few hours before this).

What do humans do after play and eating? We brush our teeth, settle down, then go to sleep.

Same with your cat (grooming, then sleep time).

You are trying to stimulate him during his time where his body expects heightened activity, then get him to cycle towards sleep when you happen to be sleeping.

Last thing about rainbow trout, that changed the way I looked at animals forever.

In 1998 I was trying to figure out if the artificial light they lived under was stressing them out during dawn and dusk. In order to figure that out, some of my fish would actually swim in a treadmill (it would let me measure stress to the body) like this:


So instead of running in place, they are swimming in place.

Now there is a grid (called "grating on the diagram) at the end of the treadmill.

Most fish would stay in the middle.

This one fish, during his run, decided he didn’t want to stay in the middle. He (or she) swam up to the grating, and used his mouth to hold onto it.

As if a fish could do this:

This fish was holding onto it so he didn't have to swim as hard.

Almost like tool use. Using something in your environment to accomplish something else.

It’s midnight, I’m in this big lab, in Waterloo Ontario, with no camera (most camera's still use film back then, and there were no smartphones), having a moment with this fish. Appreciating that no matter what they are, there is a spirit there. A fight. A will. They have their own way of looking at the world, and moving through it. Just like we do.

Dr. Kris