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C2008-08

Dear Christopher Cat

Freddie, our 2-year-old neutered male cat, has a peculiar bedtime ritual. He kneads the bed with all four feet, then lunges while making a menacing noise, as though he’s about to attack. We back off, afraid he’ll bite.

But after one lunge, Freddie reverts to his gentle, affectionate self and falls asleep. If we stop Freddie while he’s kneading, before he lunges, he goes right to sleep. What does his behavior mean, and how can we stop it?

Christopher Responds

It sounds like a case of Freddie’s frolic gone wild, also known as play aggression.

I confess that when I was young and revved up, I sometimes behaved badly, too. I eventually grew out of it, and you can help Freddie do the same.

Just before bedtime, tire him out by encouraging him to chase a laser light or play with a feather-on-a-fishing-pole cat toy.

Play in the family room, so Freddie associates that room with play and your bedroom with sleep.

If he still kneads in bed, distract him immediately, before his play turns rough, just as you’ve been doing.

Soon, when he’s in bed, he’ll just purr – or maybe, like my feline brother Dougie, he’ll snore loudly, in which case, you may write again.

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