In a nutshell, if a Merm is asleep and you give it an item, it will wake up to either accept or refuse that item.
This is not the case for every other mob in the game that can be traded with, despite the code attempting to do so (for the most part) and the dev comment in birdcage.lua stating "If asleep, wake up" above the block of code that attempts (and fails) to do just that.
From what I've noticed, these functions are not written uniformly across each of the affected mobs. I have this detailed report noting the differences, but I'm not 100% sure if that's the cause.
This video shows the difference in-game:
Please refer to this post I made here, as I thoroughly go over all the differences between the mobs.
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