How to Stop Your Cat From Waking You up at Night

There are a few strategies to keep your cat from ruining your sleep

Young woman lying on bed by cat
Will Woods / Getty Images

A good night sleep should not be interrupted by your pet cat. Does your cat constantly wake you at night by either playing on the bed, waking you to be fed, or wanting cuddle time when all you want is sleep? It can be even worse for many people with sleep disorders. They have problems going back to sleep after being awakened by a cat. There is no need to suffer from cat-related sleep deprivation. If medication or pharmaceutical sleep aids aren't an option, you can try one or more of these suggestions to get a full night's sleep, and still give your cat the attention it needs.

  • 01 of 03

    Why Do Cats Wake You up at Night?

    In their natural habitats, cats are nocturnal animals. They sleep almost all day and play or hunt all night. While they may need to live on a human schedule there could be a number of reasons why a cat might wake its owner up at night.

    • They may not have enough stimulation and exercise during the day, so they are not drowsy and hoping to play
    • They are bored when home alone and looking for companionship
    • They are hungry (or want to eat)
    • Their schedule is off
    • Their bedding has been disturbed

    Do take note if this is a rare behavior for your cat or your cat is elderly. If your cat is exhibiting off behavior, is waking at night for no reason, or seems sickly or is displaying other symptoms, check with your vet right away. Interrupted sleep can be a sign of illness ranging from a toothache to something more severe like arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and high blood pressure.

  • 02 of 03

    How to Stop Being Woken up by Your Pet Cat

    Try any and all of these techniques to train (or retrain) your cat not to wake you up at night.

    • You can help readjust a cat's internal clock by scheduling an interactive play period of at least one hour, taking place an hour before bedtime. Follow the play sessions with a snack, which should leave your cat drowsy and not angling for food in the middle of the night.
    • Ignore your cat if it does wake you up. After a few wakings, the cat will learn they are not getting attention from you and may leave you alone.
    • If you already have a sleep disorder, it is best that you never encourage your cat to sleep on your bed. This means making your bedroom off-limits at all times. Give your cat a comfortable cat bed in a spare room, a corner of the living room (with a screen for privacy), or even a bathroom. If necessary, rub a bit of catnip on the bed initially, to encourage the cat to use it.
    • A single cat may easily become bored at home alone all day and will expect its human companion to provide attention at night. A second cat will offer companionship during the day and will lessen those nocturnal urges to wake you for play. This is especially true with kittens, who have much more excess energy to burn during their first year of growth. Two kittens are almost always better than one.​
    • If your cat interrupts your sleep early in the morning by pouncing on you to seek breakfast, don't allow the animal to train you. Tell it "no!" then cover your head with the sheet, blanket, or even pillow, if necessary. When your own clock (internal or bedside table model) tells you it's time to wake up, then feed your cat. This will teach the cat that breakfast is served on your schedule. 
    • Cats do not like surprises and are most happy when their household revolves around a predictable schedule. Giving them a set time for food, safe outdoor play, interactive play, grooming, and petting will go a long way toward maintaining their well-being and giving you a good night's sleep, every night.
  • 03 of 03

    Next Steps

    If you find yourself woken up by a noisy or annoying cat, try these tips to create a peaceful environment to help you (and your cat) get a good sleep.

    • Even if you close your door to your cat, a determined feline might scratch at the door for a while, but it will eventually give up and either go to sleep or find some other activity. You can help prevent damage to the door by either mounting a vertical scratch pad on it, trimming his nails​ or using a product like Soft Claws.
    • There are a number of commercial products on the market for peaceful sounds that will help you sleep (with the cat on the other side of the door). You can select from bird sounds, ocean/waterfall sounds, or just white noise, and earphones will help amplify and enhance the sleep-inducing effects.
    • Try to prevent those pouncing, biting attacks on your toes at night and use room-darkening shades to completely darken the room. Replace any digital or fluorescent dial clocks by the bedside with non-illuminated versions. Avoid nightlights since your cat might think it's a toy. Although cats can see in very low light, they cannot see in total darkness. (They'll also be more inclined to go to sleep.)
    • If all else fails and your cat's noises or scratching at the door keeps you awake, use earplugs. Swimmers' earplugs effectively seal the ear canal and should give you some relief.