Does your cat constantly wake you up at night by playing on the bed, lobbying to be fed, or soliciting cuddle time when all you want to do is sleep? Your cat is most likely seeking attention, leading to a disturbance in your sleep cycle.
Your good night's sleep is extremely important to your health and shouldn't be interrupted by your kitty. There's no need to suffer from cat-related sleep deprivation, though. Below, we break down why your cat might be waking you at night and how to solve this behavioral issue.
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Why Does Your Cat Wake You at Night?
In their natural habitats, cats are nocturnal creatures. They sleep almost all day and play or hunt all night. There are a few reasons why your kitty might be prompted to wake you up in the dead of the night.
- It may not be getting enough stimulation, enrichment, and exercise during its active periods, so while you're starting to fall asleep, your cat may be fully awake and looking to play.
- If your cat spends most of its active time home alone while you're at work or elsewhere, it may be bored and looking for companionship.
- Your kitty is hungry, thirsty or wants a midnight snack or a special treat.
- Your cat's schedule isn't in sync with yours anymore.
- Your kitty's bedding or litterpan has been disturbed.
Take note if your cat is old and/or its nighttime friskiness is new or unusual behavior. Whenever your cat exhibits off behavior, wakes at night for no reason, seems to be sickly, or displays other symptoms that it's sick, check with your vet right away.
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How to Stop Your Cat From Waking You
There are a number of techniques that you can try to train (or retrain) your cat not to wake you up at night. Some will require some behavior modifications on the pet owners part, so make sure that all family members are on board with the changes. Before you go to bed, decide how you will react to your cat. The middle of the night is not the best time to make a decision.
- Help your cat to readjust its internal clock by scheduling an interactive hour-long play period about an hour before bedtime. Follow the play session with a light kitty-appropriate snack like a small treat, which should leave your cat not angling for food in the middle of the night.
- If your cat wakes you up anyway, ignore it. After trying this a few times, your cat will learn that it's not getting the attention it wants from you and may leave you alone.
- If you have a sleep disorder, it's best never to 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 you do this, make sure wherever the cat is kept at night that it has access to water and litterpan. Try rubbing a bit of catnip on the bed initially to encourage the cat to use it.
- A single cat may easily become bored when it's home alone all day and may expect its human companion to provide attention at night. A second cat may offer companionship during the day and may lessen those nocturnal urges to wake you for play. This is especially true of kittens, who have much more energy to burn during their first year of growth. Two kittens are almost always better than one and often is a great time for cat's to be introduced. Selecting a second adult cat for your home to get along with your first adult cat can be very difficult and should be done carefully so that your initial cat has a companion that does not cause it stress or vice versa.
- If your cat interrupts your sleep early in the morning to seek breakfast, avoid feeding it at the time of it's demand or it will continue to wake you up this early. Having a safe, designated area such as a spare bedroom where your cat can sleep, eat and drink and potty that is not in your bedroom can be helpful to your sleep schedule and relationship with your cat.
- Cats don't like surprises and are most happy when their household revolves around a predictable schedule. Giving your cat a set time for food, exercise, interactive play, grooming, and petting will go a long way toward maintaining its well-being and giving you a good night's sleep, every night.
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If you find yourself awakened by a noisy or annoying cat, try to create a peaceful environment to help you (and your cat) get some restful sleep. Again, make sure that all family members are aware of the steps you are taking. If you ignore your cat, but someone else feeds in the middle of the night, the ignoring is for nothing.
- Even if you close your bedroom 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 your door by either mounting a vertical scratch pad on it, trimming your kitty's nails regularly, or having your vet fit your cat with plastic nail caps like Soft Claws.
- A number of commercial products are available that play soothing sounds that may help you sleep (with your cat on the other side of the door). You can select from bird sounds, ocean or waterfall sounds, or just white noise. Earphones or earbuds will help amplify and enhance the sleep-inducing effects.
- Try to prevent those pouncing, biting attacks on your toes at night by using room-darkening shades to completely darken your room. Replace any digital or fluorescent-dial clocks by the bedside with nonilluminated versions or just use your phone.
- If all else fails and your cat's noises or scratching at the door keeps you awake, use swimmers' earplugs, which effectively seal the ear canal and should give you some relief.
Medical Causes of Behavioral Signs. Merck Veterinary Manual.
Ellis SL, Rodan I, Carney HC, et al. AAFP and ISFM Feline Environmental Needs Guidelines. J Feline Med Surg. 2013;15(3):219-230. doi:10.1177/1098612X13477537