Why does my cat wake me up in the night?

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Does your cat have an annoying habit of waking you up in the night? By waking you up, your cat achieves specific goals...

Have you ever been all tucked up in your bed in a heavenly slumber when, all of a sudden, your feline friend storms the room? Very quickly, this leads to kitty randomly jumping on your bed, opening cabinet doors, knocking perfume bottles over, and then having a curious need to groom right by your head? If so, you are not alone!

Cats naturally have different sleeping and waking patterns to people — and, often to the dismay of their owners, they are more active when we wish to be sleeping. Cats are crepuscular animals that are primarily active during twilight (dawn and dusk).

By necessity, some owners must leave their cats home alone during the day, but often without playmates or entertaining activities.

Most cats will sleep for between 16 and 20 hours a day, depending on age. These sleeping times vary in individual cats and each home, but most sleep during the daytime while their owners are at work. Then, when you get in from work and finally settle down for the night, your cat seizes the opportunity to capture your attention by waking you up.

By waking you up, your cat achieves specific goals:

  • They’ve made something exciting happen, even if it is only grumbling or movement.
     
  • They get social interaction, no matter how you respond.
     
  • They will often get fed for their troubles!

    Often, the easy fix will be to get up and either put kitty outside your room (in this instance, they have received some attention), or, better still, you will get up and give them some food — this is a win-win in their eyes!

    Remember that cats learn by experience; if they do something (such as jump on your bed) and they get the desired response (such as you picking them up and then giving them food), then this behaviour will be more likely to be repeated. The best thing you can do is ignore them! Giving in to their nighttime antics will lead to them repeating this behaviour for days, months, and even years!

    It is then essential to introduce new and exciting things into your cat’s daily routine, which should hopefully lead to a better night’s sleep for all of you!
     
  • Increase stimulation and exercise during the day to expend some of their energy. Try to increase the number of interactive play sessions that you have with them — three 10-minute sessions daily, and an extra play session before retiring for the evening.
     
  • Include interesting ways to deliver food — try using puzzle feeders and hiding extra-special treats on saucers around the house. That way, if they do wake up in the night, they can occupy themselves by hunting that extra special morsel.
     
  • Try to increase social contact during the day and/or early evening — a gentle grooming session can help your cat relax before it’s time to settle down for the night.

    If all else fails, try using blackout blinds so that ambient light from street lights or early morning sunlight does not trigger their behaviour — and invest in some good-quality earplugs. Sweet dreams!