Why does my senior cat wake me in the night?


If your senior cat is waking you in the night, it may be down to cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).

(Q) My 17-year-old cat has been waking me in the night for almost a year so I always feed her. My vet told me that elderly cats can get confused between night and day. Is she ok?

Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini advises: Elderly cats can become confused and some develop dementia. Changes in sleep/wake cycles are a possible sign. However, many cats are simply more active at night.

And at any age, if we 'reward' a pet for a behaviour, they are likely to repeat it. So it's important to establish what you are dealing with, and unfortunately, dementia - termed cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) - can only be diagnosed by exclusion because there is no test for it.

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It may help if you can encourage your cat to be more active during the day. Then, either you have to ignore her completely if she wakes or put her to sleep somewhere else where she has everything she needs. If she becomes upset and disorientated at night when separated from you, this could potentially be a sign of CDS.

Other things to look out for in addition to disorientation are: social inhibition, not recognizing people or behaving uncharacteristically with others, sleep/wake changes, house soiling, and changes in activity and/or appetite. The sooner signs are picked up, the more likely it is that supportive treatments will help. Sadly, there is no cure.

If you think CDS may be the problem, speak again to your vet. But your cat could just be training you to provide night-time snacks!