Why Won’t My Cat Let Me Sleep Through the Night?
Questions About Cats

Why Won’t My Cat Let Me Sleep Through the Night?

Cats have a habit of waking their owners up at night at 3 AM or 4 AM, leaving you feeling tired the next day. Cats experience short, sudden bursts of energy. A cat will sleep for 8-12 hours a day, so you ideally want your cat to get its rest at the same time as you. That can be achieved with training.

Most often, a cat wakes you up during the night due to excess energy. It needs to burn off energy during waking hours. If your cat is awake at night, ensure that it has entertainment, food, and water. Check that your cat is not unwell or frightened at night. If your cat is older than 15, have it checked by a vet for signs of cognitive decline.

Some cat owners mistakenly assume that cats are nocturnal. This is not the case as felines are crepuscular. This means that cats are most active at dawn and dusk. With effort and training, a domesticated housecat can adapt to a human schedule, which means no more sleepless nights for you.

Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up During The Night?

Understand why your cat is reluctant to allow you to sleep. Ordinarily, it will be because the cat has not received sufficient stimulation during the day. Cats crave attention from their owners and want to be entertained.

There is potentially a medical explanation for your cat waking you up at night. The cat may be in pain, or feeling stressed and insecure. If you are not around to provide comfort, the cat will become increasingly distressed.

A cat that wakes you up constantly is not, “just one of those things.” Ignoring your cat at night seems mean, but it is the only successful training technique. If you give your cat what it wants, it won’t change its behavior. Learn why your cat is keeping you awake at night.

Excessive Energy

The Occam’s razor principle dictates that the simplest explanation is often the likeliest. This applies to cats that will not let you sleep. If your cat has excessive energy after dark, it was not active enough during the day.

A cat with energy will want to hunt and play. If you are not providing this stimulation, the cat will wake you to do so. This may involve biting your fingers or toes as the cat is hunting you to sate its desire for recreation.

A cat with excess energy will not necessarily wake you through bites and scratches. It will also race around the house, knocking things over. If the cat likes to roam outdoors, it may also scratch and yowl at the door.

Thankfully, this is the easiest problem to resolve. Most cats, especially senior cats, sleep up to 16 hours a day. With an appropriate routine in place, your cat will sleep when you do. Your cat needs to exercise its body and mind during waking hours.

Establishing Routine

Around an hour or two before bed, play with your cat and feed it. The play will sate your cat’s excessive energy levels, as play stimulates hunting instincts. This will tire your cat out.

Follow this up by feeding your pet as cats get sleepy after a big meal. As your cat is already tired from play, eating will exhaust it further. The cat will groom itself, then look to sleep.

Turning out the lights will help the cat understand that it is bedtime. According to the Physiology and Behavior, cats are likelier to sleep if light/dark cycles are alternated. Leave the lights on until you retire for the night.

Boredom

If your cat is going to be active, it needs sufficient stimulation. A bored cat will not hesitate to wake up its owner for attention.

Never get up in the night to amuse your cat yourself. This sets a dangerous precedent. The cat will assume that waking you and playing at night is part of its routine. It can be difficult to train a cat out of this. Instead, allow the cat to amuse itself after dark.

Cats cannot see in complete darkness, so provide a dim light for safety. Once you have done so, ensure your cat has things to do. Leave out toys safe for solitary play and invest in puzzles. Cat trees and scratching posts will also provide entertainment.

You could also give your cat something to look at. If you have a fish tank, a cat will happily watch it for hours. Just ensure that it is safe to do so. Do not allow your cat to fall into the aquarium or hunt the fish within.

As a last resort, you could also consider adopting a second cat. This will keep your existing cat company, assuming they get along.

Hunger

One of the most common reasons for a cat to wake a human is hunger. This is why cats often watch humans sleep. The cat is waiting for any sign of waking, so it can escalate the feeding process.

A cat fed at particular times will not panic at night and be prepared to wait. Naturally, feeding your cat as late as possible will also help. Cats know their limits when it comes to food and will not eat beyond their fill.

To maximize your chances of a good night’s sleep, leave dry food out overnight. This gives your cat access to a snack if required. Ensure that your cat has easy access to this food. If the cat needs help getting to it, you will be awoken and expected to assist.

cat wakes me up when I'm in bed

Attention

The Journal of Veterinary Behavior lists human stimulation as one of a cat’s three prime needs. If your cat had insufficient interaction during the day, it will seek to be more active during the nighttime.

Some cats are clingier than others and need more human attention. Consider your cat’s behavior while you are out of the house.

Do you come home to inappropriate urination and defecation, or destructive behaviors? If so, according to The Journal of the American Medical Veterinary Association, your cat likely has separation anxiety.

Arrange for your cat to have company during the day. Ask a neighbor to visit and entertain your cat. This will settle your cat down a little.

You will still need to spend time with your cat. As a primary caregiver, it is your company that your cat craves most. Do this at every opportunity you can but focus primarily on the evenings.

Insecurity and Fear

Human bedtime can be a lonely and frightening time for an anxious cat. Regardless of how aloof and independent your cat seems, it relies upon you.

If you are sleeping, you are not actively watching out for your cat. This will heighten the nerves of an apprehensive feline. Cats have excellent hearing and will pick up on sounds that you sleep through. It will wake you up to alert you that something is happening outside.

You need to build your cat’s confidence and keep it calm. With time and patience, your cat will grow more self-assured. This will leave your cat comfortable being alone while you sleep. It will investigate anything it deems out of the ordinary itself.

Routine is key to this, as is exposure therapy. If you live in a busy city, introduce your cat to everyday noises. These could include garbage trucks, sirens, and car horns. If you soothe your cat during waking hours, it will fear these sounds less at night.

Pain and Discomfort

If your cat lives with arthritis pain, or similar chronic discomfort, it may worsen at night. The temperatures drop at night, aggravating discomfort.

Your cat may struggle to keep this discomfort to itself. It will wake you at night by crying and yowling, whether by accident or design. Manage this by ensuring your cat is comfortable at night.

Provide your cat with a low-sided bed, packed with cushions and pillows. The Veterinary Nurse also recommends direct heat, such as a hot water bottle or heated blanket. This will reduce the level of pain.

Dirty Litter Box

Cats are clean animals and expect their litter box to reflect this. If your cat discovers its litter has not been cleaned, it will notify the nearest human. The cat will also be insistent.

This makes it advisable to check your cat’s litter last thing at night. If your cat needs to eliminate, it will wish to do so in a clean environment.

my cat won't let me sleep through the night

In Heat

If your cat female cat has not been spayed, she may be entering her estrus cycle. This can happen to cats of any age as there is no feline menopause.

A cat in heat has only one thing on her mind. The cat will not respect the sanctity of human sleep. It will be active and uncomfortable, determined to get outside and meet an eligible tomcat. The cat will yowl at doors and windows all day and night, begging to be let outside.

Short of spaying your cat, just give your cat extra attention during the day. Cats in heat are particularly clingy.

Cognitive Decline

Yowling and howling at night is one of the primary symptoms of feline cognitive dysfunction. This is the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease in cats. Many cats that are older than 15 years of age display numerous symptoms.

Cats with cognitive decline keep you up at night due to a reversed sleep-waking cycle. The cat will doze throughout the day, becoming active at night. Upon waking, the cat will become disoriented and confused. You will be made aware of this in no uncertain terms.

Cognitive dysfunction can make geriatric cats difficult to live with. Convincing a cat with this condition to sleep at night is challenging. Diagnosis can also be tricky. As per The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, diagnosis relies heavily upon anecdotal evidence.

Feline cognitive dysfunction cannot be cured. The deterioration of a cat’s faculties can be slowed down by keeping its mind active.

If your cat will not let you sleep at night, it feels its needs have not been met. Cats are particular, and like things a certain way. If you meet your cat’s expectations and adopt a structured routine, you will both sleep better.