Cats can be annoying at night. You may find your cat running across your bed, prodding at your face, bumping its head against yours, or standing on your chest. The cat might even yowl, howl, meow, cry and even trill at all hours. Although cats may be lazy and docile all day, they can come alive after dark. It may even appear like the cat specifically doesn’t want you to sleep through the night.
Most cats wake up their owners by accident or on purpose because they’re night time creatures. It’s a normal instinct for them to play, hunt, eat, and investigate new things at these hours. That fact only worsens for older cats, cats with health problems, cats that normally explore outdoors, hungry cats, or bored cats. They may wake you up for attention, food, playtime, help, or even because they’re feeling confused.
If your cat is bored, then playing with it more during the day will help resolve this problem. If the cat is ill, you can seek medical treatment. If the cat is asking to go outside, you can provide a cat flap. Playing with and then feeding your cat just before bedtime can help it sleep through the night. If all else fails, locking it out of your bedroom or wearing ear buds can enable you to sleep through your cat’s activities.
Why Is My Cat Restless at Night?
It is fairly normal for a cat to be restless at night. During the day, most felines spend their time napping, sunbathing, and engaging in other low-energy activities. This helps them preserve their strength for twilight and the dead of night.
At these times, a cat really hits its stride. While felines are known to be crepuscular, the Journal of Interdisciplinary Cycle Research found most cats displayed a nocturnal circadian rhythm. As such, while they’re the busiest during twilight, their second most active time is during the night. This is a great time for a cat to:
- Run around
- Explore its environment
- Meow and call for other cats
After all, in the wild, the cat is far more likely to catch prey and avoid detection by other predators at night. If you’re sleeping, this can be a nuisance.
Aside from natural instincts, your cat may wake you up (or keep you awake) because of other factors. Luckily, you will have some measure of control over these. You can’t stop your feline from being active at night. However, you can limit:
- The desire to go outside
- Health problems
- Some negative effects of old age
A bored cat will try to wake you up to play. It may also entertain itself by leaping around your home, knocking over objects, or meowing. If you realize, “My cat sleeps all day and keeps me awake at night,” then boredom is likely to be the cause.
If your cat doesn’t have a companion, it may be very restless at night. Struggling to entertain itself, it will bother you. This is even more likely if you don’t play with the cat during the day. When night time arrives, it will be agitated after a long, boring day and suddenly have twice the amount of energy.
That leaves your sleep schedule to weather the consequences. There are ways to spot a bored cat before it gets disruptive:
- Repetitive behaviors: This may include over-grooming, excessive meowing, pulling out its fur, and pacing.
- Overeating: A bored cat may eat (or beg for food at night) to pass the time.
- Inactivity: Eventually, your cat may stop asking to play during the day and sleep to avoid boredom. That all changes when its pent-up energy can’t be ignored at night.
- Destructive behavior: Cats are happy to make their own entertainment. This may include destroying your furniture, scratching or climbing curtains, and pooping outside the litter box.
Since cats are naturally active at night, they will try to hunt and feed during those hours, too. Your cat may also work up an appetite while it’s playing. Since it knows you’re a ready source of food, it will wake you up for a meal.
This is especially true if you provide fixed meals instead of free-feeding. The cat cannot locate its own prey, so it’ll ask you to sate its hunger. In some cases, the feline will even playfully bite or paw at you. This is designed to wake you up and even burns some of the play-hunting energy it has.
If you don’t have a cat door or lock it before bed, the cat might wake you up in protest. It will want to explore outside during its peak energy hours to hunt and see new things.
The cat may also prefer to relieve itself outdoors instead of in its litter box. Since it can’t resolve this problem itself (it may try by pawing at your windows or scratching at the door), it’ll wake you. Some cats are insistent to the point of even batting at your face.
Many owners complain that “my cat wakes me up to go outside,” especially if their cat is normally an outdoor pet. Unfortunately, there’s no clear way to stop your cat from doing this. Until it’s let outside, it will persist. You can avoid it by getting a cat door, leaving it open at night, or putting your cat in a different room.
Perhaps your cat doesn’t just run around and play at night. Instead, it seeks attention and vocalizes loudly at all hours. If this is the case, your cat might have a health problem. It may be suffering from an injury, feeling uncomfortable from an illness, or struggling with a disease.
Since night time is the cat’s most active hours, it will feel this discomfort even more than when it’s napping the day away. It may also be waking you up to seek comfort or pawing around your bed to find a cozy spot to feel bad in.
Be sure to watch for any sudden changes in behavior, appetite, or walking gait. If you identify a problem, then reach out to your vet to get treatment.
Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology studied and compared the sleep-wake cycles of young cats and elderly cats. In this study, researchers found the sleep cycle of a cat undergoes dramatic changes as they age, much like humans. Elderly cats had more fragmented sleep and less REM sleep than younger cats.
As such, your older cat might wake up more often, become a light sleeper, or sleep at random times. That will give it plenty of chances to:
- Wander around your home to entertain itself.
- Get startled awake by a small noise and then feel ready to bother you for the night.
- Feel bursts of energy at random times, especially throughout the night.
Additionally, older cats are more likely to experience mobility issues, intestinal problems, and joint pain. This could all lead to your cat:
- Bothering you for help.
- Meowing with discomfort.
- Causing a ruckus as it explores your home less dexterously than before.
Cat Keeps Waking Me Up For Attention
For some owners, their cats keep them awake by making a lot of noise and running around at night. For others, the cats specifically try to wake them up. This may involve:
- Sitting on your chest
- Running across your legs
- Pawing at your face
- Meowing at you
- Rubbing or bunting its head against you
- Staring at you
This is usually the cat’s way of asking for:
- Play time
- To be let outside
That’s because most cats that are dealing with a medical problem will seclude themselves and meow with discomfort. Cats with behavioral problems will usually take out their frustration on furniture or other objects in your home. If your cat is specifically targeting you instead, then it wants your undivided focus.
In fact, cats will even settle for negative attention. If you push it away, tell it no, or get up to move it, the cat still got to interact with you. Cats are playful creatures, and this may become a game that it likes best.
Cat Wakes Me Up at 3 AM
Most cats wake up their owners at arbitrary times. If you notice the cat wakes you up at 3 AM specifically, though, don’t worry. Despite what folklore would have you believe, cats have no attachment to a witching hour. The cat might choose this approximate time because of:
Depending on where you live and the season, 3 AM could be just before dusk. Cats are most active at twilight, so your cat will be getting its second wind for playing (and being a nuisance). This burst of activity could wake you up.
Depending on your sleep schedule, 3 AM may be right in the center of your 8 hours of rest. This might be the deepest part of your sleep, so you will begin dreaming. When the REM cycle kicks into gear, your body will react by:
- Increasing your heart rate
- Moving your eyes behind your eyelids
- Raising your breathing levels
- Heightening your blood pressure
You may even begin to sleep-talk or twitch slightly as you dream. When this happens, your cat will take notice. It may be intrigued by your little movements or think you’re awake because of your breathing. If you talk, the cat may get closer to investigate or ask for petting.
Since you’re actually asleep, this prodding can wake you up. You won’t have any memory of your unconscious activity, so it will seem like the timing was your cat’s choice.
Depending on your cat’s feeding schedule, 3 AM may also be the halfway point for the cat’s meals. If it feels hungry after playing, it may prod you to feed it. Feeding the cat later or earlier could make the time shift away from 3 AM.
My Cat Won’t Stop Making Noise at Night
Most cats wake up their owners by knocking around toys, bumping objects, or vocalizing. This can make it hard to sleep even with your door closed. Although annoying, it’s normal behavior for cats because:
- Night time gives your cat more energy to play and explore
- Cats see better in the dark, so night time is perfect for investigating new smells, sights, or toys
- Your cat knows that other cats are awake at night, so it may be calling for a mate
These are all clear, easy answers. Things become more difficult if your cat starts making weird noises. Aside from crying and meowing, you might hear little clicks, chirps, or trills. Rest assured, your cat hasn’t adopted an odd nightly language. Instead, it’s picking a sound for each circumstance it encounters at night.
- Chirping: This sound is designed to mimic the call of a bird or rodent. Cats use it to lure prey, distract it, or gauge how well the prey animal can hear them. This helps improve their hunting abilities.
- Trill: Cats trill with their mouths closed, creating a noise that’s a hybrid of a meow and a purr. This is used as a greeting or a way to acknowledge you. The cat might be trying to get your attention.
- Yowl: A yowl is a loud and drawn-out meow. It’s similar to a howl but longer in duration. Your cat yowls when it’s in distress, in pain, or wants to mate.
Cat Keeps Howling or Meowing
Perhaps your feline’s biggest crime is being a loud-mouth during the night. The cat might meow, cry, yowl, or make other weird noises. This can make it hard to rest, especially for light sleepers. Here are reasons for this noise and how to stop it:
A bored cat will wake you up at night. However, an extremely bored cat will kick it up a notch and yowl incessantly. This is a cat’s way of showing displeasure and releasing frustration.
Even if you don’t respond, the cat may yowl until it feels entertained again. However, if you do respond, the cat might learn that yowling is a quick way to get your attention. Try to offer toys, food, or another companion to play with, so it doesn’t resort to this.
Cat Is Mating or in Heat
Cats yowl as a mating call, and they can reach impressive octaves. If you find it impossible to sleep through your feline’s calls, then consider if it’s been spayed or neutered.
The cat may be in heat and looking for a mate. Depending on its sex, it may also be reacting to the pheromones of a nearby cat and trying to locate it.
If you happen to own a male and female that are both unfixed, then yowling can occur as they mate. Unless you want kittens, it’s wise to separate them or get them fixed.
Cat Feels Trapped
If your cat is allowed to explore outside during the day, it may howl when kept inside at night. Cats understand that night is the best time to explore and hunt. When forced to look out the window and see the opportunities pass by, the cat will grow frustrated. It will then yowl in protest until you let it out.
As cats get older, their bodies and brains wear down. Felines with Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) often spend their nights howling or meowing loudly. They may feel disoriented, confused, and unsure of where they are. This works as a way to express this frustration and to ask for help.
According to the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, CDS in cats can be diagnosed from:
- Heavy vocalizing
- More night-time activity
- Wandering aimlessly
If this sounds like your cat, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your vet. Treatment and medication could help in lessening your cat’s symptoms.
Illness or Disease
Cats usually reserve loud howling for when they’re in pain. If your cat has no other reason to cry out but does so often, then speak with your vet. Excessive vocalization is a sign of kidney disease or an overactive thyroid in cats. The howling will often continue in the day or get worse as your cat attempts to use its litter box.
How to Stop My Cat Waking Me Up at Night?
If you’re at the end of your chain because “my cat won’t let me sleep,” you have 2 options. You can train the cat to settle down at night, or you can force it to let you sleep.
How Do I Get My Cat to Sleep Through the Night?
Most cats won’t naturally sleep through the night. However, like all creatures, they will sleep when they’re fatigued. You can encourage the feline to take those naps at night by:
Making It Hunt During The Day
Cats are mostly active at night because this is prime hunting time. Keeping your feline more active and focused during the day will leave it with less energy after dark. Play with your cat 2-3 times a day, for about 30 minutes apiece. You can also do this in smaller 10-minute intervals 5-6 times a day.
It may still wake up and explore, but this will be in limited quantities. It will also be less likely to bother you if it felt its social needs were met during the day.
Let It Eat Right Before Bedtime
Instead of feeding your cat several hours before bed, give it a meal just before turning the lights out. In the wild, cats go hunting, which expends a lot of their energy. Once they catch their prey, they’ll eat and then groom to clean themselves up after their meal. Then, they will fall asleep due to being tired and having a full belly.
Although your cat won’t burn much energy eating out of its food bowl, the instinct remains. It will likely wind down and take a nap just after the meal. This nap will last even longer if you played together just before the meal.
In the first couple of nights, you may discover no change whatsoever. That’s because the cat is still adhering to its regular schedule and hasn’t yet adapted. Its body will get conflicting signals that it’s tired and ready to sleep and yet energized because of night and ready to go. So long as you’re consistent in this new routine, the cat will adjust.
How to Get My Cat to Let Me Sleep
Perhaps your cat doesn’t accept the new schedule. Perhaps you don’t have the luxury of enduring sleepless nights until it does. No matter the case, there are fast ways to prevent your cat from waking you up at night:
Confining a Cat to a Room at Night
If your cat is unable to access you, it’s unable to pester you into waking up. Try placing the cat outside of your bedroom and closing the door. This will limit the amount of noise that reaches you and keep the feline from batting at your face.
If that’s not an option, such as with studio apartments, you can also place the cat in the bathroom and leave it there for the night. Just be sure it has plenty of toys, water, food, a litter box, and other forms of enrichment. Otherwise, it may get even more bored and frustrated. Luckily, bathrooms rarely have as many delicate objects for your cat to destroy.
Play White Noise or Wear Ear Plugs
Perhaps your cat behaves while it’s in your room, but it’s loud. Conversely, it may be yowling so loud that you can hear it outside of your bedroom door. You can play soft music or white noise to keep your brain from zeroing in on the sound for these situations. Wearing ear plugs could also block out the noise, letting you get some rest.
Get An Automatic Feeder
The cat might wake you up specifically to eat. In fact, many owners complain of their feline refusing to let them sleep in because of a previously set feeding schedule.
You can fix this by purchasing an automatic feeder. This will release food at certain times or provide a steady supply as your cat eats. With this basic need met, the cat might leave you be.
Where Should My Cat Sleep at Night?
Felines don’t need particular sleeping spots to remain comfortable. In fact, most cats will have several napping spots throughout your home. You can be sure the cat isn’t annoying you because it’s displeased with its bed. Likewise, providing a new bed or changing the existing one’s location won’t fix anything.
However, if you want to stop the cat from bothering you, you can give it a bedroom. This may be in the bathroom, the kitchen, or anywhere else you can seclude the cat away from you.
Most cats will like to sleep near a heat source, in a covered or secluded area, or up off the ground. If such a place is available, it will be less likely to complain about getting booted out of your bedroom.
Cats won’t let you sleep at night because they’re too active during these hours. Whether they’re calling for a mate, complaining about an illness, or simply bored, they want you to fix it. By ensuring their needs are met and potentially locking them out of your bedroom, you can get the rest that you need.