As much as we love our cats, their nighttime antics can be downright maddening. Perhaps you’re familiar with sleep deprivation caused by a cat that runs around your home at top speed, knocks things over, pounces at your feet, or yowls at 2am. Will you ever sleep again? Yes, you will… but you may need to put some work into altering your cat’s internal clock.
Why is your cat so active at night?
Your domestic cat’s wildcat ancestors were nocturnal (sleep all day, awake all night). Nighttime is the best time for a wildcat to stalk, hunt, and prowl. A cat’s extra-strong senses (including the ability to see in the dark) helps her to easily hunt unsuspecting prey. How does this relate to your cat who never has to hunt because she always has a bowl full of food? Well, even domesticated cats are still wild at heart. Even though your cat never has to fend for herself, she still has deeply-ingrained nocturnal instincts. That means her day is just beginning as yours is winding down.
Why does she want to keep you awake too?
After sleeping all day, your cat is ready to play at night– and you’re her favorite playmate! It’s actually a sweet gesture, other than the whole keeping-you-awake-all-night thing.
How are you (accidentally) encouraging the behavior?
Many of us make the mistake of reacting to a cat who’s active at night. We get out of bed, interact with our cats, feed them, or otherwise give attention. Nobody would blame us for doing it; sleep deprivation is a serious problem that can make us feel desperate. In that moment, we’d do practically anything to calm our cats enough to allow us to sleep. The problem, of course, is that any attention will be seen by your cat as a reward. Giving attention to this type of behavior will only prolong and encourage it. The cycle will continue as long as you keep giving your cat attention.
How can you change the behavior?
Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep your cat from being so active at night.
- Keeping your cat awake and active during the day can help reset her internal clock and help her to be sleepy at night. If you aren’t home to engage in a lot of daytime play, consider adding a battery operated toy to your home. See: The 7 Best Battery-Operated Toys to Keep Your Cat Active
- Keeping to a consistent nighttime routine can help your cat understand when it’s time to wind down. Do your best to do all of your nightly tasks (brushing your teeth, getting into bed, etc.) at around the same time each day.
- Feeding your cat her biggest meal as you’re on your way to bed can make your cat calm and sleepy while she’s busy digesting it.
- If all else fails, close your bedroom door at night. This will allow your cat to be as wild and active as her instincts want her to be, but will also allow you to get the uninterrupted rest you need and deserve.
Whichever option(s) you choose, the key is consistency. Your cat won’t learn a new routine overnight. It’ll take time, patience, and dependable persistence for her to understand and get on board with the new version of normal.