Cat Behavior

Help! My Cat Won’t Let Me Sleep!

cat wont sleep at night

Cats have a well-deserved reputation for sleeping a lot, but they can be surprisingly active and lively when they’re awake. Unfortunately, some cats want to play when their owner wants to sleep.

Why won’t the cat sleep at night? 

According to the WebMD, domestic cats are descended from the African wildcat (Felis lybica), which is largely nocturnal. While domestic cats have, over the millennia, gradually shifted to a more diurnal schedule, most still wake up at least twice during the night.

Many will want to play, eat, or be petted by their owner. Kittens and young cats are especially likely to wake their owners by playing or crying for attention.

Which cat breeds are the most active? 

Pedigreed cats not only have predictable physical traits, but they can also have predictable personality traits. For example, some breeds are generally livelier and more active than others. Laura Cross, a writer for VetStreet.com, lists eleven of the most playful breeds and even describes some of their habits.

The Siberian, for example, is a Russian analog of the Maine Coon that loves to climb. Abyssinians, Bengals, and Siamese are also active cats, and the last is also often noisy. In sum, cats belonging to certain breeds are more likely to keep their owners up at night that are more sedate cats like the Persian.

Which cats meow the most? 

Some cat breeds are also more vocal than others. Jane A. Kelley, a writer for the Catster website, discusses which cats meow the most. As it turns out, there is an overlap between the most active breeds and the most vocal breeds.

In addition to being one of the more active breeds, the Siamese is arguably the noisiest of the domestic cats. The Catster description of the Siamese comments, “You might wish this breed came with a mute button.” The Siamese can make a range of sounds from normal mews to loud yowls, and they can also sound like babies.

Relatives of the Siamese like the Tonkinese and Oriental Shorthair also like the sound of their own voices. The Siberian and the Maine Coon, which are both large, longhaired cats, tend to be vocal.

Fortunately, they generally chirp and trill rather than yowl. The Turkish Angora and the Japanese Bobtail also have a lot of opinions. Like the Maine Coon, however, they typically have soft voices.

On the other hand, gender does not seem to affect how much a cat vocalizes. Intact cats tend to be noisier than cats that have been spayed or neutered, however.

Female cats in heat make all sorts of noises when calling for mates. Male cats will also call for mates, and they will yowl and screech when fighting other males.

Age can affect how talkative a cat is. Kittens, for example, tend to meow a lot, but their cries are relatively soft. Many cats quiet down as they reach maturity – only to ramp up the volume as they enter their senior years.

Cats can develop health problems as they age, and they may start crying if they’re in pain or scared. Age-related conditions linked to excessive meowing include vision loss and cognitive dysfunction system. The latter condition is essentially the cat version of Alzheimer’s.

How can I get my cat to sleep at night? 

Check for medical problems

As mentioned above, a cat’s nighttime restlessness is sometimes due to illness. If the cat cries while restlessly prowling the house, it might be time to take her to a vet. This is especially apt to be the case if such behavior is new. Changes in behavior often indicate illness in a cat.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman, a veterinarian who writes for the Pet Health Network Website, notes that sick or injured cats are masters at hiding their pain.

In the wild, letting a predator or rival see that you are under the weather is a good way to end up as their victim.

Wildcats thus evolved the habit of concealing any weaknesses, and their domestic descendants retain those instincts. In addition to behavioral changes, Dr. Zeltzman recommends watching for the following signs of illness:

  • Change in appetite
  • Foul breath
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Unexplained weight changes
  • Not using the litter box
  • A Sudden change in activity level

If a middle-aged or older cat suddenly starts running around like a kitten, they could have an overactive thyroid. Conversely, if they suddenly become less active, they could have a painful condition like arthritis.

Establish a routine

Cats are creatures of habit, and you should be, too, when it comes to bedtime. If you go to bed at the same time every night, your cat will eventually realize that it’s time for bed. Unfortunately, cats typically take time to adjust to drastic changes in routine.

Heather Marcoux, used to work for morning television and thus had to get up at 3:30 a.m. Her cat happily got up with her. A few years later, she got a new job with more normal hours that let her get up at 6:30 a.m.

Unfortunately, her cat still wanted to get up at 3:30 a.m. It took several weeks for Marcoux’s cat to adapt to the new routine.

One way a cat can tell that it’s time to go to bed is by the lighting. Turning the lights off at the same time every night will tell your cat that playtime is over and their owner wants to go to sleep.

Play with the cat during the evening 

The staff writer for the “Vet West Animal Hospitals” website notes that, since most people work during the day, their cats spend the bulk of their time sleeping. Those cats are thus more than ready for a play session or other form of interaction when their owners get home.

Given that, it’s best to play with the cat after you get home, so they will be tired and ready to sleep again. Similarly, you should try to discourage your cat from taking more naps during the evening.

What are the best cat toys? 

There is a dizzying variety of cat toys available. Some, like laser pointers or wands, are “interactive,” which means you need to use the toy while playing with the cat. Other toys, like catnip mice, can be enjoyed while you’re away.

Ideally, you should have a mixture of toys that the cat can joy while you’re away and that you will use during play sessions with your cat. Here is a list of best toys for indoor cats.

Interactive toys like laser pointers typically stimulate the cat’s prey drive, so it will chase the red dot. Wands, teaser toys, and fishing poles work the same way. They generally have a plush toy or feather at one end, and the movement attracts the cat’s attention.

An evening play session with such a toy is one way to wear a cat out before bedtime so it will sleep through at least a good part of the night.

All cats should have a scratching post, for it will satisfy their instinctive need to scratch, allow them to exercise their forelimbs, and let them shed the outermost layer of their claws.

Cat exercise wheels resemble giant hamster wheels and are the feline version of a treadmill. They have the same health benefits and will also help wear your cat out before bedtime.

Toy mice and catnip toys are classics that your cat can play with when you aren’t home. Toys made of wood and/or sisal rope also appeal to many cats. Cats also like toys that make crinkling or rattling sounds.

Consider an automatic feeding system

Some cats want snacks or breakfasts at obscenely early hours. An automatic feeding system can be set to feed the cat while their owner sleeps. The cat will eat and then go back to sleep.

Automatic feeders can range from simple to surprisingly high-tech. The video below, for example, depicts an automatic feeder called Wireless Whiskers that apparently can be programmed to keep the family dog from eating Jupiter the cat’s food:

“Automatic Cat Feeder Keeps the Dog Out of the Cat Food – with Jupiter!” by Talking Cats and a Bunny!

Feed the cat before bedtime

Like people, cats tend to sleep after a big meal. In the wild, cats follow a set schedule: They hunt, eat, groom, and then sleep. Domestic cats follow the same pattern. Feeding them at night will thus eventually teach them that it’s nearly bedtime.

Don’t, however, feed your cat if she wakes you up. Generally speaking, you should not interact with your cat in any way if she wakes you up in the middle of the night. Doing so will only encourage her to keep waking you up.

If possible, keep the cat out of the bedroom

If you have a large enough house, consider confining the cat somewhere away from your bedroom. Make sure she has everything she needs, like a litterbox, a comfortable bed, food, and water, and then close the door. If your cat is extremely noisy, pick a sound-proof room like a laundry room.

Alternatively, you could just shut your bedroom door and let her have free range of the house, but she will almost certainly sit at the door crying and/or scratching at it. While you can and should ignore her, that is easier said than done if your cat is persistent and has a loud cry.

How do you stop a cat from scratching at the bedroom door? 

Cats generally scratch at bedroom doors because they want your attention. Therefore, you should not pay any attention to them at all – for even yelling at the cat is a form of attention.

Emily Parker, a writer for the “Catalogical” website, has some suggestions. For example, one way to stop the cat from scratching the door is to make the door less attractive by applying double-sided tape to the part the cat scratches.

Cats hate the stickiness of the tape and will eventually leave the door alone. Similarly, they hate the smell of Vick’s VapoRub. Dab some on the door, and they will avoid it.

There are other cat deterrents that you can use on or around the door. Some, like Vick’s VapoRub, work by making the door smell bad, and others work by producing a scentless burst of air. The cat won’t like the sensation of the air burst and thus learn to keep its distance.

Can you prevent a cat from making noise at night? 

Get a breed known for being quiet

If you’re in the market for a cat, consider getting one that belongs to a breed known for not meowing a lot. According to Maggie Clancy, a writer for “Cattime.com,” quiet breeds include the following:

  • British Shorthair
  • Persian
  • Russian Blue
  • American Shorthair
  • Ragdoll
  • Chartreux

She also lists the Abyssinian, Bengal, Cornish Rex, and Somali as quiet cats, but these breeds are also known for being active. The Somali, for the record, is a long-haired relative of the Abyssinian.

Consider getting a buddy for a single cat

If your cat hits it off with the new arrival, they will probably play with each other rather than seek you out. You may still be disturbed by the racket resulting from their play, however.

Spay or neuter your cat

Intact cats of both sexes will call for mates – regardless of the time of day. According to the “Animal Planet” website, most cats hit puberty when they are around five or six months old, but there is some variation between the different breeds.

Siamese cats, for example, can reach puberty when they are as young as four months old. Some other breeds don’t reach puberty until they’re ten years old. Talk to your vet about the best time to have a cat neutered or spayed.

Make sure the cat can’t pounce on you

Some cats like to climb in high places like dressers or shelves so they can jump on their sleeping owner. If possible, move such perches away from your bed. Alternatively, cover the perch with a slippery cloth or items too heavy for her to knock off.

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