Why Does My Cat Bite Me When I Sleep

Sleeping cat owners frequently get bitten while sleeping, but what is the reason behind this nocturnal vampirism? It depends on the cat in question. Cats can “feast” on their sleeping owners out of a desire to play, to signal alarm, to show aggression, to demand food, and to show affection.

 How do you know the reason behind your cat’s nocturnal biting? We have put together a quick reference to help you to identify the cause of your nos-fur-atu’s nocturnal nibbling.

Your Cat is An Early Bird and a Night Owl

There is some debate over whether cats are nocturnal (most active at night) or crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk). Whatever your cat’s circadian rhythm, they are not diurnal like you.

And for you, this means that while you are resting, your cat is alert and – like most cats – probably looking for trouble.

But, Do Cats Know When You Are Sleeping?

Your cat may not understand that your circadian clock has a different rhythm, but they know when you are sleeping.

So, Why Do Cats Bother You When You Sleep?

Knowing that you are sleeping does not stop your cat from waking you up because they want your attention. Simply put, cats can be selfish.

Your cat can wake you up

  • To instigate play
  • To signal alarm
  • To show aggression
  • To demand food
  • To show affection

If your cat has woken you up for something in the past and you relented, you reinforced this behavior. Now your cat knows that by waking you up, they will get what they want!

Try not to relent to the nighttime nudges from your cat; instead, ignore their demands (assuming there is no cause for concern) and work on training and behavioral modification during the day. Remember – your cat must accommodate your schedule and not the other way around!

Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up At Night to Play?

Since your cat is not diurnal, nighttime for you does not mean nighttime for them. So, while you are recharging your batteries, your cat is just looking for an afternoon playdate!

Address this behavior by investing in some interactive cat toys to keep your cat company overnight to keep them occupied.

Make sure, too, that you spend quality playtime with your cat during your waking hours so that they are not waking you at night simply to be close to or to interact with you.

What Is My Cat Trying To Tell Me When They Wake Me Up At Night?

If your cat wakes you up at night but, they are not looking for a playdate, they may be trying to alert you to something. Your cat’s senses are much sharper than your own, particularly at night.

For example:

  • Cats can see in approximately one-sixth of the amount of light that a human can.
  • Cats have a 200° field of vision compared to the human 180° field of vision.
  • Cats can hear sounds 1.6 octaves above the highest pitch humans can hear.
  • Cats have a sense of smell 9-16 times stronger than humans.

With such acute senses, it is possible that your cat sees or hears something that you do not. Take a moment to listen to the house and turn on a light to check that all is well. Your cat may simply need your reassurance that the noise they heard was nothing to worry about!

If your cat makes a habit of waking you to tell you about the noise of the AC kicking on or the house settling, invest in a white noise machine or keep your TV on at night to help drown out those noises.

Why is My Cat Attacking Me At Night?

There could be a few reasons for your cat waking you at night by attacking you aggressively, including:

  • Fear – Something has scared your cat, and you happened to get caught in the middle.
  • Redirected aggression – Your cat is worked up over something but is taking their built-up aggression on you.
  • Territorial behavior – Your cat has claimed your bed as their territory, and they are not willing to share it with you.
  • Play “aggression” – Your cat is trying to play with you, but they are playing a little too rough.
  • Injury/pain – Your cat is hurt or in pain and is taking their pain-related aggression out on you.
  • Idiopathic aggression – Your cat is attacking you, but there is no obvious reason why. This type of behavior calls for a veterinary evaluation as soon as possible!

Addressing feline aggression is crucial because their aggression may escalate!

Once you get to the bottom of what is causing your cat’s aggression, address the problem with your vet or a trained feline behaviorist who can help you to calm down your cantankerous kitty!

Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up At Night For Food?

Your cat may be waking you up at night because they want food because:

  • They have not been eating their regular meals.
  • They may want a special treat they have seen in the house or that you gave them some of earlier in the day.
  • They may be bored.
  • They may not be getting enough nutrition from the food you are giving them.
  • They may be showing symptoms of feline cognitive dysfunction.
  • They may be showing symptoms of diabetes.
  • They may be showing symptoms of other medical conditions including:
    • Parasites
    • Hyperthyroidism
    • Cancer

To address this behavior, consider the easiest explanations first – is your cat actually hungry? If so, try feeding them a more nutrient-dense food or feeding them closer to bedtime.

Stop your hungry cat chasing tasty treats that they have seen in the house by keeping them out of sight!

Keep your cat’s boredom under control by offering interactive toys and daytime stimulation.

Lastly, if you suspect that there may be a physical cause for your pet’s nighttime nagging, head into your vet for a thorough physical and be sure to address this changing behavior. Your vet will do a physical exam as well as take a blood sample, urine sample, and fecal sample for testing.

Once your vet has pinpointed the cause for your cat’s changing behavior, they can prescribe a treatment plan to help get nighttime hunger under control.

Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up At Night to Pet Them?

Your cat may be waking you up at night to pet them because:

  • They are bored.
  • They are lonely.
  • They view you as their playmate.

If your cat is waking you up at night to pet them, it may be time to consider adding a feline playmate to your home to keep your cat company. Another cat will also help to decrease your cat’s dependence on you.

If adding another cat to the family is impossible or impractical, look for toys and devices that can offer your cat the attention they crave. Try adding a brush arch, a self-warming cat bed, or anything that provides physical comfort or stimulation.

Final Thoughts

Whether your cat wakes you up at night to bite you or to play with you, it is a behavior that you must address. Allowing nocturnal nibbles or nighttime nuzzles only reinforces negative behavior and results in many more sleepless nights.