We hate to break it to you, but your cat doesn't care about your sleep schedule. Not even a little bit. Cats are wily. They're persistent and they're driven by their own needs. It's not that your cat wants to disrupt your sleep cycle, it's just that he really, really needs you to give him 4 pieces of kibble before he hocks that hairball out in your closet. You know, cat things. Is your cat messing with your sleep? Here's what you need to know.
Common Nighttime Cat Problems
Not all cats wake their owners up the same way. Your cat might be more of a "pounce on your face" kind of animal whereas another cat might be more of a "flip the laundry basket over" kind of pet. Cats wake their owners just by roaming around, playing with toys, pitter-pattering across the house. They also wake their sleeping owners by scratching at doors, meowing for food, or even through physical contact. By nature, cats sleep differently than we do. Their sleep cycles are shorter and they instinctively wake in the very early morning hours to hunt. You can't completely train this out of your cat, but you can set yourself up for success. In a nutshell, your cat might be waking you on purpose but there's a good chance he's waking you just because he's awake. These issues are different beasts and have different root causes. The first step in figuring out how to get your cat to stop waking you up is to figure out why he's doing it in the first place.
How to Stop Your Cat from Waking You
You don't have to suffer through sleeplessness just because you have a cat. Here's how to get a better night's rest.
Is your cat waking you up on purpose?
If so, it's because he "needs" something. Maybe he's hungry. Maybe he's bored. Maybe he's cold. Once you figure out what it is your cat needs from you during the middle of the night you can go about solving it for him. The most common reason cats drag their owners out of bed is for food. If your cat reliably wakes you with meows and scratching at 5:00 a.m. every morning for food, consider getting an automatic cat feeder with a programmable timer. Problem solved! Remember that cats are really good at training their owners. If you've gotten out of bed even once to feed him in the middle of the night, he remembers. It's why he keeps coming back. This process is called "Intermittent Reinforcement" and it's the same reason people play slot machines. If it's something other than food, trial and error is the best way to tackle it. Maybe your cat's bed is in a noisy spot, or maybe he needs a room with less light filtering in. It might take a few days or even weeks to figure out the key.
Is your cat waking you up by accident?
If your cat wakes you up simply by prowling around and making too much noise, there are also several things you can do. Nocturnal activity is a surefire indicator that your cat isn't getting enough activity during the day. If you slept for 14 hours while your parents were at work, you'd be restless, too! Be sure you're giving your cat plenty of attention before and after you go to work; at least an hour of active play a day. Invest in some "activities" for your house that will keep your cat awake during the day like a cat tree, cat shelves, or even a cat door if your cat lives an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. If all else fails, you might even want to think about working with a cat sitter who can come over and play with your feline while you're out of the house. And in some cases? If your cat really, truly isn't trying to get your attention, putting him to bed as far away from your room as possible might make it easier to sleep. Close your door and use a sound machine...whatever you do, don't lock your cat up in a single room. He might become agitated and try to scratch and claw his way out. Cats are built to roam!