Cat Awake at Night – Reducing Nocturnal Activity

Brown Tabby and White Persian sleeping in sink

Cats are nocturnal and prefer to be awake at night, sleeping up to 16 hours a day. Although, Persian cats sleep more than other cat breeds. The most common complaint veterinarians get is: "the cat is keeping me awake during the night". There are several things you can do to help:

  • Keep your bedroom door closed at night to prevent the cat from coming in to play.
  • During the daylight hours, engage your cat by playing games, placing a cat tree or tower next to a window, and cat videos. It is important to rotate toys every few days to lessen boredom and loss of interest in a particular toy.
  • Provide your cat with its bed located away from your bedroom.
  • Before bedtime, play with your cat.
  • Many cat owners are woken by their cat early in the morning wanting food. Do not feed the cat first thing in the morning, but do it later in the morning and then give it several small meals throughout the day. Invest in a timed feeder, if you are not home during the day.
  • Ignore your cat's nighttime behavior. By giving your cat attention when it is behaving badly, you are rewarding the cat by giving it attention. Do NOT give in to your cat when it is behaving badly or that will only encourage your cat to continue the bad behavior.
  • Consider using a correction for a cat that starts to meow during the night. Using an air can (similar to what you use to blast dirt off your computer keyboard) or water spray bottle or tossing an empty soda can that has a few coins in it. These abrupt corrections can startle your cat and reduce or stop the behavior. Do NOT let the cat know you are the one responsible for the correction.
  • If you have tried everything, and the problem is serious enough that no one is getting any sleep at night, consult your veterinarian regarding any medications that can get your cat back on a more appropriate sleep/wake cycle. However, we strongly recommend behavior modification utilizing the above suggestions rather than resorting to any behavioral modification medication.

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