It’s been a while now, but our cat used to wake us up at 4am every night. At the exact same time, and, actually, we also did exactly the same thing every night – we gave her canned food. It was a lovely solution, because we could get back to sleep few minutes later. But it did happen each and every night again, and again, and again…
Do you see yourself in this situation? Well, it may also occur different. Your cat may wake you up because he wants to get outside, he may wake you up early in the morning because the night is too long to wait, or he can just make trouble inside and not wanting anything particular.
Whichever is your case, in this article we are going to teach you how to stop your cat waking you up at night, or early in the morning.
1. Make sure your cat is alright
Okay, he obviously is NOT alright, right? He is meowing and waking you up after all. But the thing is, you should check, whether the thing he wants doesn’t require an immediate attention.
What to check for?
- Isn’t your cat in pain or discomfort due to a health issue? A vet visit might be necessary.
- Is your cat’s litter box clean? You should check the box at least twice daily, and, preferably, one of them must be in the evening, so it is clean for the night.
- Is there a water in the bowl? And is the water fresh? It’s best to replace the water in the bowl soon before you go to sleep.
- Isn’t your cat hungry? That is, even if your cat wakes you up for food, make sure you feed him enough during the day. Check the manufacturers guidelines on the package of the food and make sure you provide enough. Remember though, cat may still be hungry, even if he eats more than listed, in case of worms, diabetes or several other health issues. Vet visit, again, is recommended.
- Did he get enough activity during the day? Most cats, who wake their owners up at night, however, do not. We will talk about this in more detail below.
- Isn’t there something that is disturbing him? A light from the TV or a night lamp, cats fighting or wandering by the widow? While in the majority of cases cats wake their owners up because they are bored, sometimes they may be just too disturbed to sleep. Check what it might be, and make sure you do everything to limit it.
2. Ignore your cat when he meows at night
That is, if you checked your cat is alright in the evening, you should not worry about something terrible happening to him; thus, you are safe not to pay attention. Why is this necessary?
If your cat meows to wake you, and you indeed wake up and feed him (or let him out, or grant him whatever he asks for) it’s just enticing him to do the same again, and again; thus, you will not be getting sleep tonight, the next night, or the other night.
Of course, at first glance, it looks easier to wake up, quickly pour some food in the bowl and get back to sleep, rather than listening to cat meowing all night, ignoring him, but not seeping at all.
However, in order to stop your cat waking you up at night, you must sacrifice some nights. The first one will be the hardest, obviously, but every forthcoming one will become easier.
IMPORTANT: Above applies not only to granting your cat what he wants, but to any interaction with him. Do not even shoo, scold or lock him away. Any of those is attention, and attention is a reward. You do not want to reward your cat for waking you up. Lay in your bed and pretend you’re dead… sleeping, that is.
If you follow the steps below, you will get your sleep back after several days – it’s that soon.
3. Increase playing time during the day
No matter whether your cat is waking you up at night for food, for being let outdoors or just because he wants to have fun. Increasing playtime will contribute to solving any of those.
So, how often should you play with your cat? It depends, but, in most cases, three or four play sessions for 15 to 20 minutes is the minimum, as, as always, the more the better.
Important thing to understand is that seven play sessions for 5 minutes is better than one for 35 minutes; thus, you might consider grabbing a toy and playing even for few minutes whenever you can.
Also remember, early morning and evening are the top activity times for your cat, so you want schedule most playing session then.
Good idea would be making a journal of playing. Many behaviorists ask cat owners to do so when working with a behavior problem (we are working with one now, right?). However, it’s not done to control, push or ashame you. It’s intended so YOU control, push and ashame yourself.
That is, if you do the journaling, and suddenly your cat is no longer able to get trough the night, just checking you have decreased playtime, you will ashame and push yourself do it more tomorrow.
Good way to end every play session is leaving the toy at his disposal, and giving him small amount of food. Then you can remove the toy while he eats. NOTE: Do not overfeed your cat, make sure you subtract this amount from the daily portion.
4. Create strict schedule for your cat’s meals
Next part is to set expectations for your cat in his meals. This will help your cat to understand what comes when, and will help him see when it’s morning, when it’s day, and, most importantly, it will stop your cat waking you up at night.
So make sure you create a schedule of three to four meals per day, and make sure they occur at approximately the same time.
Of course, it’s not only about the clock. It’s also about your actions. That is, for example, you can feed your cat at six in the evening every day, or you can feed him an hour after you return home, even if it does not happen at the same time every day.
5. Do NOT feed your cat upon awakening
This is crucial, especially if your cat wakes you up early in the morning. You do not want your cat to connect those two events – you waking up, and the food appearing.
If you do so, you do not leave a choice for your cat – he must wake you up in order to receive the food.
So, right after you wake up, do not pay attention to your cat. Brush your teeth, make a tea, eat breakfast, take shower. Do your morning routine.
Then, right before you leave (or at a specific clock if you stay home) have a play session with your cat, and only then give him food. Very soon, your cat will understand, waking you earlier in the morning will not make him get the food sooner. And that is what you want.
6. Play with your cat and feed him right before you go to sleep.
The simple truth is, the night is too short for a cat. His life cycle is different than yours, but you can make him adapt it. An important part of it is to feed your cat right before you go to sleep.
Not before you take a shower or brush your teeth, or to read your book. Right before you turn out the lights and go to sleep. It’s best if your cat finishes his meal and sees everything is quiet.
The last meal of the day may be smaller than a regular one, but make sure it is at least considerable as a meal, and, again, it must complete the daily amount of food your cat needs.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you also schedule a short play session before you do so. 10 minutes, for example, but not written is stone. Considering you already did few of them during the day, this one last will work magic. Here’s why:
Take a look at how cats live in nature (are there any left?). They spend most of their wake time hunting, stalking and tracking their prey. Next, when they catch it, they consume it. Then cats continue with grooming themselves, which is essential for their survival, and then go for a rest.
Thus, if you provide enough activity for your cat throughout the day, and make the last play session before you go to sleep, followed by a small meal, your cat will magically go to sleep right after it.
At first, of course, it won’t last throughout the night, but, considering you do not respond to his begs for attention at night, your cat will soon realize there’s no point in waking up at night.
Is it Magic? No, it’s the feline behavior, and it works. It’s when you stop expecting your cat to act like a human, but accept that he is a cat, and adjust the rhythm of both of you accordingly.
Every part is important to stop your cat waking you up at night
One last thing is we have added markers “IMPORTANT” every here and there in this article. But the truth is, in order to stop your cat waking you up at night, every word mentioned above IS important.
Checking that your cat is well, increasing his activity and enriching his environment, making him understand what to expect by creating strict feeding schedule and providing the last meal right before you go to sleep, preceded with a play session, and, eventually ignoring him if your cat meows at you – every part is crucial.
They are a chain of actions working together. If you do not miss any, chances of stopping your cat waking you up at night will increase to almost money back guarantee.