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Help! My cat is keeping me up at night

Your cat keeping you awake at night can be a very exhausting problem. We see the problem a lot, especially with cats who don’t go outside, and mostly it’s out of boredom. It’s always a good thing to start with a visit to your vet and check if there is no physical reason for the nightly behavior. What to do if that’s not the case?

A wild cat hunts during dusk at night, but also in the early morning. Cats barely meow to communicate with each other. They save this for us, the people. Why? Because when they’re meowing at us, they get what they want. The door opens, food will appear in their bowls, they get the attention they want. Most likely that’s the reason your cat is meowing at night, or scratches your door. He wants attention!

Tip 1: Don’t feed out of a bowl anymore

For most cats it’s pretty boring to be fed out of a bowl, because cat’s are made to hunt, it’s in their system. If you feed dry food, it’s best to only give it in a food- ball or game, this way the cat has to work for the food. Feeding like this keeps them busy and it’s very satisfying when they figure out how the game works. There are a lot of food games on the market to buy, but you can also make something yourself, for example with an empty kitchen roll/ toilet paper roll. If you feed right before you go to bed, the cat will be less bored and more tired afterwards.

A food game in stead of a bowl

Tip 2: Enrich the environment

Cats who stay inside, will need an interesting environment to be happy and don’t get bored (and harass you at night). How can you do this? High spots where they can sit/ sleep (for example a big/ high scratching post or a smaller one next to a high closet where the cat can jump on) with on those spots nice blankets or baskets to lie in (make sure it’s anti-slip). Do never disturb your cat on these spots, so that they always feel save to go there and be alone when they want to. What most people already know: Cats love carton boxes ! Move the box away when the cat is done playing with it (or in the morning when you get up), and take it back out next evening before you go to bed.

Also very important: several places to scratch (and make sure these places are at the right locations!) Example for a good scratch location is on the way from where the cat sleeps, to where they eat, because cats have the need to mark ‘’on their way’’. This is what they do when they scratch, they’re giving their scent to the object. It makes them feel safe when everything smells like them.

There are a lot of options on objects you can use for your cat to scratch. Of course there is the schratching post in all sorts and sizes. But also a piece of carpet on the wall, tree trunks etc. will do. The more, the better!

A cat friendly interior

A cat friendly interior

Tip 3: Play, play, play

  • Make sure there are enough toys to play with, and change them even now and then to keep it interesting (also hide them in a closet or something when your cat is done playing, and take them out the next day). Even more important is that you actively play with the cat together! The ‘’normal’’ toys don’t move and don’t give any challenge so cat’s lose their interest very quickly.
  • A rod with feathers, which looks like a real prey is most of the times a favorite toy to play with.
  • Rather play several times a day 5 minutes than 1 time 15 minutes.
  • Play on the moments that the cat is active, don’t wake them up to come and play.

Play with your cat

Tip 4: Cat TV

It really exists, TV for cats! Youtube has a lot of clips for cats, but there are also dvd’s available especially for cats. Birds, mice, fish, there is something for every preference.

Tip 5: Ignore

The last, but most important one: no matter how difficult, do never ever respond on your cat when they wake you up at night! Don’t talk to them, don’t make a sound, don’t even sigh, these are all forms of attention. To give attention (in any way) every now and then is really funest, they will try harder and harder, because they know it will work eventually. Ear plugs are sometimes needed in the first period. Often we see that it goes well after some time, and later on the behavior comes back. Especially then, it’s very important to hold on!

If you tried everything and it’s not helping, don’t wait too long to get help from a cat behavior specialist.