Every cat owner has had the experience of waking up to hear their cat meowing at night. For some, it is an occasional annoyance, for others it seriously impacts their ability to get a full night’s sleep. If your cat is keeping you up at night, there are several things that you can try to curb the problematic behavior.
Is your cat meowing at night because of medical problems?
As with any behavioral problem, you should always get your veterinarian’s advice first. Cats are extremely talented at hiding symptoms of illness and injury. If it is the case that your cat is suffering from a medical problem, no behavioral solution will resolve the problematic behavior. Getting a checkup at the veterinarian’s office can save you a lot of time and rule out medical problems. If you cat is a senior, you may notice your cat meowing at night more and more frequently. A number of medical problems can cause this ever increasing behavior. As your cat ages, he/she may experience cognitive dysfunction, problems with sight, sound, taste, smell, or touch, the need to go to the litter box more often and more. A veterinarian can give you the best medical advice for how to deal with these issues. Your cat’s treatment plan may include changes to the cat’s environment, prescription medications for the cognitive dysfunction and treatments for anxiety. A common cause for a female cat meowing at night is to attract a mate. When a cat is in heat, everyone knows it. The best solution for this is to have your cats spayed.
A Cat’s Natural Sleep Pattern
Cats and humans have a lot in common, but there are a few things that stand out as differences. Humans are naturally awake during the day and asleep at night time. We require around 8 hours of sleep per day to be healthy and are moderately active in our waking hours. Cats, on the other hand, are naturally crepuscular, which means that they become active around twilight (dusk and dawn). They require 15-18 hours of sleep per day to be healthy and tend to be highly active in their shorter wakeful periods. Luckily for cat owners, a cat’s sleep pattern can be manipulated to closer mimic that of a human. In order to do this, you have to have a way of getting your cat to have enough active periods during the day that he/she will be tired at night. Here are some different ways to encourage your cat to be active during the day:
- Leave out some cat toys. If the cat has a reasonable variety of appropriate toys readily available, this will give them something to be active with. You don’t have to dump the entire toy bin on the floor, but have a few different types of toys so your cat can find something to suit his/her mood at the moment. Since interaction is so important, you will need to use other methods too.
- Hire a pet sitter. Find a trustworthy pet sitter in your area to stop by while you are away at work and play with your cat.
- If you only have 1 cat, consider adopting another cat. Who makes a better social play partner for your cat than another cat would? However, you would still have to make sure that they are up during the day and playing or you won’t have one cat meowing at night, but two.
- Choose some automated cat toys. There are toys out there that will play with your cat for you. Some are electronic and will have parts that move around to encourage your cat to chase them. Others can store treats inside and the cat will have to play with the toy in order to get to the treats.
Be sure to have a play session before you go to bed. Get out the interactive toys (ribbons, feather wands, laser pointers, etc) and play until your cat is tired. This will not only wear your cat out so they are too tired to play while you are drifting off to sleep, but it will help strengthen your bond with your cat.
Looking for the 24 Hour Buffet
One of the reasons our cats become so bonded to us is that we feed them. Your cat meowing at night could be trying to tell you that he/she wants food, now. Don’t be duped, if you feed your cat appropriate food a few times per day, your cat doesn’t actually need to be fed at that exact moment. Most of the time the reason for your cat meowing at night is that they have done this to you before – and it worked! With some patience and will power, this problematic behavior can be solved. Here’s how:
Ignore your cat meowing at night. Don’t yell at the cat for meowing, don’t move, and DO NOT get out of bed. Completely ignore the behavior. If the cat bats at your face, just roll over and don’t pay the cat any attention. Your cat will accept even negative attention as a reward. It will take a while (maybe even few weeks) for the behavior to diminish.
- Feed your cats later in the day. There is no reason why you have to feed your cat the second you get out of bed. Put off feeding the cat until after your have done a few other things. The further apart you can place feeding the cat from getting out of bed, the better off you will be. Use an automated feeder or a pet sitter to feed the cat his/her early meal if you must.
- Feed your cat right before bedtime. A full belly makes it easier for a cat to sleep! It will also be further into the night before your cat is ready to eat again.
What do you do to keep your cat from waking your up at night?
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