How to Keep Your Cat from Waking You Up

cat_in_bed

Do your cats wake you at the crack of dawn? Are they keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep? As much as we love our feline family members, most of us would prefer to not have that love expressed by a pounce on our chest at 4am.

The first step in changing this behavior is understanding why cats do it. Cats are, by nature, nocturnal animals. They hunt and eat primarily at night. Even though studies have shown that domestic cats adapt their activity cycles to their environment and to human activity, in many cats, this natural instinct still dominates. Add to that that most of our cats are left alone for much of the day and probably spend the bulk of that time sleeping, and it’s no wonder that they become active at night.

There are two main components to changing this behavior:

  • Stop rewarding undesired behavior.
  • Use your cat’s natural cycle to your advantage.

Stop rewarding undesired behavior

If your cat wakes you up early in the morning, your first inclination is probably to try and get back to sleep. However, in most cases, it’s simply not possible to do that with a cat either jumping up and down on you, attacking your feet, of pulling your hair. So eventually, you get up and feed the cat. And guess what you’ve just done? You’ve rewarded the behavior you don’t want.

You have to break this cycle – and if you stop responding to your cat’s attempts to get you out of bed for two weeks, you will most likely succeed. It’s going to take some moral fortitude to do this for two weeks, but it will be worth the effort.

Use your cat’s natural cycle to your advantage

If you usually feed your cat as soon as you get home from work, consider moving dinner time closer to bedtime. You may not want to do this all at once because you’ll probably have a very unhappy cat on your hands, but if you can gradually feed her half an hour later each day, you should be able to shift her feeding schedule without too much fuss.

Play with your cat before feeding her. I can’t stress the importance of ritualized play enough, especially for indoor cats. 5-10 minutes, ideally at least twice a day, and at the same time each day, will go a long way toward alleviating all sorts of behavior problems. Playing with your cat before feeding her mimics the cat’s natural behavior of hunt, kill and eat.

If you don’t want to change your cat’s dinner time to closer to bedtime, feed her at her usual time, but cut back on the amount just a little bit. Feed the remaining amount as a bedtime snack AFTER another 5-10 minute play session just before bedtime.

By not rewarding the behavior, and using your cat’s natural cycle to your advantage, you should see a difference in behavior after two weeks, and the scene from Simon’s Cat classic “Cat Man Do” video will be a thing of the past at your house.

Do your cats wake you up early? What have you tried to make them stop?

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82 Comments on How to Keep Your Cat from Waking You Up

  1. Rachel R.
    February 5, 2015 at 8:31 am (3 months ago)

    Hi I just read your post this morning. I have some questions we adopted a kitty from Craigslist & his previous owner was very nice she takes in strays & try’s to get them a good home. We took Wiz from her and I think she may have raised him herself. She had about 5 other cats while he was living with her & it’s just my boyfriend & I in our apartment. We’ve tried to make him as comfortable as possible he really is a good kitty. however, we let him sleep with us the first night & he didn’t wake up once but the next day, he spent most of his morning sleeping & hiding we tried to get him to play & he doesn’t want to he also wasn’t eating the hard food we bought him. That evening, he kept us up the whole night he wanted to play he was nibbling at our toes & purring & wanted a belly rub & to bite my fingers. We discovered at that time he’s super playful (whenever he wants). Monday came around & we both work so he spends his day alone when I got home at 5pm he was still in hiding & wouldn’t come out. I bought hin tuna & he’s been eating that he loves it! I’ve tried playing with him in the evening when I get home since we haven’t seen each other all day but he doesn’t play much he wants to sleep! So when I bring him to the bedroom at night, we watch some tv as soon as I turn it off to finally get some sleep he’s up again all night.
    Last night we put him to sleep downstairs (not my idea :/ ) & hes been in hiding since this morning.

    I need some advise what should I do? I desperately want him to stay with us & be a happy kitty he’s extremely cute & very loving

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      February 5, 2015 at 9:34 am (3 months ago)

      Try to follow the suggestions in the article for at least a two week period to reset his activity/sleep cycle, Rachel. You need to very consistent.

      Reply
  2. Kim DAmico
    August 27, 2014 at 5:39 pm (8 months ago)

    Great article! My little Tortie loves to crawl all over me at bedtime purring away for about 20 minutes, and then she goes about her way to see what she can get into! Then around 5 – 5:30 a.m. she is attacking my feet, and pulling my hair to say “Hey Mom ~ time to get up!”

    Reply
  3. jim lindsey
    June 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm (10 months ago)

    When my 2 Cats were kittens, I taught them to ring a bell by the back door to go outside to do there business ( poop). Now that they are grown 14 they still go outside to poop, but every little thing they see out the window, ding-ding-ding. You got it.. My Cats have taught me well. I can get up, go though my house with my eyes closed and let them out in my sleep. They are also trained to come to the window that at the head board of my bed and knock when they are ready to come in. Needless to say, I created this habit, now I have to live with it. I would be lost with out my Tortie and my Tom Cat. Malibu and Bruno, brother and sister

    Reply
  4. Kris
    June 19, 2014 at 12:24 pm (10 months ago)

    I am experiencing the same problem with my new kitty. I adopted him a month ago; he apparently lived with 15 other cats when he was brought to the pound. The past month its been an issue of getting him to eat… anything! He finally has come to like a few packets of food, but tends to stay away from the kibble. The first week, he would curl up with me at night and sleep til I got up in the morning. The past few weeks its been 5am wake ups, moving to 430, then 4… today 345am!! I live in a loft, so I have no doors to close to keep him in a separate room. I try ignoring the knocking stuff down and getting into the noisy things to get my attention, but when heavy things start toppling in the morning, I instantly shoot out of bed with fear! Then he gives himself a kitty high-5 and starts the insestant cuddling. I’ve tried getting up to feed him, and he just follows me right back to bed and starts all over again. I know he’s lonely, but I don’t want another cat for his company. Ive tried playing with him and feeding him later- he’s lost about 5 lbs this month alone with the finicky eating- i’m wondering if that has kicked his metabolism and energy levels up?? he was “obese” when I got him last month, and now he is standard weight, but still not eating like he should be. Sorry if this post is all over the place, i’m rather sleep deprived this morning and probably will be for a few more weeks to come!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 19, 2014 at 2:08 pm (10 months ago)

      You don’t mention how old your kitty is, Kris. I’m concerned about the finicky eating and the rapid weight loss. I would encourage you to get him checked out by a vet.

      Reply
      • Kris
        June 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm (10 months ago)

        I’ve already taken him in… they just tell me to give him “stinkier” food. He’s supposedly 4.

        Reply
        • Kris
          June 19, 2014 at 3:44 pm (10 months ago)

          … which is also frustrating. I know he was eating before coming to the pound, he was 15 lbs when I got him! I understand kitty stressors, like new homing and depression from not having his kitty friends anymore, but he really does snub most food choices. The packets of food he will eat are not the best for him, but its better than not eating at all.

          Reply
  5. Catman
    March 8, 2014 at 12:12 am (1 year ago)

    It’s just of the things I’ve come to live with. I have created these little alarm clock. From rattling window blinds, to The March over the Master, and who could forget the scratching at any closed door, closets and kitchen cabinets. Just for a smile I poke them when they sleep in the day time LOL

    Reply
  6. Bernie
    March 3, 2014 at 4:14 pm (1 year ago)

    I have the four and they all let me sleep thru the night. However, as soon as I open my eyes or move I have 8 eyes looking at me. So if I even get up at 4AM for some reason, they are right there. Playtime around here is an ongoing thing. They all nap in the afternoon for a few hours then back in action.

    How to keep your cat from waking you up
    consciouscat.net
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  7. Katie
    September 22, 2013 at 7:01 am (2 years ago)

    I have this problem with my Spookycat. Every time I try to ignore his meowing or pouncing on my feet, though, he progresses to knocking things off of the bedside table and my dresser. He used to be an indoor/outdoor cat, but I’m trying to keep him indoors now due to some new neighbors who do not like cats and have been a tad mean to him when they see him outside. He also seems to get frustrated when I try to play with him, and gives up to go stare out the window after a couple of minutes. Any further suggestions?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      September 22, 2013 at 8:17 am (2 years ago)

      Keep following the suggestions in this article, Katie, and keep enticing him to play. Use interactive wand toys, and try to engage his hunting instinct by moving the toy as if it were prey.

      Reply
  8. chris
    August 18, 2013 at 1:09 am (2 years ago)

    Here’s the problem with me following any “ignore them” suggestions. We have one cat (almost 3yrs old) and one actual human baby (almost 4 months old). Monster (the cat) makes the usual nuisance of herself at 5am, , which is 90mins earlier than my alarm for work and 2hrs before the wake up time we’ve recently successfully got into our daughter’s routine of nearly sleeping through the night (one middle of the night feed now). Monster will now meow constantly until either I get up or she wakes the baby (sometimes by leaving our room after being ignored for 10mins and going to the nursery door and meowing there). If I don’t “reward” the bad behaviour by getting up, I end up with a crying baby and a very irritated wife on my hands.

    Now I don’t want to lock Monster out the house at night and we love her sleeping on our bed (my wife even gets anxious if she hasn’t seen Monster all night) but she is really pushing it – any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 18, 2013 at 8:31 am (2 years ago)

      I would try “play therapy” with Monster. Play with her for 10-15 minutes before you go to bed. Really tire her out. Then give her a small snack.

      Reply
  9. Cathy
    June 23, 2013 at 1:36 pm (2 years ago)

    We have two cats, but generally only one of them gives us problems (Luther). Luther likes to wake me up in the morning. He doesn’t need food, water or clean litter; he just wants me out of bed. 5 minutes after I give up and get up, he goes back to bed and snuggles with my husband. If my husband wakes up before me, Luther won’t quietly go back to bed, and won’t snuggle with my husband in the living room. He yowls until I’m awake anyway!

    He’s self sufficient during the day, even if we’re home. But in the evenings, all he wants is to either be in my husband’s lap or, if he’s feeling restoess, walk around yowling. We’ve tried ignoring his morning behavior, playing before bed, you name it – this behavior isn’t changing. And yes, he is 100% healthy. Help!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm (2 years ago)

      Have you tried playing with him for 10-15 minutes before you go to bed, Cathy? Really get him tired out.

      Reply
    • Felicia
      June 30, 2013 at 11:14 am (2 years ago)

      I have this same problem! My cat Benny will meow incessantly until I get out of bed. 99% of the time he still has food & water (we feed him right before we go to bed). Usually if I get out of bed and just walk out of the bedroom and come right back, that’s enough to get him to stop meowing. However at this point it takes me a while to fall back asleep.
      Benny has no interest in playing most of the time and even when he shows interest you’re lucky if he’ll play for 3 or 4 minutes before stopping. I’ve tried playing with him before bed, but he just usually ignores whatever I’m doing :(

      Reply
  10. Katie B
    May 29, 2013 at 9:14 am (2 years ago)

    My cat is a year and a half old. I found him around 6 months old. He’s a very affectionate, playful cat. Recently he has not been sleeping with me at night but will come in at 4am every morning and meow and scratch at the curtains. I play with him almost every day when I come home from work and he gets fed around 8-9pm. What can I do to get him to stop waking me up so early? I’ve tried to spray him but he likes water so it doesn’t seem to bother him, and I’ve also tried to lock him out of the room but its too hard to keep him out when he spends most of the day alone anyway. I don’t give him and feed him in the mornings until I have to get up and leave for work. What should I do?? I’m a first time cat owner so I dont have much experience in this field. Thanks

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 29, 2013 at 9:21 am (2 years ago)

      Have you tried following the suggestions in this article, Katie? I know it’s hard to be consistent, and it takes at least a couple of weeks to see any changes after implementing the suggestions.

      Reply
  11. Linda
    May 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm (2 years ago)

    I have a four year old that wakes us up constantly to eat and then to patrol the balcony. This is at 2 am. My husband and I take turns sleeping on the couch at that time or there is hell to pay. I have tried everything, squirts of water no good he just jumps on the bed and pees on it. He will get up on the bed and whacked you, even bit my hubby in the but one night. I have not rewarded him and if he doesn’t get his way he chases our older cat who screams like someone is killing her. She is a Diva. This all started when my brother in law came over for a visit 3 years ago and got up at 2 and 4 to go out on the patio and have a smoke. I told him not to let the cats out they would continue to do so when he left. By that time it was too late the cats were already outside with him. I have not been able to break this. No way no how. Keeping him out just makes him scratch at the door and howl until he opens it. So I just give in.

    Reply
  12. Debbie W
    May 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m blessed in that my furkids (cats and dogs) are sleepy-heads too and don’t wake me up. (Of course, I can sleep through about anything when I want to!) When Lilly (my little Dachsie) gets up and heads for the door though, I know that the snooze party is over!

    LOVE that Simon’s Cat – probably my favorite one!

    Reply
  13. Erika
    May 4, 2013 at 9:01 am (2 years ago)

    Hi – I have a slightly different question about cats waking you up at night (sorry if its been asked before!) We recently moved from a tiny one bedroom apartment to a much larger home. Our cat Oliver had lived his whole life in that little apartment, and while he’s a really frisky little guy, he never really gave us trouble at night. He was really scared when we moved and cried a lot day and night, so the first night we let him stay in the room with us (which we don’t usually do). It’s been a week now and even though he’s totally back to normal otherwise he just cries all night at our door. I can’t tell whether he’s afraid still or just trying to get attention. We don’t want to reinforce or encourage it if it’s intentionally naughty behavior but we aren’t sure how to best address it. When we let him stay in the room another night he just played the whole time. Any advice would be so appreciated!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 5, 2013 at 7:06 am (2 years ago)

      Erika, if you don’t want Oliver in the bedroom with you at night, I recommend following the steps outlined in the article to wean him off this new behavior.

      Reply
  14. C
    May 4, 2013 at 12:02 am (2 years ago)

    I usually lock my cat (Misty) out of the bedroom until I wake up the next morning (usually between 5:30 and 6:00am. Depending on what my hours at work are). I feed her anywhere between 6:00 and 7:000 in the morning. I suffer from insomnia so locking her out of the bedroom is the only way (that I have found) that I can get a good nights’ sleep without having to take medication.

    Reply
  15. Debbie
    May 3, 2013 at 10:28 pm (2 years ago)

    Tiger used to wake me up ALL night, jumping on my chest and meowing loudly in my face. So I fixed him! I started waking HIM up all day, when HE was sleeping. It worked!! He was all knackered out, so he slept all night. HA, tough love.

    Reply
  16. Elise
    May 3, 2013 at 10:04 pm (2 years ago)

    I must be the luckiest cat owner in the world or I subconsciously trained my five without even knowing it. Yes, they are ridiculously active first thing in the morning but it doesn’t start until they know I’m awake. Up until my alarm goes off they are curled up keeping me tucked in tight. Once I’m awake, however, all hell breaks loose and the lovlies are bouncing all over the place.

    I suppose it helps that they are all nibblers and I just keep food out for them but they still make a mad dash for the food bowl any time I go near it. I personally think they just like showing me how much they like their food so must eat it all in front of me when ever possible.

    Reply
  17. darcy
    May 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm (2 years ago)

    I have a 2 1/2 year old Bengal girl. I’ve tried all of these things for 6 months, nothing works.

    I work from home so she gets lots of play time and running time. However, when I don’t pay attention at the crack of dawn, she escalates from nudging everything off the tops of things (yes, most stuff is put away), to toppling bedside lamps and banging the edge of the mirror against the wall.

    I sometimes put her in the bathroom and duct tape the lever handle (she can open *anything*) and go back to sleep. But that opens another can of worms…

    She’s a Bengal. It is her world…

    Reply
  18. Amita
    May 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm (2 years ago)

    First time visit to this blog. I’ve been wondering how to change Lucy-fur’s habit of waking me up at ungodly hours. She’s such high maintenance and often gets what she wants because I just can’t take her temper tantrums! That’s right, if her incessant meowing doesn’t do the trick, she goes around the house knocking things over or pawing at the cabinet doors in the kitchen! She’s a very smart kitty and I will admit her antics are quiet entertaining!

    So initially she was dumped at the shelter where I volunteer along with her mom and three brothers. I had just lost two precious kitties to cancer in 2011, so the idea of fostering was a very welcomed distraction for me. I ended up adopting her and one of her brothers.

    I turned my 2nd bedroom into a kitty palor ensuite which has turned out to be godsend. When Lucy howls in the morning, I get up zombie-style and direct them to their bedroom, shut the door and head back to sleep. Yes, it’s a “time-out” but she’s still getting her way since I’m still reacting.

    I can easily spend 2-3 hours a night playing with her and it’s still not enough. Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      May 3, 2013 at 5:22 pm (2 years ago)

      Sounds like you’re already doing everything right, Arnita. The only thing you haven’t done is not react to Lucy’s howling. Try it for two weeks if you can stand it, and see if it help!

      Reply
  19. emily
    May 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm (2 years ago)

    my 3 year old boy has me well trained…we let him out of the bedroom into the rest of the house until 10 pm. then he’s in for the night. my husband says that i will wake up out of a sound sleep when he meows and either let him in or out and then go straight back to sleep. he, on the other hand, is much more resistant and will just ignore geordi until geordi gets the message and curls up to sleep in his bed. geordi is a free feeder who thankfully doesn’t overeat. he’s one of those nice long lean cats. he knows exactly what to do to get his way…jump all over dad’s computer desk and make crazy meowing noises. then he gets the boot! our roommate who tends to be a night owl has a young kitten who geordi will play with most of the evening so he gets a good play session in with her. they’re always tearing up and down the stairs!

    Reply
  20. Cathy
    May 3, 2013 at 2:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Our beloved Biggie boy took persistent to a whole new level. He would start yelling at 2 am and would keep it up for hours until
    A. You fed him
    B. You loved on him
    C. You fed him again

    Since he was always on a diet (at one point he weighed 27 lbs) free feeding was out of the question. So, we ended up get an automatic pet food feeder. He was entranced with the ticking of the timer and after only a day or so, knew when it was going to pop open. Our’s had 2 dishes and we set one for 2 am and one 4 am – the amount of food was minimal and still within his daily rations but for him, he got to eat. Problem solved!

    Reply
  21. Logan
    May 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm (2 years ago)

    Cats are not nocturnal, they are crepuscular.

    Reply
  22. Debbie
    May 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm (2 years ago)

    Great article. Our Marley was doing this VERY frequently for awhile, right about 3 to 4 AM. Sometimes he and the dog team up lol. When my hubby is ready for bed he says “Marley, are you ready to clean your teeth” (he gets dental treats at bedtime), and Marley runs to his bowl. I will suggest playing with him at bedtime, and see how that works…very often when I get up in the morning he and hubby are playing hide and seek, love the interaction between the two of them. It’s very funny to me how different he is with us, he likes to pat my face but has never done that to my husband.

    Reply
  23. Karen
    May 3, 2013 at 11:05 am (2 years ago)

    We play with him and feed him right before bedtime and he’s still waking us up an hour before we need to be up!

    Reply
  24. Marcia
    May 3, 2013 at 11:04 am (2 years ago)

    Looks like lots of people have the same problem. I’ve tried several of these suggestions: feeding before bedtime (didn’t work – still woke me up at the “normal” time for feeding); playing before bedtime with small snack; etc. Love my little boy, but just cannot break this habit of waking me up at 2:30 – 3:00 am. So now I just wake up automatically (just in case) he’s late waking me. LOL

    Reply
  25. Nadia
    May 3, 2013 at 11:03 am (2 years ago)

    It works. I did this when Kai was a kitten, it was a long week & a half, but well worth it in the end. Every once in a while (once or twice a year) she tries to get her breakfast at 5 am, I just ignore her and she goes away until her scheduled breakfast time.

    Reply
  26. Maggie
    May 3, 2013 at 10:43 am (2 years ago)

    I totally agree about playtime and also a little snack before bed. What I do is toss the treats so they have to go get them – I try to never put a treat on the ground in front of them. I have two cats and one of them I was able to clicker train to come to me, sit, and then for each treat he must give me a high-five with his paw. Meanwhile the other cat, is getting a treat tossed across the room which he runs and gets, sometimes even jumping into the air as it sails over his head.

    I also have automated feeders that drop dry food at 6 am. My cats are on the CD diets and eat dry and wet food. So the feeder drops their food at 6 am, which means I don’t have to get up, after they eat they often go back to snoozing. It also drops food at 6 pm and so I get to watch what I call their “foodicide watch.” They know when the time is getting close! When I leave for work I leave their “treat boxes” for them – foraging boxes. Each is filled with little toys, a Go-Cat-Go treat ball, and a few treats. When I come home the contents of the box are spread across the floor, the treat ball is empty and the other treats are gone.

    My cats are indoor only, for their health, and the health of wildlife. I try to give them lots of enrichments.

    Reply
  27. Felicia
    May 3, 2013 at 10:19 am (2 years ago)

    This was an interesting read, glad I came across it. Our oldest fur baby seems to only wake me up to be loved. It was quite bad for a few weeks where she would be wake me up at 2am, 330am, 6am and 7am to be petted.

    There is food and water in the dish as we already feed them right before bed. The playtime before feedings is a great idea.

    Reply
  28. Rio B.
    May 3, 2013 at 10:14 am (2 years ago)

    I don’t have this problem… My boyfriend has this problem when he stays over. My cat plays with his face at night. We’re about to use compressed air.

    Reply
  29. Elaine
    May 3, 2013 at 10:09 am (2 years ago)

    Hello. Thank you for your advise. I have 2 cats mother & son 4 & 3. They are really good they each get fed wet food 1 can a day split into 3 feedings last one just before I go to bed after at least 15 – 30 minutes of play time..plus dry food in a dish for whenever they want it. They don’ t usually eat they same flavor wet food which is a challenge…she prefers dry over wet both weigh 8 lbs and are healty according to my vet. My Goofy boy (part siamese) refuses to let me sleep past 7 which is ok i don’t need an alarm but i am now retired and would like to sleep in at least til 8 i do not feed them in the morning until an hour after he gets me up…he usually goes to sleep right after i am up…how do i get him to just sleep until i i get up..this morning it was raining i needed to be up and he let me sleep good thing i set my alarm..his mom is an angel. Him not so much. Love them both

    Reply
  30. Barb
    May 3, 2013 at 10:00 am (2 years ago)

    our last of 3 is up by 4-4;30 AM and has that loud gutteral cry. I know he still misses his Mom and sister, too. And my husband is recovering froma stroke and I don’t want the cat to wake him up. Never thought of feeding him was a reward. Will try feeding him later at night and see if that works. He’s not a “player”, and is 16. Don’t know if I could survive 2 weeks of “changing his routine”?
    TY

    Reply
  31. Vanessa
    May 3, 2013 at 10:00 am (2 years ago)

    I dont’ know which question to ask. What kind of cats do you guys have? What kind of abnormal cats do I have? This has never been a problem for us. Then again I rarely get out of bed and feed the cats immediately so perhaps they’ve learned that waking me early doesn’t change their schedule. There are dogs that need to be let out first (poor bladders) and a child that needs to feed his fish and then eat his own breakfast. After that the cats are fed. I love my kitties but their demanding tummies are not the morning priority. As for sleeping positions I could just be too deep a sleeper but the cats seem to move like water around my repositioning. My cat that sleeps with me will just roll with me when I go from back to side or tummy. From sleeping on my chest to curled at my side. The other sleeps on my husband’s head or at my son’s feet. I’m very sorry for the many of you functioning on minimal snoozes :( A funny story is that I had to leave the house at 5 am the other day and had to wake up all the animals and motivate them to their food bowls to make it out on time lol. I think if there are so many night owl kitties out there that instead of adopting new cats I’ll just have mine cloned! :)

    Reply
  32. April
    May 3, 2013 at 9:59 am (2 years ago)

    My husband and I work third shift, so we don’t really have any issues! Talulah and Cas eat when I get home from work and after I wake up. Talulah goes straight to her food bowl to let me know its time to eat. When I go to bed Cas will lay on daddy until I’m covered up, then he’ll climb over onto me and sleep. Talulah sleeps on my feet. When my alarm goes off they actually act mad! They average about 8-9 hours of sleep with me :)

    Reply
  33. Lili
    May 3, 2013 at 9:40 am (2 years ago)

    I had one that attacked my toes every morning. I tried everything.. Then gave up, founds very thick comforter, and folded it just over my feet and lower legs to prevent her needle sharp claws from reaching my skin. When I stopped reacting, she gave up on the game.

    She was otherwise the sweetest most loving thing, so I knew she just wanted to play. I just had to teach her to wait until the alarm went off!

    Reply
  34. Colleen Carnevale
    January 14, 2013 at 11:55 am (2 years ago)

    Ingrid your column is one of my ‘must reads’, thank you so much for the time and effort you put into it.

    The situation is our household is that when I don’t respond to the older (male) cat’s efforts to wake me for breakfast, he begins to attack the younger, smaller female cat until she squeals in fear and then I intervene and take him into another room for an hour or so until it’s an appropriate feeding time. I had hoped that by not responding with food, the behavior would change, but it’s been going on for months now.

    I’ve tried later feedings, and two smaller evening feedings, but that hasn’t seemed to make a difference. I’ll certainly try integrating play into our feeding schedule, but the aggressive behavior does worry me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm (2 years ago)

      I’m so glad you enjoy my site, Colleen!

      Can you try to do structured play sessions with both cats together? Start out with an interactive toy in each hand and get them to play in the same space. Eventually, you can switch to one toy and have them both play with the same toy.

      Reply
      • Colleen Carnevale
        January 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm (2 years ago)

        Thank you Ingrid. They’re fine together 99% of the time (sleeping together, mutual grooming, chasing each other around the house), he only attacks her as a method of getting me out of bed in the morning– he’s figured out that if she expresses fear that I’ll get up to stop him. I don’t feed him as part of that process, but it hasn’t stopped him being aggressive when he wants his food. Interestingly, it doesn’t happen as part of the evening feeding.

        Just a frustrating mystery I guess.

        Reply
  35. Britta
    January 13, 2013 at 8:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Yes also feliaway, clomicalm( cause we have issues with sparaying )and calming treats, but he is not that active to play that late he likes to play in the morning????? Currrently the meouwing starts around 5 isch give or take and thats better then before

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm (2 years ago)

      The only thing I can think of is to try and shift his playtime gradually to a later time.

      Reply
  36. Alisa
    January 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm (2 years ago)

    Our problem is this – we have 3 babies (1 really is a baby at 5 months). the oldest chooses not to eat all her food at one sitting like the other two, rather she wants to eat a little here and there (I guess she figures it will keep her metabolism rev’d and maintain her girlish figure). But, if we just left it out for her – there would none for her to have as the other two would inhale it. So, we have to cover it whenever she leaves it and uncover it when she goes back to it. I try to feed them early enough that by the time we go to bed, she’s eaten enough – but no – several times during the night she is either on me trying to get me to awake, or if that doesn’t work – meowing in a way that could wake the dead (unless of course you are my husband). Any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 13, 2013 at 7:51 pm (2 years ago)

      Try a vigorous play session just before bedtime, followed by a special treat, Alisa.

      Reply
  37. Tami Amburn
    January 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm (2 years ago)

    Cats just don’t understand about weekends.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm (2 years ago)

      They don’t have to, Tami – for them, every day is a weekend day!

      Reply
  38. Britta
    January 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm (2 years ago)

    I have a “morning cat” like that, only he meouws non stop instead of walking on me or jumping on the bed, I have tried many solutions but if you have any good suggestions or advise to make this behavior stop please share with me.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm (2 years ago)

      Did you try any of the suggestions in the article, Britta?

      Reply
  39. Linda
    October 16, 2012 at 11:58 am (3 years ago)

    I have tried this with our cat. If we don’t get up he jumps on the bed and urinates on it. This was the same with the squirt bottle. So really are at our odds. Had no sleep last night at all. He doesn’t urinate on the bed unless he’s mad at us. He was a resuce cat left behind when someone moved out of town. We have two other cats who are older and do not like to play with him. We can’t get a younger cat because we tried that and it was unfortunate that the cat we adopted who was 18 mths from a shelter also came along with the calici viris and passed away 2 mths later from feline leukemia. It is a blessing our cats only came down with the calci. I want to get another one but not for a year and they all have to be vaccinated again. So any suggestions. We have a multitude of toys for the cat to enjoy plus 4 cat trees.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      October 16, 2012 at 12:22 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with all these problems, Linda, and I’m very sorry about your 18 month-old cat. You’re addressing multiple issues with your questions, and they’re really too complex to be easily answered. I can tell you that our cat is not urinating on your bed because he’s mad at you. The idea that cats pee on things because they’re displeased with their guardians is one of those cat behavior myths that just won’t die. Before you do anything else, I’d take your cat to the vet to rule out any medical problems, if you haven’t already done so. I would recommend working with a feline behaviorist.

      Reply
  40. Shinobi Wells
    August 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm (3 years ago)

    I really appreciate this article! It is ironic, however, that my partner – who is never awakened to feed the cats – was the one to share this with me.

    So Princess Callie, our lovely Siamese/Maine Coon wakes me up EVERY morning starting at 4 am. She’s only a year old so I kinda hoped (beyond all logic) that the behavior would simply change with time. Like the cartoon, she starts with a gentle paw to to my face (usually to great effect but I can’t let her know that – it’s bad when you have to avoid eye-contact with your animals)…which persists more and more aggressively until her daddy gets up to feed her/them.

    Her brother, Izzy, seems to enjoy making her do all the work (smart, because I have thrown pillows before, though he’s never very far away) only complaining that “it’s about time” once I swing my legs over the edge of the bed. And God help me if I go to the bathroom first!

    Clearly I’m the one who’s so well trained but I’m actually curious to see whether adjusting their feeding times (and a little play-time before meals) will work. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 10, 2012 at 7:11 pm (3 years ago)

      Sounds like your two definitely have you well-trained, Shinobi! Let me know how adjusting their meal and play times works for you.

      Reply
  41. Esme
    August 8, 2012 at 1:30 am (3 years ago)

    I give in, I rub them, I play with them and then take them downstairs for breakfast. Shocking that they wake me up and not my husband. They sleep through the night but PEnelope is the early bird who leads the choir.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 8, 2012 at 6:24 am (3 years ago)

      I’m lucky that Allegra and Ruby pretty much let me sleep until 5:30 or 6:00, which is my usual wake up time anyway. When Allegra was young, she would start waking me up at 4am. Feeding her an additional meal just before going to bed helped a great deal.

      Reply
  42. Priya
    August 7, 2012 at 3:48 am (3 years ago)

    I’m trying to do this (not rewarding undesirable behaviour) but my problem is – if my darling cat wakes me up at 5:30am for feeding and then carries on until I get up at the ‘normal’ time of 6:30am, doesn’t that just reinforce his behaviour even though I’m getting up in response to my alarm clock rather than to him?

    I’d really like to break him of this habit so any suggestions are gladly accepted.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 7, 2012 at 6:31 am (3 years ago)

      It’s hard not to give in, Priya. Let me know if these suggestions work for you.

      Reply
  43. Bopeeps
    August 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm (3 years ago)

    I let the girls graze all day. But Lucy still wakes me up to “show” her the food. It’s like hey it’s been in the same place all day long :)

    Reply
  44. AnnaZed
    August 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm (3 years ago)

    I feel like the proud Mam of a 3 month old human when I report that Leonardo (my cat) sleeps through the night. He’s trained, he really is. Now sleeping overnight means 10pm to about 4am, but that’s pretty good. As someone above noted he’s most crazed … I mean active … at dawn and dusk.

    Now here’s the incredible part; I know this will sound like a product endorsement, and I suppose that it is, but he eats only Science Diet dry food and has a meal of the dry right before he clonks out at 10pm. He does not wake ravenous and there is a small amount of the kibble waiting for him so he has that and plays around for awhile and doesn’t expect his wet food (not Science Diet actually but Trader Joe’s 50 cents a can food, 1/4 can) until around 8am so doesn’t come demanding it.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 7, 2012 at 6:33 am (3 years ago)

      I’m glad your baby is sleeping through the night, Anna, and I completely understand that it makes you feel like a proud mama!

      I would encourage you to consider switching to canned food, and to a better brand that doesn’t contain by-products and grains. You’ll find information on why cats should never eat dry food in the Feline Nutrition section on this site.

      Reply
  45. Cynthia Downer
    August 6, 2012 at 7:27 pm (3 years ago)

    My cat doesn’t wake my boyfriend and I up on purpose.. She just kind of walks all over us and lays down on top of our chest or our legs, which basically pins us to the bed. I feel too bad to wake her up and kick her off of me, even if I need to roll over to get back to sleep.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm (3 years ago)

      Cynthia, I do the same thing! I often wake up in the middle of the night and feel like I need to roll over, but Allegra and Ruby are usually wedged on either side of me and just look too darn cute for me to want to disturb them!

      Reply
  46. Mac
    August 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm (3 years ago)

    Excellent tips. My first visit to this blog, but I will definitely follow your updates!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 6:53 pm (3 years ago)

      I’m glad you enjoyed this article, Mac, and I hope you’ll keep coming back!

      Reply
  47. Caren Gittleman
    August 6, 2012 at 10:59 am (3 years ago)

    That is fabulous advice but in our case we have an added component that causes a HUGE problem.
    Not for me, mind you but my husband who does the morning feedings.
    Cody wakes him up between 4am and around 5am…Cody jumps and has the most INCESSANT ANNOYING WHINE (I am sorry, you KNOW I love cats and his relentess WHINING annoys ME but usually I can sleep through it knowing that my husband does the morning feedings.
    Here is the component that causes the problem…
    Cody is the “ring leader” in our home and our Sheltie is the “follower”
    When Cody starts, Dakota chimes in with INCESSANT barking….
    When we try to ignore it, Cody goes back into the other room (Dakota is baby gated
    from our bedroom and back part of the condo) and proceeds to “report”
    to Dakota about his “progress” in waking Daddy up for breakfast.
    Then, Cody marches back into the room and resumes his
    whining, meowing, hitting my husband’s head, etc.
    Cody isn’t “free fed” due to having a propensity for being overweight, so he gets a
    few pieces of kibble at 10pm and then (per the vet’s instructions) because he
    used to keep us UP at bedtime, he gets most of his 1/4 cup
    kibble allotment at 11pm.
    He also gets a noon “snack” and eats dinner rather early, around 4pm
    I think what we will try to do based on your advice is try to play with him for a few
    minutes just before bed and see if that helps!
    This was so timely that I read it aloud to my poor sleep-deprived husband!
    xoxoxo

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 3:13 pm (3 years ago)

      That is challenging when you have a “team” to keep you (or rather, your husband) awake. Let me know if the playtime before bed helps, Caren. You may also want to consider changing the kibble meal to canned food. It’s better for him than kibble, and will keep him feeling full longer. Just adjust the amount you feed at his other meals to account for the additional bedtime meal.

      Reply
      • Caren Gittleman
        August 6, 2012 at 7:28 pm (3 years ago)

        Ingrid that is a great idea!! I may give that a try! Thank you!!!

        Reply
        • Ingrid
          August 6, 2012 at 7:44 pm (3 years ago)

          Let me know it if works for you, Caren.

          Reply
  48. Rayya
    August 6, 2012 at 9:36 am (3 years ago)

    Very informative post. I agree persistence is the key. It won’t be easy changing your feline’s habits. However, it will be worth it in the long run and you will enjoy better sleep. :-)

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 3:14 pm (3 years ago)

      It will come down to a case of who is more persistent, Rayya – and we know that cats can be formidable opponents when it comes to that!

      Reply
  49. Anjali Banerjee
    August 6, 2012 at 9:14 am (3 years ago)

    Thanks for the great post. We live with five cats, so inevitably at least one cat wakes us up early. Feeding near bedtime helps, as does playtime late in the evening. But we’ve also learned to live with it to some degree. I recently read that cats are “crepuscular,” most active at dawn and dusk. This seems to be true for our babies. I get the most work done in the late morning and afternoon, when the cats are less active or napping.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 3:11 pm (3 years ago)

      I love that you adjust your writing schedule to fit in with your cats’ schedule, Anjali! And the fact that I don’t think this is strange at all probably says a lot about both of us.

      Reply
  50. Bernadette
    August 6, 2012 at 8:32 am (3 years ago)

    Interesting, I never thought of play before feeding but it makes perfect sense. And for years I gave my cats a snack right before I went to bed because I was also feeding whatever foster cat was in the spare bedroom and they felt it was unfair if they didn’t get to eat as well. Then they all came to bed with me. I felt that had something to do with their sleeping with me all night but had no idea why.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm (3 years ago)

      Sounds like you intuitively knew what to do, Bernadette.

      Reply

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