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

  1. Stephanie
    June 28, 2016 at 11:32 am (2 days ago)

    Hello, for the past 8 months we have done everything mentioned here and in other articles. We have a feeding schedule, we have a play schedule which includes play before bed time and we ignore our girl when she talks but every morning at 4:3o she starts wailing and roaming the house. She does this for hours. We don’t know what to do. We just keep ignoring her hoping she’ll clue in but again 8 months later and she still gets us up every morning. We can’t lock her out of our room because you can still hear her and she has claws so she try’s to dig under the door. She’s a Bengal so her meows are loud enough to her from outside the house. She’s got a great personality and happy and sweet but we are dying from exhaustion. By the time we are up and ready to go we find her finally sleeping.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 28, 2016 at 12:59 pm (2 days ago)

      Bengals do have a lot of energy, and it can be challenging to offer enough stimulation for them to help them burn off some of that energy so you can sleep at night! Try structured play session, 15-20 minutes at least a couple of times a day. Really get her tired out. Make the last session just before bedtime.

      If you’re open to leash training, taking her for walks may be another way to help her burn off energy.

      Reply
  2. Abby
    June 7, 2016 at 6:45 pm (3 weeks ago)

    One of our cats has been waking up EXTRA early ever since Daylight Savings – almost three months ago! He used to wake up around 6-6:30 am and breakfast is always at 7; now he’s been waking up around 5 am every single day.

    He’s always woken us up with loud meowing, which wasn’t a problem when everyone was waking up at 6:30 anyway (we definitely see now what a mistake it was to enable him). The big problem with the 5 am meows is that we live in an apartment with quiet hours until 7 am – and you can DEFINITELY hear him down the hallway. He’s only quiet once we’re up and spending time with him. Our fellow cat-family neighbors are understanding but not everyone is so kind.

    Do you have any thoughts or advice to help curb either his early noise or early wake up time?

    He’s young and playful, and our vet ruled out medical problems. It doesn’t seem to be food related, as he doesn’t ask for breakfast until close to 7. We’ve tried different ideas, all with no effect: bedtime snacks, extra playtime, toy rotation, morning videos of birds and squirrels. The only thing that keeps him quiet is when we wake up and spend time with him. Even our other cat is exhausted at that hour of day!

    How can we help him return to his pre-Daylight Savings schedule, or help curb his meows? We don’t have the luxury of waiting a few weeks to stop rewarding his behavior and just ride it out.

    Thank you so much, your website is invaluable!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 8, 2016 at 5:36 am (3 weeks ago)

      It sounds like you’ve tried all the tips in this article except the part about not giving in to his wake up tactics. Unfortunately, every time you give in and spend time with him, you reinforce that from his perspective, his behavior is getting the results he wants.

      Reply
  3. donna
    April 25, 2016 at 4:55 am (2 months ago)

    What can I do to stop my cat from wakeing me up in a morning

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 25, 2016 at 5:42 am (2 months ago)

      Did you follow the tips in this article, Donna?

      Reply
  4. Lorie
    January 4, 2016 at 8:24 am (6 months ago)

    Will spraying my cat ( gently) deter her from beating the bedroom door down @ 3am?

    Reply
  5. Zachary Vigeant
    August 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm (10 months ago)

    When our lovely Pepe Bengal wants food it doesn’t matter what time it is. 3 am or 5am he tugs on the bedroom door and wakes us up. And if he hears us turn around in bed we are done he won’t stop until we give him food lol

    Reply
  6. Zachary Vigeant
    August 28, 2015 at 4:35 pm (10 months ago)

    Our Bengal wakes us up at all early hours of the morning for food. He’s very strong willed

    Reply
  7. Michele
    July 24, 2015 at 9:35 am (11 months ago)

    The reason for cats waking people up in the early hours (before 6am) is almost always food-related.
    I would divide the meals into at least 3, preferably more, a day. Use a timed food dispenser which you set to just about an hour before she usually wakes you up. That way kitty has something to eat and will almost certainly settle down thereafter and leave you to sleep peacefully.

    Reply

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