5 Common Reasons Cats Wake You Up at Night

By: Erin Wunderlich – Agricultural Communications Student at University of Illinois and Vice President of National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow

Please note, that I received compensation in exchange for this blog post – Erin Wunderlich – Agricultural Communications Student at University of Illinois and Vice President of National Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow

You know the analogy, ‘the second-born is always more difficult than the first?’. Well, I think this phrase applies to cats the same way it does to human babies.

When I got my second cat, Cosmo, I was so happy. I was excited to revisit the kitten phase, see their small toe beans, and watch them get excited exploring the house. Cosmo also helped my first cat, Bandit, out of his depressive state and helped him play like he was a kitten again.

But as Cosmo grew older, he became a troublemaker. He kept waking me up at night by howling at the top of the staircase or opening the door to my room and pushing on my nose. From rattling the dresser knobs to opening the curtains to let early morning light in, I was convinced I’d never sleep well again.

If you’re also wondering how to get your cat to sleep at night, don’t worry – I’ve got some tips to help!

Most Common Reasons Cats Wake You Up at Night

  • Your cat isn’t receiving enough stimulation when they’re awake
    • This might be because of lack of playtime, a small indoor space, or few suitable climbing/elevated perches where your cat can be off the ground. This also goes along with your cat being bored.
  • Your cat has a different schedule than you
    • Cats are not diurnal (or awake during the day) like humans. Instead, they are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dawn and dusk. Therefore your cat takes many naps throughout the day and may get the zoomies in the morning or right before you go to bed.
  • Your cat is thirsty or hungry
    • This could be due to the food schedule you set for your cat. Most of the time the reason Cosmo wakes me up in the middle of the night is because he is hungry.
  • Your cat wants some company
    • Cats are naturally social creatures and want to spend time with you. Cats actually see their humans as other cats in their colony, so when they wake you up at night it could just mean they want some cuddles.
  • Your cat may have a medical issue
    • If your cat is older or has a diagnosed medical issue, they may be waking you up due to discomfort or pain. And if your cat starts to change their nightly behavior suddenly, this may be because of an underlying illness. If this happens, take your cat to the vet for a check-up.

Some Tips to Solve the Problem

Now that we’ve identified what might be keeping your cat — and you — up at night, let’s talk about some ways to remedy this situation. First and foremost, these suggestions will help you and your cat’s daily schedule align more, which will help regulate sleep patterns between the two of you.

  • Play with your cat at least a half-hour to an hour before bedtime. This step is necessary to increase daily stimulation and prevent your cat from getting bored before you sleep. To be successful, it is best if the play is not only energetic/physical (such as running or climbing) but also mental (problem solving, stalking, hunting).
    • If your cat continues to play once you start to go to bed, gently ignore them so they learn this repeated pattern of events.
  • Change their feeding schedule. Feed your cat right before bed, and make sure to fill their water bowl.
  • If your cat chronically wakes you up to cuddle in the middle of the night, place them in the same spot on your bed before you sleep every night, so they have a place to be near you. With repetition, your cat will associate your bedtime presence with their own space near you.

One final tip is to increase supervised outdoor access during the day to tire out your cat by the time you go to bed. Finally, if none of these tips seem to work for you and your cat, I suggest visiting your veterinarian to ask if there may be underlying medical problems.

I hope these tips help give you and your cat a comfortable routine so that you can both bond while getting the rest you need!