6 Reasons Why Your Cat Is Waking You

If you can’t remember the last time you got a good night’s rest because your kitty won’t let you sleep, it’s time to look into some troubleshooting. Here are the top six reasons your cat might be waking you up at night.

Note that this article addresses repeat offenders. If your typically quiet cat suddenly pounces or meows relentlessly one night, investigate: She could be ill, or warning you of a problem.

1. Illness

Some medical conditions inhibit a good night’s sleep. Even a mild ailment such as a toothache can make a feline restless.

“Be particularly suspicious if this is a new behavior, especially in an older cat,” warns Cindi Cox, DVM at the MSPCA-Angell adoption center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Some of the more common culprits for sudden onsets of yowling are arthritis, hyperthyroidism, and high blood pressure, all of which can be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian.

Start with a call to your vet if your cat is repeatedly exhibiting unusual behavior at night. Getting her on the road to recovery may mean you’ll both be sleeping soundly again.

More from Catster Magazine: Does Your Cat Have an Amazing Vet?

2. Boredom

If your cat is alone a lot, she’s probably resting during the day, leaving her energized to play all night. Look into ways to amuse her while you’re out. “Toys, window perches, and innovative feeding methods, such as foraging toys or hiding small amounts of food throughout the house, can help,” says Cox.

Interactive play with her human family is also important. Get her moving around with a laser toy, dangle a wand while you watch TV, or toss a ball around before you leave for work. Keep her toys fresh by rotating them or bringing home something new.

Tucker her out for the day with a longer playtime in the evening, at least an hour before lights out so she has time to unwind.

3. Habit

Perhaps when she was a kitten or a new cat, you responded to her wake-up calls by giving a cuddle or freshening her water. Unfortunately, you taught her that you’re receptive to midnight visitors.

Habits can be reversed, so even if you got off on the wrong foot, you can reclaim your evening. Next time she pounces at an unacceptable hour, roll over and stay put. After several nights of your boring reaction, she’ll lose interest.

More from Catster Magazine: Can Cats Live on Wildlife Alone? And Are Hunter Cats Sadistic?

4. Immediate gratification

Do you sleepily dish up the cat food mere minutes after rising? If so, she may be waking you to invoke the feeding process. “Go about your morning activities for a while before feeding or lavishing attention on the cat,” suggests Cox.

Fend off her hunger by giving her a healthy snack before bedtime, such as a high-protein treat. Or ask your vet about dividing her daily food into smaller meals, spread throughout the day, to help her feel more satisfied.

If your cat is finicky for fresh water, indulge her with a self-filling water dispenser.

5. Lighting

What’s dark to the human eye isn’t so dark to the feline. “Cats see better in the dark due to having more light-sensitive receptors in their eyes, and small amounts of light may be quite disruptive,” Cox explains.

If you leave a nightlight on, sleep with the TV flickering, or have streetlights shining into your room, that may be just the right light for fun. Minimize light in the sleeping area or try room-darkening blinds to discourage activity.

On the other hand, if your cat is a senior citizen, her failing vision may be making it difficult to see at all, causing her restlessness. A soft light can help.

Adjust your lighting, giving each change about a week to take effect, to see what works best for your situation.

More from Catster Magazine: Feline Paralysis: “I Can’t Help Fix Dinner, I’ve a Cat on My Lap!”

6. Harsh reactions

Just like children, some cats will act up for attention — even if that attention is you grumpily telling her to get lost. “Any attention, even negative, could paradoxically reinforce [the cat’s] attention-seeking behavior,” says Cox.

In addition to perpetuating the problem, your harsh reaction can be damaging to her trust in you, and in humans in general. Tough as it may be, keep quiet during her escapades. She’s more likely to learn a lesson from your silence than from your annoyed antics.

No one likes to be roused from sleep. Assess the situation to discover the problem. With a few corrective measures, you’ll both be on the same sleep schedule.

Have you ever had a cat who was frisky at night? How did you deal with the problem? Let us know in the comments!

Photo: Feet under blanket and cat cuddling by Shutterstock

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This post was written by Debbie Swanson, regular contributor to Catster Magazine.


John S.
John S3 years ago

Really helpful and insightful piece. Thank you. I'd just like to let you know that in fact, contrary to what the pronouns in this excellent article imply, some cats are actually male.
John S.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo4 years ago

Thank you for the informative post. In answer to your question, we do have a cat who is playful at night sometimes. When he is, I make a little paper ball, and he bats it around and chases after it until he gets tired. We tried toys, but the dogs would tear them up, and I was afraid they would swallow them. Any way, once he is tired, he eats, drinks, and lays down to sleep.

Lola B.
Lola Barello4 years ago

My cat Nina cries late in the night, it sounds like she is in pain. She usually gets the comb I use for her and her sis,Buffy, and I find it with her while she is wailing. Any useful comments would be cool! Thx.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

my kitty rarely wakes me up, my 3 year old beats her to it :)

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga4 years ago

kitties are best, nothing they do is wrong

John Pullman
Tom K4 years ago

Here I thought my cat was plotting to kill me >.>
Probably still is.

Mariah M.
Mariah M4 years ago

my cat is horrible with waking my girlfriend up, i think he does it for attention. he's kind of a brat lol.

Kathy M.
Kathy M4 years ago

my cat either wanted to cuddle or he wanted to eat.

Sarah A.
Sarah A5 years ago

Miss being woke up by my cat.

Vera Taylor
Vera Taylor5 years ago