Managing Your Cat's Nocturnal Behavior

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It's no secret that pet parents often don't get a good night's sleep. Feline parents, in particular, are vulnerable to sleepless nights because of nocturnal cat behaviour.

Why are cats nocturnal? A cat's biological clock is set to "active" throughout the night, and this instinct manifests itself in a variety of ways, including wanting to play, asking for a midnight snack or pushing you around so they can get a better spot on the bed, usually on your pillow!

But there are a few ways to manage your cat's nighttime antics, which is great news for everyone in the sleep-deprived family.

Playtime Equals Sleepytime

If you're a new cat parent, you may be surprised at how often kittens sleep during the day. It's true that most cats spend most of their day sleeping, whether their humans are home or not. PetMD’s advice to help your cat burn off the energy stored up all day is by actively engaging your furry friend for about 20 to 30 minutes when you arrive home. They'll love the attention, and you'll have a nice welcome-home activity. Keep in mind that they might just take another power nap and be ready to rock again just as you've snuggled up in your cozy bed. So it's a good idea to spend another 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime.

Cat on floor playing with toy

Another way to keep your kitty happy is to provide outlets for independent play. For example, open the curtains or blinds in an unoccupied room so that they can survey the nightlife in your neighbourhood. The Animal Humane Society notes that you can even incorporate playtime into your nightly TV session! You'll want to avoid any toys that make noise; otherwise, you'll hear that jingly ball rolling up and down all night.

Bedtime Dinner

As seasoned pet parents can tell you, if you get up and feed your cat during the middle of the night once, they'll expect you to do it every single night. If you've already started feeding your cat at 2 am, to keep them quiet, don't despair–you can phase it out over time.

One way to do this is to give your cat dinner close to bedtime, preferably before your rigorous pre-bed playdate. To avoid overfeeding your cat, be sure to portion out meals appropriately during the day. Follow the directions provided on the cat food package, and if you have questions about your cat's feeding schedule and behaviour, ask a veterinarian.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Have you ever closed your bedroom door in hopes your feline friend would seek other ways to burn off their midnight energy? If so, you've already discovered that cats view a closed door as a challenge and will bang against it until it opens. (A note to new pet parents: Cats don't give up. They will spend hours trying to open that door.) Cats that are especially determined will run at full speed and hurl themselves at the door.

You may be tempted to command your furry companion to go away, but resistance is futile. For a cat, any attention is good attention. Any reaction from you means that you're ready to play, but never ever discipline their nocturnal cat behaviour. Your cat is  just doing what comes naturally. Your best bet is to ignore your cat completely. It's not easy, but eventually, they’ll saunter off for other entertainment.

It may take a few nights before your kitty realises you won't react to nighttime demands. With patience and dedication, you and your cat can look forward to restful nights, and you both will have more energy to play during the day!

Image source: Flickr

Contributor Bio

Christine O'Brien

Christine O'Brien


Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blue cats rule the house. Her work also appears in, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pregnancy, family life, and pets. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien