How Can We Get Our Cat To Sleep at Night?

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Q. Our young cat is keeping us up all night. I think he sleeps all day when we’re at work, and all night he wants to play. What can we do?

A. Cats have night vision that puts any man-made invention to shame. When you think about that, it’s not surprising that a lot of cats, especially young ones, love prowling about in the dark. If you have other plans (such as sleeping) they really don’t care. It’s showtime at the Cat Cabaret!

The “solution” to this problem used to be to put the cat outside, turn out the lights and go to sleep. But these days we know that remedy isn’t the best. Free-roaming cats generally don’t live anywhere near as long as indoor cats, because of the hazards of life outside. From cars and coyotes to cat-hating neighbors, there are plenty of dangers for a cat outside. And, of course, there’s an argument to be made that these cats cause problems just by doing what comes naturally, including hunting and burying their feces in the neighbors’ gardens. Keeping your cat inside is safer for your cat and more considerate of your neighbors.

When you bring a cat indoors, though, you can't just shut the door on him and call it a day. You have to provide for a cat's physical and mental needs by creating an enriched environment for him. That’s the subject of a wonderful new book called Your Home, Their Territory: Creating the Right Habitat for Your Indoor Cats. The author is my friend and colleague Dr. Tony Buffington of The Indoor Pet Initiative at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

Since I know that this behavior is common among indoor cats, I asked Dr. Buffington to weigh in with his suggestions for getting a good night's sleep with a cat in the house.

Change meal time. “Feed the cat before you go to bed vs. before you leave in the morning,” Dr. Buffington suggests. Because we are all more likely to sleep after a meal (think about the postprandial pause after we push back from the Thanksgiving table!) feeding just before your bedtime will make your cat more likely to snooze, too.

Make time for playtime. “Providing play opportunities will help ‘wear the cat out’ before bed," Dr. Buffington says. If a long day at work leaves you too exhausted to play with Kitty, get a toy that your pet can play with on his own, like the Fling-ama-String, one of my Dr. Becker’s Best from the Global Pet Expo. Set it up at the other end of the house and hit the sack!

Widen your cat’s world. “I’d suggest they enrich the environment so they’re not the only source of the cat’s stimulation and activity,” Dr. Buffington says. “Add feeding puzzles, window perches with bird feeders outside, cat videos, etc.” This keeps your cat busy all day and makes him more likely to sleep all night.

I love these suggestions from Dr. Buffington. Not only will they help you sleep, but they’ll also make your cat happier as well. Talk about a win-win!

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