Cat by Bed

Q. How can I get my cat to stop waking me up at 4:00 a.m. without revoking her bedroom privileges?

A. Cats’ natural sleep cycles are at odds with the average human sleep cycle. Although cats can sleep as much as 20 hours a day, they have frequent sleep-wake cycles throughout the day that are tied to their natural hunting instinct. The most active part of the day for felines just happens to be between dusk and dawn — the complete opposite of most human schedules.  

The best solution for a restful night’s sleep is to shut your cat out of your room at night. For the first few nights you may have a sad kitty meowing and clawing at the door, but eventually she should stop, as long as you ignore her behavior and don’t get up and let her in to your room in the middle of the night.

But for those of us who want our furry friend at our side while we sleep, there are a few solutions that may help your cat to stay in a deeper slumber — or at the very least, make her less likely to disturb you from your sleep.

Tire Her Out

The most important step in helping your cat have a restful night’s sleep is to play with her right before bedtime, which will help exhaust her and make it more likely that she will settle in to a deep sleep. Try playing with a feather toy, tossing catnip mice or engaging in other active play that leaves your kitty exhausted. Similarly, offering your cat food puzzles containing a small amount of food in the evening will both send her to bed with a fuller tummy, which alleviates early morning hunger, and lets her burn off more energy, which can promote deep sleep.

Don’t wait until bedtime to prime your cat for a good night’s sleep, though. Since your cat is likely getting extensive amounts of sleep during the day, try breaking up her daytime sleeping by regularly playing with her or providing food puzzles in daylight hours. This will leave her exhausted and ready for a deeper sleep when your bedtime rolls around. 

Offer Her Some Breakfast

Cats often have shorter sleep cycles than humans, so they often rise earlier than their human counterparts. The use of blackout blinds can help block the early morning sun, which in some cases can help your cat to sleep later in the morning. Another reason cats wake early and promptly attempt to wake their humans up in order to secure their morning meal. Having a loaded food puzzle toy next to your bed can be a solution for keeping your cat busy and getting her fed without needing to get out of bed yourself. However, if the sound of your cat playing with a food puzzle is too noisy, you can invest in a timed feeder that dispenses measured amounts of food at preprogrammed hours and can be set ahead to the time when your cat regularly arises.  

Ignore Her

Felines wake up their humans in the early morning because it works to get attention, food and even play. If you want to break the cycle of your feline waking you every morning, the most effective solution is to ignore her. Keep in mind that even a frustrated yell or pushing your cat off the bed is considered attention. When your cat realizes she never gets any attention for her behavior, she will likely discontinue the behavior because it serves no purpose. It’s important to note that when you first begin ignoring a behavior that worked in the past, it often gets more intense before it will get better in what is called an extinction burst: The animal tries the previously rewarded behavior with increased vigor when it is suddenly ignored. By consistently ignoring your cat’s early morning antics and having all family members on the same page, it’s very likely that your cat will either devise her own entertainment or simply settle in to sleep longer with you.  

By combining daytime exercise and food puzzles, redirecting your early waking cat to food, or simply ignoring your cat’s wakeup tactics, your feline should become a later morning riser.