Does your cat wake you up at night? We understand you. It’s been a while now, but our cat used to wake us up at 4 a.m. every night. At the exact same time. Without much thought, we also did exactly the same thing every night, we gave her canned food. It was an easy solution since we could get back to sleep a few minutes later. But it kept happening each and every night. Again, and again. If you want to learn how to stop cat waking me up at 4am, or anytime at night, you’ve come to the right place.
Table of Contents
- What do you do when your cat wakes you up at night?
- How can you train your cat to sleep at night?
- Make sure your cat is all right
- Should you ignore your cat or lock them out of the room at night?
- How do you get your cat on a sleep schedule?
- How to stop your cat from waking you up for a feeding in the morning?
- Create a strict schedule for your cat’s meals
- Did your cat get enough activity during the day?
- What do you do when your cat wakes you up at night?
What do you do when your cat wakes you up at night?
Does this sound familiar? The details may differ slightly but the results are the same. Your cat may wake you because they want to get outside. They may wake you up early in the morning because the night is too long to wait. They may wake you just by making mischief around the house without wanting anything from you in particular.
Whichever is your case, in this article you will learn how to stop your cat from waking you at night or meowing early in the morning.
How can you train your cat to sleep at night?
1. Make sure your cat is all right
Okay, he or she obviously is not all right, right? After all, she or he is meowing at your bedroom door and waking you up. But you the cat parent should check whether the thing your cat wants requires immediate attention.
What to check?
- Is your cat in pain or discomfort due to a health issue? There are many signs that tell you your cat is in pain. If in doubt, a veterinarian visit might be a good choice.
- Is your cat’s litter box or litter tray clean? You should check the box at least twice daily. Ideally one check should be in the evening before bedtime so it is clean for the night.
- Is there water in your cats bowl? And is the water fresh? It’s best to replace the water in the bowl shortly before you go to sleep.
- Is your cat hungry? Most cats wake their owners for cat food, but this is often not related to hunger in most cases. To be sure, check whether your cat has eaten enough food during the day. Even if your cat isn’t thin (see how to assess your cat’s body condition ), you should still check the manufacturer’s guidelines on the food package and make sure you provide enough. Remember, that your cat may be hungry even if they eat more than the recommended amount because they may have a parasite, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or another cat health issue. If one of those issues seem likely, we recommend you to visit your veterinarian. See here for more information if your cat is hungry all the time.
- Did your cat get enough activity during the day? Unfortunately, if your cat wakes you up at night it is highly likely they did not. The good news is that it’s not hard to change this habit. We will talk about this in more detail below.
- Is something disturbing your cat? Lights from the street, TV, or a night lamp? Cats fighting or wandering by the window? Are birds singing outside? While cats most often wake their owners because they are bored, sometimes they may be just too disturbed to sleep. Check what is causing this stress, and do what you can to limit it.
2. Should you ignore your cat or lock them out of the room at night?
To keep your cat from waking you at night, you must ignore them no matter how loud they get.
If you checked to make sure your cat was all right in the evening, you should not worry about something terrible happening to them. You are normally safe to not pay attention to your cat’s repertoire during the night. Why would it be necessary?
If your cat meows to wake you, and you wake up and feed them (or let them out, or grant whatever your cat asks for), it’s just enticing them to do the same thing again. Unfortunately you’ve taught your cat to wake you up and you’ll take care of them.
At first glance, it seems natural to wake up, quickly pour some cat food into their bowl and get back to sleep rather than listen to you cat meowing all night. The alternative is to ignore them and not get any sleep at all.
However, if your cat wakes you at night and you’d like to stop it, you must sacrifice some nights. The first one will be the hardest, but every successive night will be easier.
IMPORTANT: The above advice applies to granting your cat what they want and to any interaction with them. Do not even shush them, scold them or lock your cat away. Any of those is attention, and attention is a reward. You don’t want to reward your cat for waking you up. Lie in your bed and pretend you’re can’t hear them. We had to resort to earplugs during this phase of retraining our cat.
You can also try closing your bedroom door. Read here how to prevent your cat from scratching at it.
If you follow the steps below, you will get your sleep back after a few days. Your cat will quickly learn that their efforts to wake you don’t work. It’ll take longer if you already taught your cat that waking you up is okay.
3. How do you get your cat on a sleep schedule?
The simple truth is that the night is too long for domestic cats. Their life cycle is different from ours. An essential part of it is to feed your cat right before you go to sleep.
The best time to feed your cat is right before you turn the lights off and go to sleep. It’s best if your cat finishes the meal when your home is already quiet and still. This is the sleep pattern you want them to learn.
The last meal of the day may be smaller than a regular one, but make sure it is at least substantial enough to be a meal, not a treat. Don’t forget to subtract this amount from your cat’s total daily food intake. We suggest measuring your cat’s food with a measuring cup. Find more about schedule feeding cats here.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you also schedule a short play session before you go to bed. Try to play for at least 10 minutes to let your cat get some of their excess energy out. Assuming you already had a few play sessions during the day, this one last will work magic. So why does this work?
Look at how cats live in nature. They spend most of their time hunting for their next meal and evading predators. After they eat, they continue with a self-grooming session , and then they rest. This is because they need energy for the next hunt. It’s how it goes in the wild, with almost no time left in between.
That’s why you want to provide enough activity for your cat throughout the day and have the last play session before you go to sleep. Following this last play session with a small meal mimics your cat’s hunt-rest cycle. That’s why they will magically go to sleep right after that last meal. At first, their slumber won’t last through the night but as long as you don’t respond when they beg for attention at night your cat will learn there’s no point in waking you up at night.
Does your cat’s attitude drive you crazy? Find solutions to the most common cat behavior problems here.
4. How to stop your cat from waking you up for a feeding in the morning?
Do not feed your cat upon awakening if you want to stop them from waking you up.
We have another trick up our sleeves. Is your cat waking you up for food? Then don’t feed your cat upon waking up. You don’t want your cat to connect those two events; you wake up and the food appears.
If your cat does connect them, you’ve taught your cat what to do. The sooner your cat wakes you up, the sooner they get fed.
So right after you wake up, don’t pay attention to your cat. Brush your teeth, have some coffee, eat breakfast, take a shower etc.. Follow your morning routine.
Then, right before you leave (or at a specific time if you stay home), have a short play session with your cat (ideally to mimic the hunt), and then serve breakfast. Very soon your cat will understand that waking you earlier will not bring the food sooner. And that is what you want to teach them.
5. Create a strict schedule for your cat’s meals
The next part of the plan is to set consistent expectations for your cat regarding their meals. It will help your cat to understand what comes when. It will help them see when it’s morning and when it’s day. Most importantly, it will stop your cat from waking you up at night.
Create a schedule of three to four meals per day. Make sure they occur at approximately the same time.
If you wish, you can also buy an automatic food dispenser that dispenses meals at the same times every day. Dispensers are available for wet or dry food. This will help to remove the association between your cat’s food and you.
You can learn more about cat feeding frequency here.
6. Did your cat get enough activity during the day?
Whether your cat wakes you at night for food, to be let outside, or just because they want to have fun with you, increasing playtime will help solve your problem. Check these tips if you think you are too busy to play with your cat.
How often should you play with your cat? It depends. In most cases, three or four play sessions of 5 to 10 minutes is the minimum. As always, the more the better.
It’s important to understand that five play sessions for 5 minutes are better than one for 25 minutes. You might consider grabbing cat toys and playing for even a few minutes whenever you can. It’s natural for cats to have short hunting or playing sessions every time and then.
Keep in mind that early morning and evening are the top activity times for your cat. Ideally you want to schedule most playing sessions then. An excellent way to end every play session is to leave the toy at their disposal and give them a small amount of food. NOTE: To ensure you don’t overfeed your cat, make sure you subtract this amount from the daily portion.
Also consider solo playing opportunities for your cat. It works really well to provide part of your cat’s food through a food puzzle toy. A cat food filled ball that drops a small piece out now and then as your cat continues to play with it.
Check our article: 11 exciting activities to do with your cat.
What do you do when your cat wakes you up at night?
We marked some bits of information above as “IMPORTANT” In reality all parts are important. They combine to form a chain of actions. If you don’t miss any. The nights when your cat wakes you up will come to an end almost guaranteed.
Is it Magic? No, it’s understanding your cats behaviour, and it works. You now understand why your cat does what it does. As a cat owner, you accept that your cat is well, a cat. By adjusting your behaviors and their natural instincts, you now know how to stop cat waking me up at 4am. You’ll be finally able to get the well deserved good nights sleep you’ve been craving.
This way you will be happy and your cat will be happy. And keeping your pet happy is what we all want.