Nocturnal Activity in Cats

Why does my cat seem to be most active at nights?

A cat will usually spend the daytime hours resting and relaxing, especially if it is the only pet in the household. At night, however, and very early in the morning, they are usually wide awake.This is because it’s the most natural time for cats to be active since they would normally hunt and explore at dusk and dawn (this is known as crepuscular behavior).

This routine can sometimes cause issues for the cat’s owner, these may include – attacking the owner’s ears or toes in bed, walking across the sleeping owners, night time vocalisation, or explosive, uncontrollable play sessions across the furniture and/or owners, during the night or early morning. This behaviour typically results in the owner rewarding the behaviour by giving the cat food, attention and affection to try and keep the cat mellow.   The cat, however, will see this as encouragement that this behaviour is ok with the owner and will continue to do so.

How can I stop my cat from keeping me up at night?

To stop a cat from keeping you awake during the night its essential to schedule feeding during daytime hours, adjusting the cat’s feeding time can help to alter their sleep routine. For example, eating a few hours earlier or later, may help to change to cats schedule just enough that it sleeps through the night.

Another method involves keeping the cat awake and active during the evening by playing and interacting with them. As the behaviour throughout the night may be a form of attention seeking, you must consider whether the cat is getting sufficient amounts of social interaction and social play during the daytime. This may be particularly problematic for an only cat in the household and an owner who works all day.  Offering several social play sessions with chase toys, as well as some reward based training exercises might help to fill the cat’s needs. Toys with catnip should be discouraged in the evening.

If the cat continues to disturb the owner during the night, confining the cat out of the bedroom may be the solution. Moving the cat to an area as far away as possible, and providing it with a comfortable sleeping area and litter may do the trick.

What if it is necessary to have my cat sleep in the bedroom?

If you decide that your cat would do best if allowed to stay in the bedroom, you must remember that any attention whatsoever will further reinforce their behaviour. React to the demanding cat with inattention. However, if the cat persists or the behaviour escalates to a point where it cannot be ignored, punishment may be effective.

If punishment is to be used, devices that quickly deter the cat without the need for owner contact, such as a water sprayer, air horn, ultrasonic device, can of compressed air or a spray of citronella are usually the safest and most effective.

By Gordon Roberts

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