My Cat Keeps Me Up At Night – Help!

Many cat owners have experienced the frustration when our furry friends start meowing for our attention at the late hours of the night. Whether they want food, water or just attention, this behavior is certainly unwanted and damaging to both your sleep and the cat - owner relationship.

Why Is My Cat So Active At Night

Cats, like humans, have a circadian rhythm, or what we might refer to as a "body clock." Unlike humans, however, their "body clock" is tuned a bit different ours. The ancestors of our domestic cats, the African Wildcat, is mostly nocturnal. Our domestic cats have adapted to be more awake during the day, but cats still like to be active during the night [1][2].

Make Sure Your Cat Is Not Sick

To be able to correct the unwanted behavior it is helpful for us to understand why it is happening in the first place. The first thing you should rule out is a medical issue. Has your cat started crying and wandering around aimlessly, and does it exhibit the same type of behavior during the day as well? If you suspect this to be the case, you should take your cat to the vet.

If your cat´s meowing at night is a behavioral issue, however, there are five steps you can take to remove this unwanted behavior:


Establish a Consistent Routine.

Cats are habitual creatures [1], and they need routines to feel safe and well. In fact, any change in their routine or environment is likely to stress your cat out, which may lead to change in behavior. Make sure that they know when feeding time and playtime is, as well as when it is time to sleep - for everyone.


Have a Regular Feeding Schedule.

If you are free feeding, you should consider switching to specific mealtimes. Not only is it harder to make sure your cat gets the right amount of food when you free feed, but you also take away the opportunity for you and your cat to have a strong motivator and significant happening during the day - mealtime. If you plan the mealtimes well, you can make sure that your cat´s energy level is controlled and that it does not spike at 2 AM.  According to Francis Kallfelz, DVM, Ph.D in this article, feeding an adult cat once or twice per day is fine. Dr Kallfelz says that kittens should be fed more often as they need more food as they grow.


Feed Your Cat At The Right Time.

Cats like to sleep after a meal, so you should use this to your advantage, As mentioned above, meal planning allows you to control your cat's energy level, which means that ideal feeding times are in the morning when you wake up, and in the evening, around 1-2 hours before bedtime. 


Play With Your Cat Before Bedtime.

Another part in managing your cat´s energy is to playing. Playing allows your cat to expend its energy when you want to. An ideal time is 1 - 2 hours before their last meal of the day.


If Your Cat Meows At Night, Ignore Them.

This step is both the easiest and the hardest part of removing this behavior. If your cat is still waking you up and meowing in the middle of the night and you have determined that the issue is not a medical one, you just have to ignore them. If your cat receives any attention from you when doing this, positive or negative, it will know that the meowing is working. If you refuse to acknowledge your cat in any way over an extended period of time (sometimes up to a few weeks depending on the cat) your cat will eventually stop, allowing you to sleep well at night again.