It’s 3am and your cat is sitting on your chest and pawing at your nose. Wake up, wake up, it’s time to play! Well, it’s time to play if you’re a cat but if you’re a sleeping human this is probably last on your list. So why does this pattern repeat itself every time? Why does your cat routinely bite at your toes, paw at your face or systematically push items off the bedside table in the wee hours of the morning? You may not like this answer but it’s actually very normal behavior under the circumstances. First of all, cats are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dusk and at dawn. Also, for most of us, the end of the day is when we’re winding down so you come home from work, eat dinner, check your email, relax, cuddle with the cat and then head off to bed. The poor cat has been sleeping all day and when you walk through the door at 6pm, he’s ready for the fun to begin. If there hasn’t been adequate stimulation throughout the day through environmental enrichment and you haven’t engaged your cat in playtime in the evening, then at some point you’re going to get reminded of that fact. That reminder comes in the form of 8 lbs sitting on your chest hours before the alarm clock is set to go off.
You Need a Plan
If your cat wakes you up in the middle of the night or at the crack of dawn, there are a couple of things you can do to help “reset” that little fuzzy alarm clock. First on the list though is absolutely the most difficult of all – you have to ignore him when he’s engaging in the unwanted behavior. If you’ve gotten up to put food in his bowl in an effort to shut him up then you’ve only succeeded in reinforcing that behavior. If you’ve given attention to a cat engaging in attention-seeking behavior then he now knows that method worked and he’ll repeat it night after night. Even if you’ve yelled at your cat, he’s still receiving some form of attention for the behavior. Animals repeat behaviors that have a pay-off.
If your cat is preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, try this easy technique. It’s based on the typical activity cycle that a cat goes through as a natural predator.