Why Does My Cat Cry at Night?
Does your cat disturb your sleep?
From playful kittens to crying seniors, a cat that yowls in the night definitely shatters the silence needed for a good night’s sleep. That the cat is active and asking for attention rather than sleeping peacefully could be down to a behavioral problem or a medical issue. To correct the cat’s antisocial habit relies upon understanding what’s driving the behavior, so let’s get better acquainted with cause and effect when it comes to night-time crying in cats.
Battle of the Body Clock
You’re snuggled up under the duvet when your two young kittens decide now is the ideal time to play pounce with your feet. Whilst this might be cute it’s not conducive to a good night’s rest, so what do you do about it?
You’re pitched against Mother Nature here, because cats are nocturnal hunters, so pouncing on your ankles at midnight is normal behavior. To make matters worse, if you wake up and give the kittens attention, be it telling them to stop or distracting them with food, what you’re doing is accidentally rewarding the activities you want to stop.
It’s all too easy to inadvertently reinforce a cat’s waking habits by responding to their activities. For example, imagine a slightly older cat that taps your nose in the night, because she fancies a snack. Your path of least resistance is to get up, go to the kitchen (albeit in a zombie like state) and fill the cat’s bowl. Then in the hope a full stomach will make the cat sleepy, you return to bed.
Did you spot the problem?
Yep, that’s right. By responding to the cat’s demands you are training her to wake you up for food. Instead, the better strategy is to pull the duvet higher over your head and wait out her protests. Only when she learns her actions are not rewarded, will she leave you in peace.
Prevention is better than cure. So whether you have a new kitten or a mature cat that needs retraining, here’s how to solve the issue of the night-time attention seeker.
- Plenty of play: Don’t let kitty slumber during the day so that she’s raring to go at night. Encourage her to participate in active play several times a day. Dust off those cat toys and engage her in three or four, five minutes sessions of dashing after a wing-on-a-string so she’s nicely tuckered out.
- Feeding Schedule: It helps if you feed wet food and have set mealtimes. This allows you to give her a meal about half an hour before bedtime. This way she’s tired after playing, plus has a full stomach and so is liable to settle down for a snooze. Oh, and the 30 minutes before bedtime is good because this gives her a chance to go to the toilet (eating stimulates the bowel) so she isn’t disturbed by a call of nature in the night.
- Ignore her Antics: Whatever you do, don’t respond to her attempts to get your attention. From crying to pouncing or patting, just pull the duvet over your ears and carry on sleeping (Of course, if you think there is a problem get up and check she’s OK) The idea is to show her that she’s wasting her energy trying to wake you at night. If you can’t trust yourself to ignore her, then shut the bedroom door with her on the other side.
The Over-Attached Cat
If your cat had a rough start in life and has now landed on her paws in a fur-ever home, then she may be unusually attached to you, her guardian. This can show itself as following you from room to room, inappropriate toileting, or scratching furniture. If she likes to sleep on your head, then you may shut her out of the room, which leads to yowls of protest which stop you sleeping.
The over-attached cat needs a subtly different approach by building her confidence. You do this by making the home an even more interesting place to be and at the same time decreasing her dependence on you.
Here are some top tips for reassuring an anxious cat that suffers from separation anxiety.
- Provide plenty of toys which you change often to keep her interest. Also provide mental stimulation by training her and regular play sessions
- Occupy her mind by using puzzle feeders or have her hunt down food hidden around the home
- Give her a chance to express normal behaviors such as climbing and hiding, by the provision of tall cat trees and plenty of hiding places.
- Take care not to reinforce insecurities and when she’s anxious avoid petting her.
A Sense of Time and Place
Older cats sometimes get day and night confused, especially if their sight or hearing is impaired. If you suspect your older cat is blind or deaf, then provide other sensory signposts to help them orientate. This helps because a deaf cat may wake in the night and feel isolated and start crying for reassurance. In this case try giving him one of your T-shirts to sleep on (that smells of you) and spritz it with Feliway to amplify the comfort factor. For the blind cat, this might also mean leaving a radio on a talk show in the room where she sleeps.
Last but not least, be sure your cat doesn’t have an underlying health problem which is causing her to wake in the night. If the cat has toothache, arthritis, or a condition which causes a full bladder (because she’s drinking a lot) then she will wake in the still of the night with nothing to distract her.
Key to correcting this problem is to get the medical condition treated, so a vet checkup is the order of the day to identify and treat the core issue. Examples of common problems which can be treated include diabetes, overactive thyroid glands, pain (such as arthritis or toothache) and cancer.
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