It’s late. After a long day, you’re ready to nod off into a deep sleep. Just as you are slipping into your slumber, you hear thunderous sprinting down the hallway and jerk back to reality. For such small animals, cats can make an impressive amount of noise.
Many cat owners can relate to this story. Overactivity at night is a common problem. Some cats use the time to get into mischief. Others demand your attention and will scratch relentlessly at any door you put between the two of you.
Regardless of your cat’s favorite nocturnal activities, there are things you can do to get a good night’s sleep.
Why Are Cats Hyper at Night?
The first step in solving this problem is to pinpoint the cause of your cat’s restlessness. Once you know the reason for the behavior, it’s much easier to form a plan of attack.
Here are some top reasons a cat is active during nighttime hours:
- Instinct – Cats are “crepuscular” creatures, meaning they are naturally active at dawn and dusk. Certain cats habitually gravitate towards a nocturnal lifestyle.
- Senility – Cats who are getting on in years are prone to nighttime-wandering. Senior cats can develop cognitive issues that interfere with memory and awareness, leading to anxiety. For example, a distressed cat who has forgotten where her litter box is may resort to excessive vocalizations.
- Illness – If your cat is suddenly active at night, the problem could be health-related. Look for other indications of illness, such as a change in appetite, eliminating outside of the litter box, or digestive upset.
- Lifestyle – A cat’s daily schedule can lend itself to nocturnal activity. For example, a cat who naps uninterrupted all day will likely be energized at night. A change in routine, such as moving to a new house, can alter sleeping patterns.
What You Can Do
If you suspect that your cat is ill, the first thing to do is consult your vet. This is also something that anyone with a senior cat should consider. Cats suffering from feline dementia may benefit from specialized nutrition, anti-anxiety medication, or environmental support.
After ruling out physical ailments, focus on lifestyle factors. Make sure you are not accidentally encouraging your cat’s behavior by responding to vocalizations and activity. As difficult as it is to ignore repeated requests for attention, giving in will only make the situation worse. Door-scratching can be discouraged with double-sided tape, scent deterrents, and distractions like scratching posts.
As soon as you get home, keep your cat as busy as possible. If she spends much of the day alone and napping, this is even more important. You can also try feeding a large meal right before bedtime. This will make her sleepier and decrease the likelihood of early morning hunger.
As with any other training, consistency is key. Sticking to an established routine will speed up the process. The good news is that unless there are underlying health issues, most cats will adapt to the sleeping schedule you reinforce.