How to Have Quiet Nights with Your Cat

By Orly Zakai, Cat Behavior Consultant

Some cats are more active at night, and some wake up in the early morning hours. You might even be familiar with such a purring nocturnal creature… It’s important to know that this behavior is completely natural for cats. But we also need to sleep at night and wake up for work or school in the morning, which may cause some problems.

When cats stay at home alone, they mostly sleep. Especially if you only have one cat at home and he doesn’t ever leave the house. If you are raising a cat inside an apartment, it’s important to know that the highlight of the cat’s day is when you come home. Until then, nothing exciting has happened to him, there hasn’t been any interesting activity, he didn’t go out to hunt because there wasn’t anything for him to hunt inside the house, he didn’t climb trees, and he probably wasn’t exposed to direct sunlight if he was cooped up inside all day. Therefore, his day starts when you come home and that’s when he expects you to meet his needs, such as interesting food, toys, and social interaction.

If it was up to the cat, he’d sleep most of the day and then perk up in the evening, stretch, scratch his claws, and start his feline affairs. In other words, go hunting, climb trees, and do what cats are supposed to do. But when you come home in the evening, you’ll probably want to unwind, eat, shower, watch TV and go to sleep, which means that the cat will have limited interaction with you from a time and energy standpoint, and he will be full of pent-up energy come nightfall. This will lead to boredom, frustration, and sleepless nights. After all, we can’t expect a cat to sleep for 24 hours a day…

What can you do so you sleep better at night?

 

• Rule out a medical problem – If the problem started recently, I first recommend visiting the vet to rule out a medical problem that may be causing your cat pain, or other diseases that cause restlessness.

• Food – It’s important to adjust the food to improve sleep quality. Maybe something in the food isn’t agreeing with the cat. Maybe you’re giving him set meals and he’s hungry at night… There are a lot of possible reasons when it comes to food and how to feed your cat. It’s best to give unlimited access to food all day. You could also give canned food every day before sleep. This generally helps them sleep better. Genetically, normal cats are hunters and are used to chasing and hunting their food. The fact that they eat from the same place and the same bowl every day is very unnatural for a cat. You can feed the cat in special feeding toys, or sprinkle dry food throughout the house at night so that they search for their food. This way, the cat will expend physical and mental energy to find the food and eat it. Currently, you can also find special food for cats that contains soothing medicinal plants like passionfruit and chamomile, which can help reduce stress in cats that are cooped up inside.

• Boredom – If your cat is very active at night and isn’t letting you sleep, it’s a sign that he is bored during the day and lacks stimulation and social interaction. This can be very problematic, especially in a home where there is only one cat who is cooped up alone, day after day. If you offer him diverse activities that change daily, even when you aren’t at home, it will make things easier on him and you. Alternate his toys daily. Playtime is a good way to expend energy and if you play with him when you get home, it will strengthen your bond. Cats have different preferences, so it’s important to know what his favorite toy is at any given time. This may change so buy different toys and take a look around, because almost anything around the house can serve as a toy. The main thing is for you to switch two toys a day. A cat is a routine-loving animal, as long as the routine is interesting and meets his needs as a hunter. If you plan a busy and appropriate schedule for him, he will very quickly expend a lot more energy and with your help, his biological clock will reset so that your nights will be calmer and quieter.

• Young cats – Kittens and young cats are much more energetic and need a lot more activity and stimulation than older cats. Remember this if you are planning to adopt in the near future or, if you have a young cat at home, give them outlets for their energy.

• Environmental enrichment – A rich and diverse daily schedule will help the cat expend energy during the day, and as a result reduce his activity at night. For example, very tall activity trees and scratching posts. Cats prefer to climb high so provide them with such places like windowsills to look outside, high shelves and more, as well as hiding places like cardboard boxes…

• Plants – It’s important to bring some much-needed nature into the cat’s life. The recommended plants are mint, lemongrass, wheatgrass, dichondra and parsley. Plants like the Madonna lily are toxic to cats so it’s best to opt for the plants I suggested above and not endanger the cat.

If, despite the changes you made subsequent to my recommendations, you still aren’t sleeping well at night, we can meet for a consultation to explore specific solutions to treat the problem for you and your cat. Incorporating the right food in a solution to the problem must be tailored specifically to your cat’s needs. There are currently special foods for cats that soothe the cat and that can help with the behavioral consultation process and improve your nights, but it’s important to consult with a vet before any dietary changes to diagnose any potential health problems.

Make the smart choice