BehaviorCats

Cat Keeping You Awake at Night?

 

HELP! My Cat is Trying to Kill Me Through Insomnia!

How often we compare our cats with our children, and really, the comparisons add up. We love them beyond compare, we are responsible for their well-being, we feed them, bathe them, take them to the doctor, and comfort them when they need our love.

Oh. And sometimes, they go through phases that keep us awake all hours of the night. It’s true, much like humans, cats can get insomnia.  Young cats {particularly those under one year of age} have been known to drive their owners crazy from sleep deprivation. Remember that our cat’s ancestor is the African wildcat, and these big cats are mostly nocturnal. So there’s a lot of natural instinct in our little fur babies but the good news is that cats can learn to let their owners sleep in peace.

The unmistakable yowling and wailing of a cat in distress is nearly impossible to sleep through for even the heaviest of sleepers. And much like humans, cats are generally looking for a need to be met and can be taught to self soothe in order to regain a normal sleep pattern. Do not despair, parent of a frustrated furry family member, hope lies in these pages.

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Following are 5 tips that can help:

#1:  Get thee to the vet!

The very first thing to do is bring your cat to their vet for a checkup. Much like a baby, cats do not have the ability to tell you with words if there is a medical problem. They can, however, vocalize.

There can be many medical reasons your cat is vocalizing at all hours of the night, thyroid disease, hearing loss, or cognitive dysfunction being just a few of them. Once you rule out a medical condition, then you can start to address the potential root causes of the behavioral condition that needs attention.

#2.  Let me entertain you.

We’ve all heard it before: Children who are bored in class are more likely to show behavioral problems. Cats are supremely smart animals, and do exactly the same thing. If your cat is not mentally stimulated, they will seek negative attention in order to have that need met.

Provide your cat with many opportunities to stimulate their mind and body. Toys, scratching posts, jungle gyms, and even cognitive games. (Yes, they make those for cats and they are incredibly effective.) It is important to not just wear out their body, but their mind.

#3.  Cry it out.

Just like the exhausted parent doesn’t want to hear their baby crying uncontrollably and swoops in to comfort their child, the parent of a furry child doesn’t want to hear their cat suffering and quickly moves to soothe them. Without doubt, there are times when you must comfort your cat, but you are doing them no favors by not teaching them to self soothe.

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Night vocalization can often be a call for attention, and for every time you wake up to soothe your cat, you are reinforcing that behavior, leading to more and more vocalization. Behavior modification is needed on both ends of this spectrum: Your can needs to learn to self soothe at night and you need to learn to let your cat cry it out. Eventually they’ll find their zzzzzzzzz…

#4.  Celebrate the good.

Ending the undesirable behavior is only half of the puzzle. Behavior modification is a two part endeavor. The first part is disrupting the bad behavior, and the second part is reinforcing a more desirable behavior. What does this mean? Catch your cat being good. If your cat is vocalizing for attention, then be sure to smother them with attention when they’re being quiet and non-disruptive.

Give them the attention they’re seeking during the day and when they’re behaving in a positive way. This reinforcement will pave the way to replace the night vocalizations with day time cuddles. Replace the old habits with better habits.

#5.  Wear them out!

Cats and kids both learn through play, and they develop a bond and happiness through playtime with their parent. One of the best times to play is right before bed, not only does it provide your cat with the attention they’re seeking and craving, but it also wears them out.

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With a consistent and regular nightly bonding time, your cat might start reducing their night vocalizations almost immediately. One method of playing with your cat is to mimic hunting. Get a toy mouse or a feather and allow your cat to get their predatory instincts out, and make way for a good night rest for both of you.

The key is to be consistent, and realize that in order to change the behavior, you will also need to change your behavior. If you do, you’ll both be sleeping like kittens in no time.

Here’s a cool little infographic from Cat Fancy Magazine and the Cat Channel that offers a few other clever suggestions. Well worth a read.

Here’s to a great night’s sleep!

 

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