Caitlin UltimoTraining / Training Tips

Tips for Adjusting Cat Sleep Schedules

Get Your Cat Sleeping on Your Schedule

If your cat is meowing mid-evening, or stepping on your face at dawn, it may be time to adjust your cat’s sleep schedule.

Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. Luckily for cat parents, however, cat sleep schedules are malleable and can be altered to align with yours. Goodbye to the days of yowling for food early in the morning, or begging for your attention when you just want to wind down.

If you want to have your cat sleeping at the same time as you, keep in mind that some adjustments to your cat’s lifestyle must be made. Here are a few things to consider when trying to get your cat sleeping on your schedule:

How to Adjust a Cat’s Sleeping Schedule

  1. Address Any Health Concerns

    Before attempting to adjust your cat’s sleep schedule with behavioral modifications, make sure she doesn’t have an underlying medical problem that causes her to stay awake at night. Painful conditions, hormonal imbalances, flea infestations, eye conditions and deafness can make it difficult for your tired cat to sleep peacefully.

    If your cat seems restless during the day, too, take her to the vet to rule out these health concerns. “For example, some senior animals lose their hearing, so their loud meowing is to try to hear their own noises,” explains Dr. Rachel Barrack, a licensed veterinarian and certified animal acupuncturist. Older cats may also increase their cat sounds at night because they cannot see as well, so consider leaving some lights on when you go to bed.

    At certain life stages (especially as a kitten), it’s natural for your cat to wake up at night. A sleeping kitten needs regular food and comfort, which means she also has lots of energy to spare!

  2. Burn Off Energy

    Your cat may be waking you up at night simply because she wants to play. She probably slept the entire time you were at work—after all, it’s boring to be all alone! Now that you’re home, she thinks it’s playtime. Despite a reputation as a solitary animal, many cats love to play and interact with humans and other animals.

    If you’re suffering through a lot of cat yowling at night, be cautious about giving her attention at 2 a.m.  When you give her the attention she desires—petting her or rubbing her chin—it reinforces the behavior.

    Playing active games with your cat during the day is a great way to burn off her energy and give her the attention she craves. Cats are less needy when they’ve been well-exercised.  A tired cat is a sleeping cat.

    The Jackson Galaxy Mojo Maker Ground Prey Wand Teaser Cat Toy is made for cats who love a ground pursuit. Drag it along the floor to mimic the motion of a mouse, and watch her start pouncing and chasing. It’s great for building her confidence, which in turn gives her mojo. The telescoping 64-inch wand allows you to better direct the play, and the retractable cord prevents tangles so the fun never gets interrupted.

    KONG Glide ‘N Seek Cat Toy is another great option for burning off your cat’s energy. Magnetic levitation technology brings this feather toy to life—it bounces, jumps, and spins unpredictably. All this play results in one very sleepy cat!

    If you are absent for majority of the day, you can try an interactive toy that encourages independent play. The Petstages Tower of Tracks Cat Toy is a great example that allows your cat to enjoy an action-packed afternoon even when you’re not at home.

  3. Establish Bedtime Routine

    Once you’ve exercised your cat, it’s important to reinitiate a bedtime routine that says, “It’s time to settle down.”

    Cats often become sleepy after a big meal, so feed your cat a filling, delicious dinner before bed.  Natural Balance Original Ultra Whole Body Health Chicken Meal & Salmon Meal Formula Dry Cat Food is a gluten-free kibble with an optimal balance of premium proteins and key nutrients that will fill your cat’s belly up and help ease them into sleep mode.

    Turn the lights down low and lower the volume on your television to create a quiet, calming environment. A sleeping kitten or a sleeping cat needs a comfy, soft and safe spot to rest to promote good sleeping habits. If you are looking to upgrade your cat’s sleeping quarters, try the Armarkat Burrow Cat Bed. This burrow features an extremely soft pillow hugged by a strong, cozy bolster, giving your cat plenty of privacy and warmth for a restful night of sleep. Keep in mind that cats can be picky about their sleeping spot, so try placing her bed in different quiet corners of the house to see which spot your cat feels the most comfortable in.

    Once you find a good sleeping spot for your cat, try to keep it there for as long as possible. Consistency is extremely important when it comes to altering your cat’s sleep schedule.

  4. Consider a Timed Feeder

    One of the most common reasons that cats wake up their owners at night is hunger. “Cats meowing may be their way of connecting with you and letting you know they want to be fed,” explains Dr. Barrack.

    An automatic pet feeder, such as PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Programmable Pet Feeder, can eliminate early morning wake-up calls and puts your cat on a feeding schedule that aligns with their new sleeping habits. This feeder uses a conveyor belt to dispense food for the best portion control and accuracy. The feeder works with most dry kibble and semi-moist pet foods. You can customize your pet’s meals with flexible portions from 1/8-4 cups and up to 12 meals per day. The Slow Feed option dispenses scheduled meals slowly over a 15-minute period to help prevent gulping, vomiting and bloat.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when adjusting your cat’s sleep schedule is to avoid reinforcing negative nighttime behavior by giving into your cat’s pleas for affection. Your best option is to simply ignore your cat and try to go back to sleep. Your cat will eventually learn that nighttime is for sleep—she’ll get the love and attentions she craves when the sun comes up!

Caitlin Boyle is a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her hobbies including trail running and planning fantasy vacations. She has two dogs, Maggie and James, and a cat that believes he’s a dog, Ferguson.