Why does my cat wake me up?

Cats love a long snooze, and are constantly found sleeping in the sun throughout the day. But why does your cat wake you up at night? And is there anything you can do about it?

Cats love to sleep, but they don't seem to love letting you sleep. Why does your cat wake you up?
Cats love to sleep, but they don't seem to love letting you sleep. Why does your cat wake you up?  © Collage: Unsplash/Amber Kipp & Sander Sammy & Uriel Soberanes

Sleep is important for everyone, and that's especially true for cats. Every cat owner understands the stress and pain of being woken up in the middle of the night with a loud meow and a paw on your cheek.

So what on earth is going on? Why can't your kitty just let you sleep undisturbed?

In this cat guide, TAG24 will dive into why cats wake you up every night.

If you have ever wondered why your cat wakes you up or whether there's anything you can do about it, you've come to the right place.

When do cats wake up?

Cats are generally nocturnal animals, but sleep consistently throughout the day and night. They sleep many hours every day and, as a result, it's hard to define a particular time when they wake up. In fact, it is more-or-less impossible to provide a specific waking time, because they wake up on multiple occasions throughout the day.

Our feline friends will often spend more time sleeping than they do awake over a 24-hour period. They sleep in 30-40 minute shifts, each of which contain very little deep sleep and a lot of half-sleep. Due to the regularity of these naps, they will sleep and wake up multiple times during the period in which you are in deep sleep each night.

Why do cats wake you up?

It's important to note that cats are, indeed, nocturnal animals. Domestic kitties, though, have generally trained themselves to spend more time sleeping with their humans throughout the night than they naturally would. However, that doesn't mean that they won't cause you some problems here and there.

If your cat wakes you up in the middle of the night, it is quite likely because they want you to do something for them. They might be hunting, busy being brilliant, or just simply seeking some attention. There are a number of reasons that could explain this behavior.

Here are a few reasons why your cat may be waking you up at night:

  • Your cat might be bored and seeking your attention
  • If you have been accommodating your cat's antics in the past, by giving it food or something, then it will continue the behavior
  • Perhaps your kitty is a tad hungry, or has run out of water and needs a drink
  • Maybe your cat wants to be let outside
  • Routine is important for cats, maybe your kitty wants to establish a morning ritual
  • It's possibly a little bit restless, having not used up its energy during the daylight hours

There are many potential reasons why your cat might be waking you up at night, but no matter the explanation, it will always be possible to break such habits.

Cats may wake you up for a nice, warm snuggle.
Cats may wake you up for a nice, warm snuggle.  © Chris Abney / Unsplash

Why does my cat wake me up to be petted?

Cats can be quite aloof sometimes, and may avoid you throughout much of the day. They'll sit in the sun, alluring with their shiny coats and cute little noses, calling for pets. Only, they don't actually want to be pet, and will slink away without a sign if you dare come up and try to cuddle them.

It then becomes especially frustrating when, in the middle of the night, that aloofness disappears. Suddenly your feline friend is all smooches and cuddles, and wants to constantly push themselves up against you and get all the pets in the world. Why is this?

The reality is that cats do actually get lonely and, in the dark of night, they will not like that you have been sleeping for a prolonged time. They want attention, love, and affection, and they want it now. As a result, you might find that your kitty is waking you up for pets.

Why does my cat wake me up every morning?

If your cat is constantly waking you up in the morning around about the time that you want to get up and make breakfast, it's quite likely that it is routine-based. Cats love a good routine and will behave accordingly, waking you up in the morning and harassing you when they usually get fed.

In the morning, you probably feed your kitty, give it some water, a nice cuddle, and possibly let it go outside for the day. If this is true, your cat probably knows around about what time these things usually happen, and will wake you up to get you moving. It's time for work, after all!

As a result, it is quite likely that your cat will continue to wake you up, even on weekends, around your usual alarm time. It's going to be hard to break these habits, though not impossible. To be honest – if your cat is consistently waking you up when you want to get up, isn't this slightly useful?

Why does my cat wake me up at 3 or 4AM?

A cat that's consistently waking up its humans at 3 or 4 AM is likely hungry or seeking some attention. The most important thing for you to do is ignore it, as it will continue this bad behavior if you reward it. You don't want to positively reinforce something that's going to be a problem.

It might seem cruel, it might seem mean, and it might be hard to resist that adorable little voice and those big, wide eyes, but if you don't want to find yourself being woken up at 3 AM every day, you've got to stay strong. Of course, if your cat is just trying to sleep on top of you and doesn't want anything else, don't resist! It's OK to accommodate some requests!

Be careful: While you shouldn't positively reinforce bad behavior, you should respond to signs that your cat is in distress. If they are behaving especially strangely, seem to be in pain, or are clearly upset, you should make sure to check them out, help them, and then take them to the vet the next day.

How to stop cat waking me up at 4AM

Cats are incredibly selfish animals, and will always prioritize their wants over your sleep.
Cats are incredibly selfish animals, and will always prioritize their wants over your sleep.  © Timo Volz / Unsplash (Left), Yerlin Matu / Unsplash (Right), & TAG24 Edit

There are so many theories as to why cats wake their humans up so early, and so many other theories about what you can do to stop this behavior. The most important lesson to learn is that you shouldn't give in. Your cat needs to learn that this is not a good time for you, and to do that, the best thing you can do is simply ignore it until a more appropriate time.

Don't feed it at nighttime, don't give it pats at 4 AM, don't allow it to rule your life and it won't try to dominate your sleeping time. That doesn't mean you shouldn't let it cuddle up at night, but it does mean that you shouldn't get up and let it outside simply because it woke you up!

Here's how to stop your cat waking you up early in the morning:

  • Get it some toys and puzzle games to try out, and have them easily accessible so that it can play during the night
  • Feed your cat before you go to bed, so that it doesn't get hungry
  • Establish regular and specific meal times, so that it knows when to expect food
  • Always use positive reinforcement, but don't let your cat walk all over you, stand up for yourself and ignore your kitty when you are trying to sleep
  • Give a ton of attention to your cat and play with it before you go to bed, so that it is tired out and has been given plenty of human-cat quality time

It's always best to use a rational and balanced approach. Don't bend to your cat's every whim, but also don't be too hard on it. After all, you want to develop a loving and affectionate relationship!

For revenge, should you be waking up your cat?

It's only natural to want revenge, especially if you have been consistently woken up by your feline friend over the last few months. You shouldn't follow through with the revenge, though, as you want to maintain your cat's trust and love. Punishments and revenge never work with the feline kind, and will cause harm.

So what should you do? Speak to your veterinarian and find a more permanent solution. In the meantime, try out some of our methods and see if you can improve the situation and stop your cat from waking you up!

Cover photo: Collage: Unsplash/Amber Kipp & Sander Sammy & Uriel Soberanes

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