Is your cat keeping you up?

No one likes to be woken every night or too early in the morning, but cats may do this either to get fed or for attention. It’s like Simon’s Cat in “cat-man-do” ! Even if a cat has never woken you, you will want to watch this one!

So, you might get up to feed or pet the cat, and that will likely buy you a little peace for the moment. Great to be able to get back to sleep again! However, your cat has just received positive reinforcement to wake you up, leading to another difficult night of interrupted sleep. Fortunately, you can break this habit by not giving in or reinforcing it. Punishment with never work, but ignoring will! Here is how:

  • If your cat meows or paws at you, pretend you are still asleep. If you cat is vocalizing and wandering or pacing, or if the sounds are loud and plaintive, contact your veterinarian because several medical conditions lead to vocalizing, especially at night.
  • If it gets bad, wear earplugs to bed or cover your head with the blankets.
  • Do not give either positive or negative reinforcement – no food, pushing off bed, yelling, or other.
  • Keep doing this for 2 weeks consistently and the habit will usually be broken.
  • If your cat really needs food at night, you can use a timed feeder to open at a certain time of night so you are not involved with the nightly feeding.

Unless your cat is sick, do not wake up to feed or give him or her attention. Play with your cat and then feeding just before bedtime will ensure your cat is not without attention or food. Also, it’s important to do your own routine in the morning so that your cat does not associate your awakening with breakfast. For example, go for a run and then feed your cat, or shower and get ready for the day before feeding your cat. Remember, it is important to never get up for your cat unless he or she is sick and needs care.

If you still have problems, call us. If not, sweet dreams!


  1. Misty - 2015-04-16 at 5:03 PM - Reply

    Very relevent post for me right now. Any suggestions if kitty employs more persistent forms of trying to wake me up (I.e. biting and scratching)? I have been discouraging him with the squirt bottle which makes him go away for a bit but he inevitably returns.

    • Ilona Rodan, DVM, Dipl ABVP, Feline Practice - 2015-04-25 at 11:01 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Misty, for your question. It certainly is unpleasant to be woken up by scratches and bites! A couple of questions that will help other readers too. How old is your cat and how long has the problem been going on? Also, do you know what your cat wants – attention, play, or food? That will help to answer the problem.

      If it is food, never feed first think in the morning but rather at other times of day as well as just before bedtime. This is the same strategy for play. If instead your cat wants attention, the best thing is to ignore him when he scratches or bites and reward him when he is calm. I know it sounds odd, but squirting with a squirt gun does give some attention and either the cat gets used to being squirted or becomes frightened of you at other times as well. Punishment really doesn’t work very well with cats. Instead, get some big blankets and get under them and ignore the biting. If that is not possible, when your cat first bites or scratches each night, immediately pick him up and put him outside the bedroom and shut the door. Do this calmly and quietly – we don’t want him to be scared of you. Do not let him in no matter how much he cries or scratches at the door. When he is calm, he can come in if you are still awake. Otherwise, don’t worry – he can get a chance every night to change his behavior.

      Glad to answer more questions and to hear updates.
      Ilona Rodan

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