Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Nighttime Cat Crazies

Cat crazies. Nighttime madness. Whatever you call it, cats have the propensity not just for keeping humans up at night...but for running amok. Here's why cats go nuts at night, and how you can manage their antics without losing your mind.

Why Cats Are Active at Night

The domestic cat is diurnal, meaning it is awake for two periods during the day. Usually cats are most active just before dawn and immediately before dusk. The rest of the day is spent sleeping, eating, grooming, pooping, sleeping and more sleeping.

Our domestic cat is descended from the African wild cat. Like most wild cats, the African is nocturnal, hunting at night and resting or sleeping during the day. Sometimes our soft, fuzzy house cats take after their wild ancestors more than their domestic parents!

Changing Behavior Patterns

If your cat has gotten into a routine of revving up for playtime just when you're winding down, you'll need to work with him to change his behavior pattern. It's not easy, but it can be done.

First, you'll need to diagnose the reason why your cat wants to play all night long. Ask yourself:

  • If he bored during the day? If you're at work and he's  home all alone, he may just sleep all day, so he has tons of pent-up energy to spend at night.
  • When was his last meal? Cats sleep heavily after a big meal, so try switching his last meal to just before bedtime.
  • Did he get enough exercise during the day? Try to schedule playtime for earlier in the evening so your cat can spend some energy and wind down. 

A few tips I've read to help calm kitty at night so you can get some sleep:

  • Make sure he has plenty of toys available during the day, and change them out frequently so he doesn't get bored with them.
  • A mechanical toy, such as those automatic, battery-powered ones that mimic a mouse wiggling under a cloth, are a great distraction and a way to get your cat to play at night while you sleep.
  • If your cat bugs you while you're trying to sleep because he wants food, try a timed, automatic food dispenser. My cats know the precise second when food shall be dispensed and won't let me forget it. If the automatic timer goes off while you're sleeping, the cat will wait by the feeder without bothering you.
Some people say that their cats actually swat them while they sleep. I've woken up with scratches and bites from Pierre, the only one of our cats allowed to sleep with us on any given night. What happens is that he sees me twitching during REM sleep and thinks "Mouse! Play!" and pounces.  

If your cat is like Pierre, your only option if you're getting scratched a lot is to keep the cat out of the bedroom. My sister trained her cats that when she closes the bedroom door at night, it's night time, and that door isn't opening no matter much they bang into it. When I've slept over her house and shared the bedroom, opening the door in the morning is funny, because the cats are usually boxed up right in front of the door, noses pressed to the door crack. They know precisely when she gets up and if she's late - look out!

It's actually normal for cats to be rambunctious at night. The trick is to help convince them to settle down by offering options during the day so that they're tired at night and agree with your suggestion to go to sleep. It doesn't always work, but when it does...zzzzzzzz......