There is nothing more frustrating than having a cat who wakes you up at night.
It literally brings back memories of nursing a newborn! If your cat is elderly, there are a few reasons why they might be sleeping less and waking you up in the middle of the night.
Some of these could include:
1. Dementia or Confusion
Just like humans, cats can also experience cognitive decline as they age.
This can lead to changes in their sleep/wake cycles, and yes, those dreaded midnight wake-up calls. Your elderly cat might be feeling disoriented or confused, and your presence comforts them.
Solution: Talk to your veterinarian as soon as possible about what you have observed with your cat.
They can offer advice on how to best care for your elderly pet and help keep them from getting up and roaming around during the night. But also rule out or address any potential health problems.
2. Anxiety or Restlessness
Anxiety isn’t just for humans, our feline friends can suffer from it too.
It’s not uncommon for older cats to feel more anxious at night, leading them to be more active – and more likely to wake you up.
Solution: Make sure they have plenty of stimulation during the day. Provide them with toys and other activities to keep them entertained, or even consider getting a companion pet.
Also try having a stable environment, including familiar scents, consistent locations for their bed, litter boxes, and scratchers. Changes in these items or frequent washing can further confuse them, and cause more anxiety.
3. Health Issues
If your cat has suddenly started waking you up at night, it could be a sign that they’re not feeling well.
Even something as minor as a toothache could disrupt their sleep schedule.
Solution: It’s always a good idea to check in with your vet if there are sudden changes in your cat’s behavior.
4. Hunger or Thirst
Cats are natural hunters, and they’re most active during dawn and dusk.
If your elderly cat is waking you up at night, it could be because they’re hungry or thirsty.
Solution: Try adjusting their feeding schedule to see if that helps or use things like automatic feeders and cat water fountains to ensure they have access to some food and water during the night.
5. Seeking Companionship
Sometimes, your cat just wants to be where you are. Older cats especially may seek out your company for comfort and reassurance.
I can tell you that cats don’t always understand our plans or the perfect time to do or want certain things, even when you have a routine for you and them.
Solution: Try giving them some attention and petting before you go to bed and know when to ignore them at night and if this is something that is more frequent than usual let your vet know what’s going on.
6. Not Enough Play During The Day
How many times have your cats just disappeared all day and slept in secret hiding places?
For me, I can honestly say, a lot!
Most of us don’t think much about the exercise that cats should be getting indoors every day, but it’s important.
If your cat is not getting enough stimulation during the day, they may wake up in the middle of the night to seek out play and activity, because they spent the entire day sleeping.
Solution: Make sure your cat gets plenty of playtime during the day, whether it’s with you or a toy.
This could include interactive toys, or even just running around and exploring. This will help tire them out and get them ready to sleep through the night.
At night, provide plenty of toys to keep them entertained, such as laser pointers or interactive toys.
These can help keep them occupied and reduce the chances of them bothering you during the night if they’re still going to stay up.
Here is a very interesting video I liked about training your cat to let you sleep:
How To Stop Your Senior Cat From Waking You up at Night?
To allow your cat to let you sleep at night, you can follow some of these additional tips explained by Jackson Galaxy, Cat Behaviorist and host of My Cat From Hell:
1. Transition from free-feeding to meal-feeding
If you currently allow your cat to graze on food throughout the day, it’s recommended to establish set meal times.
Gradually reduce the amount of food available for grazing and introduce scheduled meals to align with your cat’s natural feeding behavior.
2. Coordinate feeding with playtime
Engage your cat in a vigorous play session before their last meal of the day.
This helps them expend their energy and mimic the hunt, catch, kill, and eat sequence in their natural behavior as if they would in the wild.
3. Feed the last meal before your bedtime
About an hour and a half before you go to sleep, provide your cat with their final meal of the day. This follows the natural pattern of eating, grooming, and sleeping.
4. Synchronize your energy and your cat’s energy
Cats’ energy levels are influenced by their human companions.
By aligning your energy and activities with your cat’s routine, you can help regulate their behavior. Establish a consistent daily rhythm and rituals to create a predictable environment for your cat.
5. Ignore nighttime disruptions
If your cat wakes you up during the night, ignore them completely. Do not engage in any activities or provide attention, as this can reinforce the behavior.
It may take time for your cat to adjust, but by consistently ignoring their disruptions, the behavior should stop over time.
6. Speak with your vet
Sometimes senior cats are more active at night due to health issues or medications they’re taking.
If your cat suddenly begins waking you up during the night, it may be a sign of a possible medical issue. Make sure to check in with your vet, just to be safe.
My cat is 8 years old and maybe your cat might be 10, 15, or 17 years old but let me tell you something, my cat has woken me up in the middle of the night many times.
Mostly because she needed to leave the room, because we closed the door, or when she needed to return. I did notice a pattern that this would happen less on days when I would try to play with her during the day.
At the same time if her waking me up at night happened for more than 3 days, I would have immediately reached out to my veterinarian after.
I am sharing this to say that sometimes you might not really know what the problem is and on the outside, your cat may look well.
But if you’re experiencing sleeplessness for more than 2-3 days because of your cat then you should really reach out to your vet to figure out if something might be wrong.