Why Does My Cat Have So Much Energy at Night?
It has been a rough day at work and you are kept up decompressing the stress. It seems as though you have just fallen asleep, and you hear a crash from across the room. Then the pitter patter of running paws.
Thud! Now your cat is trying to attack your feet under the covers. You rustle. Your cat pounces your pillow. “Go away!” you grumble. Now it is game on, your cat knows that you are awake. So, they sit next to your face singing the song of their people looking for your attention or food.
This is an all too common problem that cat guardians face – your cat has endless energy at night.
Chances are that your cat has created a reinforcing pattern. The cat goes crazy at night, they wake you up, and they get something out of it.
They may become so persistent that they get a meal out of it, when you decide you can’t stand it any longer and give them a bowl of food. On the other hand, they may get scolded to leave you alone. Either way, getting food or attention, including negative attention, is rewarding to the cat. When something is rewarding, the cat is more likely to repeat the behavior again and again.
Cats are small predators that are crepuscular hunters meaning that they hunt at dawn and dusk. Cats tend to be active during these times as they search for small prey animals.
For some cats, the issue lies in their own sleep schedule. If your cat sleeps for a good portion of the day, chances are that they will be active during the night. After all, they are rested and refreshed when you are ready to go to sleep!
The cat may be more playful at this time of night, looking for you to play with them. This activity can increase their metabolism making them hungry at night.
Unlike dogs, cats need to eat more frequently during the day. Their stomachs are only about the size of a golf ball, so multiple feedings will make for a more regular digestion. Multiple feedings can prevent cats from seeking meals at what we deem inappropriate times of the day.
What to do
For cats that are usually asleep at night, but all of a sudden start to vocalize or otherwise attempt to wake you, a health concern may be the case. A visit to your veterinarian is recommended to rule out any possible medical conditions.
Since your cat has likely created a pattern of negative behaviors resulting in attention, the pattern must be changed for progress to happen. Even negative attention such as scolding the cat can be rewarding to them, so you will need to ignore them. Every person involved will need to ignore the cat’s attempts to get a reaction.
The key is consistency. Despite how annoying the cat may become, you must consistently ignore them. If you give in periodically by scolding them, indulging their needs or interacting with them, the cat will continue to engage in these disruptive behaviors.
Once you have started to ignore your cat, they may realize that their previous efforts to get your attention are not working. At this point, the cat may exhibit the behaviors more intensely. This is called an extinction burst. With consistency of training, the cat will learn that their efforts to wake you are not rewarding and the behavior will decrease.
In addition to ignoring the cat, it is beneficial to find the root of the cause.
Is your cat hungry at this time of night? If so, you will need to change your cat’s feeding schedule to a later feeding time so they are satisfied during the night.
Does your cat want to play? For active cats, you will want to play with them before going to bed so that they are more likely to sleep during the night. Automated toys work well if you are busy.
Many cats will sleep through the day if there isn’t anything to do. Provide different forms of enrichment for your cat to keep them busy. Enrichment plays on all your cat’s senses.
Placing a bird feeder outside a window can keep your cat engaged by watching the birds feed. If the window is screened, you can open the window, so the cat can smell and hear the birds as well. If you are unable to set up a bird feeder, you can put on videos of birds feeding or small animals scurrying. There are Youtube channels dedicated to these CatTV opportunities.
Train with your cat
Training is a great way for your cat to engage in an activity. This will help to reduce their mental and physical energy. Cats can be taught many of the same tricks and skills that dogs know. Training alternative behaviors to their problem ones can be helpful in improving communication between you and your cat.
Go for a walk
Some cats enjoy the outdoors. We recommend bringing cats out in a cat proof fenced area, on harness and leash, or in a cat backpack. The options depend on the cat’s preferences. Some cats enjoy the comfort of an enclosed space such as the backpack to feel safe while they watch birds and hear the sounds of nature. Other cats prefer to walk instead of being confined to a back pack.
Puzzle toys are any type of toy that your cat engages with by pushing it around to dispense food or treats. These toys are a great way for your cat to burn mental and physical energy as they try to solve the puzzle. You can give your cat part of or their entire meal in these toys.
If you would like more enrichment options, click here.