How to Help a Kitten Get to Sleep
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The first time you adopt a kitten is a unique experience. It's not just about making a friend for life, it's also our introduction into the specific care needs of these delightful creatures. While there will be a lot to get used to, the joy of the new experience more than outweighs any trouble in adapting to your new life together. In taking care of the kitten's needs, you want to ensure that you have all the fundamentals they need for development. Getting enough sleep might be one of these concerns.
In this AnimalWised article, we discuss how to help a kitten to get to sleep. In doing so, we will show you want is healthy for the cat as well as what you can do to ensure a strong bond throughout their development.
Rest is essential for a kitten
Have you wondered how many hours of sleep does a kitten need per day? While cats can be very active animals, it is true that adult felines sleep around 15 to 17 hours a day. These are spread out through several naps with active intervals. A kitten, however, will need even more sleep to ensure they develop properly.
Kittens up to 5 months of age can sleep for 20 hours a day. As they grow older, this extended period of rest will start to reduce. After this time you will see them spend more time eating, experimenting, exploring their world, playing and socializing.
Sleeping not only helps kittens to replenish their energy. It also helps to strengthen their immune system, improves their mental abilities and maintains overall health. This is why it is so important to never interrupt a kitten's sleep unless absolutely necessary. This can be difficult as it is so tempting to pick up and cuddle these cuties. However, if you are the one disturbing their sleep, they may start to form negative associations with you.
Make sure they have a comfortable environment
To get their required hours of sleep, kittens need to feel comfortable in their environment. If they have recently been separated from their mother and other siblings, you should understand that they may feel scared or sad. Due to this separation, they may even have trouble sleeping. This can lead to negative behaviors, stress and even depression.
A kitten's environment needs to provide everything they require for a healthy life. This means a warm and comfortable bed, plenty of water and food within reach. It is also necessary that they have a space to do their business and that this is cleaned away regularly to ensure proper hygiene. As kittens may be disorientated being away from their family for the first time, you may want to spray some cat pheromones to help reassure them. While toys and games are an important part of environmental enrichment, you may need to take them away if they are not getting enough sleep.
Last, but not least, you need to ensure they have company when they need it. This means don't force your company on them when it is not suitable, but ensure that someone is there when they are in need of socialization. Not only will this make them feel safe, but it will go a long way in developing the bond between you.
Implement a routine and fixed schedules
Cats, as well as many other animals, appreciate a daily routine. It allows them to have more security as a organized day-to-day means they can take action if for some reason they are unable to get their necessities (food, water, comfort, etc.). For this reason, we recommend you plan a meal schedule for you cat as soon as they start being able to eat solid food. You should bear in mind that cats tend to ask you for food, especially in the run up to the time at which they are normally fed. Unless you want to be woken up early at the weekend, you should avoid feeding them too early during the week.
It may also be helpful to set aside the same days during the week to clean their litter box or to change their water at regular intervals. As they are incredibly clean animals, if they feel like their environment is dirty, they are likely to start urinating and defecating in places you would prefer they left alone.
We must also take their rest times into account. Healthy routine and stable habits will help them to get better sleep. This is something very positive and will help them get to sleep when they have otherwise been disturbed.
Perform relaxation exercises every night
Next we will show you some helpful exercises to help your kitten relax and encourage a restful sleep. When you do this repeatedly, you will help the kitten to realize on their own the importance of getting enough sleep:
- Create a relaxed, positive and silent environment.
- Take some soft material such as a blanket or comfortable cushion (not one on which they have to be carefully balanced) and encourage your kitten to lie on it. It is a positive thing to have them lie down on their own initiative. If you force them, they will likely associate that place as somewhere oppressive, not relaxing.
- Offer some gentle strokes and massages. If they feel like playing, ignore them until they can down and return to the soothing caresses.
- Let them sleep and when they wake up again, remove the blanket or cushion.
You can perform this relaxation technique once or twice a day. Little by little you will see that, just by taking out the blanket or cushion, the kitten will come and seek out a sleep session. Also, don't forget to encourage and congratulate them when they wake up for doing a good job.
Issues kittens have with sleep
To give you all you need to help your kitten to get to sleep, we are going to show you some common problems kittens experience when trying to get to sleep. Included are related issues and solutions:
- Hyperactivity: this problem is relatively common in kittens, but it is something which needs to be addressed in adult cats. Just as with human children, it is common for kittens to get excited easily and feel the need to expend their youthful energy. Some symptoms of hyperactive cats include sleep, anxiety or stress. It is often reinforced by well-meaning owners who find their hyperactivity to be a sense of amusement and may even film it fro posterity/minor YouTube fame. Every cat will want to release some energy, biting and playing as they do so. A hyperactive cat, however, tend to get out of control too easily and it can affect their well-being. The remedies for hyperactive cats are based on self-improvement through exercise, mental stimulation and positive reinforcement of relaxed behaviors.
- Restlessness at night: many cat guardians will find themselves claiming that their cat will not let the get to sleep at night. It may happen the cat makes a lot of noise, scratches at the door or even comes into our bed to disturb us. In these cases, apply the above tips to help them get to sleep. This should ensure you also have a good night's kip.
- Can we force the cat to sleep?: you cannot force a kitten to sleep and expect them to remain healthy. Don't lock them in a room or deprive them off sleep during the day do they may sleep at night. They are a social animal and will become stressed if they are deprived of their natural routine. This time in their young lives is critical and creating bad habits at this age will have a knock-on effect in later life. You can encourage them to sleep in their own bed, but don't force them.
We get questions at AnimalWised on a regular basis about cats and their sleeping habits. Some even ask us ‘can I give sleeping tablets to a cat?’. The answer is a definitive no. Never give human medication to a cat and never give a cat any medication without the strict advice of a vet.
If you want a cat to sleep and to sleep well, in addition to the tips detailed above, ensure they are in good health. Adhere to their vaccination and deworming schedules, neuter them when it comes to the right time and regularly inspect them for sign of illness or infection. A healthy cat will sleep better, so ensure their needs are well met and don't forget to provide them with limitless amounts of love.
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