My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem?

By Angie Miller. October 8, 2020
My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem?

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When adopting a cat, we can often be blindsided by the many benefits of feline companionship. Too many people neglect to consider the nature of cats and how this can sometimes clash with our human routines. While we want to spend time with our cat, we also have other responsibilities to keep. However, making a cat maintain our schedule is not always possible. This is something which can be very difficult when we want to sleep at night.

At AnimalWised, we discuss why your cat doesn't sleep at night. We ask if there is a problem, what we should do about it and help you and your cat both get the rest you need.

You may also be interested in: My Dog Doesn't Like Me

Do cats sleep at night?

Knowing the sleeping habits of cats is something we should learn before we adopt them. In saying this, it is difficult to know how a cat will behave exactly, since all are individuals with their own behaviors and characteristics. By nature, cats are nocturnal animals. You will often see them lazing during the day, but can be quite active at night.

Due to the evolution of their species, cats survive by being alert at night. They avoid predators and become better predators of their own. One reason for this is that a cat's vision is more acute at night that during daylight. Anatomically, they have a membrane of ocular tissue near the retina known as the tapetum lucidum. This reflects more light on to the retina to allow them to see better. For more information, take a look at our article on why cat eyes glow in the dark.

Some cats have managed to adjust their sleeping patterns closer to those of their human guardians. However, it is unlikely they will sleep the night through. Although cats spend the majority of hours in a day sleeping, they do so in compartmentalized naps of varying lengths. If you see your cat isn't sleeping at night, it is simply because they have things to do. It doesn't necessarily mean the cat has a problem, even if it can disrupt us.

However, there are some reasons a cat cannot sleep at night which may indicate a problem. They include:

Uncomfortable cat bed

Sometimes a cat doesn't sleep at night because they don't have a suitable place to do so. When we prepare for a cat coming into our home, we buy them various accessories. A cat bed is among them. Unfortunately, all too often we see our cat rejects the comfortable place we provide. This is because cats can be very particular. There are various factors which they will consider for a proper resting place.

At night time, we may bring them inside, leave them outside or keep them out of our room. If our cat chooses a certain place during the day, but doesn't have access to it at night, they may not sleep well. You may even see the cat meowing at our door which keeps us awake.

We need to provide somewhere for the cat to sleep which is comfortable, quiet and warm enough to provide suitable sleep. If they do not have such a place, it is no surprise they might not sleep well at night.

My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem? - Uncomfortable cat bed

Cat doesn't sleep in low places

Another holdover from their wild ancestry is the fact that cats like to sleep in high places. In the wild, cats need to sleep somewhere where predators are unlikely to find them. This is often up high in a tree or hidden in some rocks.

In the domestic environment, this can be problematic. If you live in a tower block, a cat's need to be up high can lead to high-rise syndrome. At the very least, the cat might keep trying to jump up on counters. This is why many cat guardians will provide high places for them to sleep at night. These could be feline shelves attached to the wall or even a scratching stand with ledges on it.

Cat doesn't sleep at night due to lack of activity

Cats which do not exercise very much have a greater predisposition toward being active night time. This is due to the accumulation of excess energy. Despite having a reputation for being calm and sedentary animals, felines need to exercise. This stimulates them physically, while playing and environmental enrichment improves their cognitive ability.

Unfortunately, myths about cats being inactive have led too many guardians to neglect their need for physical stimulation. Not only do animals need to expel energy throughout the day, but they have to engage with others to maintain sociability and familial bonds.

Lack of play can also lead to states of boredom in cats. The result will behavioral problems such as destructiveness, improper urination or even keeping you up at night when you are trying to sleep. If you hear your cat meowing at night and trying to get your attention, they may be bored. Our article on how long you should play with your cat will help provide some help to avoid this.

My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem? - Cat doesn't sleep at night due to lack of activity

Cat doesn't sleep due to loneliness

In relation to the previous point, cats that spend too much time along during the day can have their sleep affected. When they do not have enough environmental enrichment, they can become bored. But when they don't have sufficient social interaction, they can also become lonely. When we leave a cat alone, they will catch up on sleep. When night comes, they will be desperate for attention and will not sleep.

Spending enough time with the cat can be difficult, especially when we have to work during the day. Also, some cats will need more attention than others due to their personality. If we cannot spend enough time with them, we need to find other ways to keep them stimulated. Another cat might help, but it might also exacerbate existing problems, so we need to be careful. Making the time we do spend with them positive will go a long way.

Cat doesn't sleep due to hunger

If your cat doesn't sleep at night and tries to wake you up by meowing outside your door, you should now they are trying to get your attention. A lack of interaction and attention can lead the cat to not sleep at night, but more practical care may be a problem. The amount of food your cat eats in a day needs to be carefully calculated. There are also times when a cat may need more food, given the circumstances.

Cats may not sleep at night because they have been waiting all day to get enough food. When you go to bed, they may try to wake you thinking you have forgotten. Some cats may be getting enough food, but they have been conditioned to get more when they ask for it. In these cases, they may not sleep because they think you will feed them if they meow enough.

To solve this issue and help the cat rest better, you will need to assess their diet. Not only do you need to see if they are getting enough food, but you need to ensure they are getting the right nutrition. If you are unsure, take them to a veterinarian to assess their diet. An automatic cat feeder may help as it can issue a portion of food through the night, if needed.

Cat doesn't sleep at night due to being in heat

The heat period in cats can be even more intense than those of dogs. A female in heat will want to call out for a male dog to mate with. Her hormones are telling her she needs to find a mate and this can prevent her from sleeping at night, or even during the day.

Until the cat mates with a male or until her heat cycle finishes, she will produce loud moans and meows. She may even try to leave the home in pursuit of a male. For this reason and many others, it is best to sterilize a domestic cat. Not only does it stop the heat period, but it stops unwanted pregnancies which fuels the rates of feline abandonment. Sterilization also helps improve the cat's health by reducing certain risks. If you do not sterilize the cat, you will have to tolerate certain behaviors, including not sleeping at night.

Our article on everything to know about a cat in heat will help you to learn more.

Cat doesn't sleep at night due to sickness or pain

If you have already ruled out the above causes and you keep wondering why your cat does not sleep at night, you will need to consider their health. Although excessive meowing are usually related to emotional turmoil, it is also one of the signs the cat is in physical pain. They may also be suffering from an illness or health condition which is keeping them awake at night. For this reason, it is vital you take the cat to a veterinarian to determine the cause of their sleeplessness.

My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem? - Cat doesn't sleep at night due to sickness or pain

How to help your cat sleep at night

As you have seen, there are several causes that explain why your cat does not let you sleep. Although you cannot make a cat sleep at night, there are ways you can encourage them. The first thing you need to do is to determine the underlying cause and address it. In addition, you can use the following tips:

  • Play and exercise: as we stated above, exercise is very important for your cat. Engage in more play sessions, use plenty of toys for cats and try to initiate play sessions at different times of the day. Carrying out pay late in the afternoon can help tire them out at night.
  • Provide a good bed: giving the cat a comfortable place to rest will help them to sleep at night. However, there may be some trial and error as some cats can be picky.
  • Environmental enrichment: especially if you spend many hours alone during the day, it is essential that you have toys and objects that keep your cat stimulated and entertained. You can choose scratching posts with different levels, food dispensing toys, intelligence games and even olfactory stimuli such as placing catnip in different parts of the home.
  • Adapt meal times: as we have indicated, feed them before going to bed to ensure they do not starve during the night and can sleep better.
  • Consider adopting another cat: if the cause is a lack of activity and you cannot provide the hours of play a cat needs, you can consider adopting another one. However, you will still need to meet the responsibility of keeping them and you need to know if your cat can tolerate being with others. Knowing how to introduce two cats to each other will also play an important role.
  • Sterilize the cat: not only will sterilization help the cat sleep, it will improve their health and reduce other behavioral problems.

Although you may want your cat to sleep at night, this doesn't necessarily mean your cat should sleep beside you. Check out our video below to learn more:

If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Doesn't Sleep at Night - Is There a Problem?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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