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Our Best Tips for Getting Your Cat to Let You Sleep

If your kitty is waking you up way before the crack of dawn, consider these five tips for getting more shut-eye.

 |  Apr 30th 2014  |   17 Contributions


If you don’t want to wake up to cat butt in your face, don’t allow cat butts in your bed. As simple as this idea is, it is easier said than done in most cat-centric households. Our feline friends love our duvet covered, pocket-coiled comfort zones as much as we do, and kicking kitty out of the bed is a difficult prospect once she’s decided to claim your queen-size.

When we first brought Ghost Cat home to the loft we didn’t allow her to sleep in the bed. She had her own little sleeping shelf that she’d head to at night, and my husband was happy to see our bed remain cat-free. However, as Ghost Cat became more comfortable in our home, she also became more cuddly with me. Our bonding soon extended to bedtime, when I’d let her curl up at the foot of the bed or be my little spoon and share my pillow.

It's time for bed Ghost Cat!

Now that this sleeping arrangement has gone on for so long, it would be heartbreaking to try to break the habit. The bed belongs to Ghost Cat as much as it belongs to us, but that cat always wants to get up way too early. I may be to blame for my cat’s tendency to get up before four o’clock, but my husband and I have worked together to develop strategies to deal with her nocturnal needs without getting up.

If your kitty is also waking you up way before the crack of dawn, consider these five tips for getting your cat to let you sleep.

1. Cats are like kids: They love routine

Establishing and maintaining a routine is the first step in training your cat to let you sleep in. You can’t teach them to respect your waking schedule, but you can at least teach them to deal with it.  

During our early days with Ghost Cat I was still working in morning television, so I got up at 3:30 on weekday mornings. Ghost Cat got used to my wake-up routine (which was a good thing at the time). We would get up together and she’d ride on my shoulders while I brushed my teeth. Right before I would leave for work I would give her a tablespoon of wet food. I figured she’d be more likely to let my husband sleep and go back to sleep herself if she had a little something in her belly.

This routine worked well until we moved, making the switch to a normal weekday schedule and setting alarms for 6:30 instead. The first few weeks were brutal, as Ghost Cat’s internal clock was still set for 3:30, but with patience and time we’ve managed to get her onto the new schedule, she even lets us sleep until seven o’clock some mornings!

I don't get up at 3.30 a.m. anymore, but we had to train Ghost Cat not to be an early riser.

2. Effortless early breakfasts

Automatic feeding systems that deliver the cat’s first morning meal are an awesome tool for buying a couple extra hours of sleep. Back at the loft, Ghost Cat used to cry and cry around four in the morning, forcing my husband to get up and feed her. That spoonful of wet food I would give her on my way out was apparently not enough to keep Ghost Cat quiet until five o’clock when my husband’s alarm would go off.

Eventually, my desperate husband bought an automatic feeder and set it to dish out a serving of dry food at 4:30 a.m. This thing is so good at buying us extra sleeping time, we were actually bummed when Ghost Cat had to go on a wet-food-only diet and we couldn’t use it for a couple weeks.

Now that she can eat kibble again, we’ve still got the auto feeder set to serve her at 4:30. That seems to be her witching hour, an old habit formed during our former routine. The food drops out, she has a snack, and either comes back to sleep with us or goes to her carrier to wait for morning.

Ghost Cat waits for the auto feeder to feed her.

3. Prison rules

Lights out at the same time every night, and the bigger bunk mate is boss -- two statements that are equally true when sleeping in jail and when sleeping with a cat. Turning off the lights at a consistent time is an important part of the bedtime routine script. I’m not saying you can’t stay up a little later on the weekends, but throwing the room into darkness is an important cue to the kitty that it’s time to relax and cuddle up.

As soon as I hit the switch these days, Ghost Cat comes to bed and snuggles onto my legs for the night. And when it comes to showing who’s boss -- well, sometimes you just have to remind your cat that you are the one in control. We don’t put up with any scratching, biting or other rough behaviour in our bed. We don’t have to, because we are bigger than her.

When are you going to shut the light out Mom?

4. Send her to the corner

Sometimes, no matter when they were last fed or cuddled, cats will not stop harassing you until you get up. When she was first adjusting to the new place and new schedule, Ghost Cat would continue to cry, whine and walk all over us even after her automatic feeder gave her breakfast -- this usually happens at around five in the morning, about an hour and a half before we want to wake up.  

My husband is certainly the stricter pet parent of the two of us. When Ghosty insists on being bad in the morning, he promptly sits up in bed, snaps his fingers at her and sends her to her carrier in the corner.

Because we’ve always kept the carrier open and in the middle of our living space, Ghost Cat associates it with home and safety, and pretty much goes in and out of it just like she does with her other baskets and cat houses. If my husband snaps his fingers and points at the carrier she usually runs in there before our heads can even hit the pillow.

Ghost Cat snug in her house

5. Accept that your cat is right and it’s time to get up

Sleeping in is great, but sometimes it is not worth it. Cats seem to know when humans are oversleeping, so if the harassment just won’t stop, maybe it really is time to take the hint.  

Unlike my husband, I have a tendency to totally sleep in if left uninterrupted. There are many like me who will snooze away an entire morning unless someone or something intervenes. Ghost Cat is a great incentive to wake up. Why sleep the day away when you can play with the cutest little early riser?

Any tips I missed? How do you get your cats to let you sleep? Let us know in the comments!

Read more by Heather and more about cats and sleep:

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About the author: Heather Marcoux is Ghost Cat’s mom. She is also a wife, writer and former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts GIFs of her cat on Google + 

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