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Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up at Night? 8 Reasons & What to Do About It

Written by: Ed Malaker

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat meowing

Why Does My Cat Wake Me Up at Night? 8 Reasons & What to Do About It

VET APPROVED

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats can have annoying habits, like scratching the furniture and climbing above the cabinets, but one of the most annoying has to be when they wake you up at night, especially when you have work in the morning. So, why do they do this?

Unfortunately, no one is completely sure why cats wake their owners at night, but keep reading for a list of several possible reasons so you can see if one makes sense for your pet.

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The 8 Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Wakes You Up in the Middle of the Night

1. They Are Hungry

Cats are crepuscular by nature, which means they are most active during dawn and dusk. If your cats get hungry when they first wake up or just before bed, they might find that you are already sleeping and try to wake you up.


2. They Think That It’s Playtime

Cats have bursts of energy that can occur at any time, even late at night. If your cat is bored or feels like playing, they might paw at your face, step on you, or meow insistently to get you up.

cat playing with a wand toy
Image Credit: Ekaterina Kolomeets, Shutterstock

3. They Want Attention

Cats are social animals that frequently seek attention, especially if they feel lonely. Waking you up in the middle of the night could be their way of expressing a need for companionship or a desire to be close to you. If you are someone who likes to get over 8 hours of sleep each night, your cat might start to feel lonely while they wait for you to wake up and take action.


4. They Are Being Territorial

Cats are territorial creatures, and nighttime can trigger their instinct to patrol and mark their territory. If there are other animals around or if they’ve noticed changes in the environment, your cat might be marking you and your sleeping area as their territory and waking you up in the process.

woman sleeping on bed with her cat
Image Credit: JulieK2, Shutterstock

5. They Need a Bathroom Break

Just like humans, cats may need to relieve themselves during the night. If the litter box isn’t easily accessible or if there are issues with the litter, your cat may wake you up to signal their discomfort or need for a clean litter box. If your cat likes to dig when they do their business, the scratching noise can also easily wake you up if the box is too close to your sleeping area.


6. They Have Medical Issues

Persistent nighttime wake-ups could indicate underlying health problems, especially if they seem to be anxiously waking you. Cats may try to communicate their pain, discomfort, or anxiety, so seek veterinary advice if you think that your pet is suffering from a health condition.


7. There Are External Disturbances

Cats have heightened senses, and external stimuli like unfamiliar sounds, scents, or even wildlife outside can trigger their curiosity or concern. Your cat might wake you up to alert you or seek reassurance if they feel scared.

Cute munchkin kitten on purple bed
Image Credit: JumpStory

8. They Have Hormonal Changes

Unspayed or unneutered cats, particularly if they are reaching sexual maturity, may display more restless behavior at night due to hormonal fluctuations.

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What Do I Do If My Cat Wakes Me Up at Night?

Possible Solutions for controlling your cat at night
  • Ensure that your cat has all their basic needs before you go to sleep, including access to food, water, and a clean litter box.
  • Consider placing a nightlight near the litter box to make it more accessible. Although cats have excellent night vision, they can’t see in total darkness.
  • Cats thrive on routine, so establish a consistent daily schedule, which should include regular feeding times, play sessions, and a designated bedtime.
  • Engage your cat in interactive play and mental stimulation during the day. Use toys that mimic hunting behaviors to help expel excess energy. A tired cat is more likely to sleep through the night.
  • Consider putting a designated cat bed in your bedroom to help them feel secure and close to you without disrupting your sleep.
  • Although it can be difficult, resist the urge to reward your cat’s nighttime wake-ups with attention or food. If you respond to their demands, it’s positive reinforcement, and they’ll learn to keep doing it.
  • If you need to make changes to your cat’s routine, such as feeding times or sleeping arrangements, do so gradually to avoid adding stress to the problem.
  • If your cat’s behavior persists, consult with a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues. Pain, discomfort, or illness could be contributing to their restlessness at night.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Normal for Cats to Be Active at Night?

Yes, it’s normal for cats to be active at night. However, consistent disruptive behavior at night might signal an issue that needs attention.

Should I Let My Cat Sleep in My Bedroom?

Allowing your cat to sleep in your bedroom can provide comfort and reduce nighttime disruptions. Provide a cozy bed for them to sleep in to promote a sense of security.

man sleeping with tabby cat on bed
Image Credit: NancyP5, Shutterstock

Are There Products to Help My Cat Sleep Through the Night?

There are multiple calming products designed to reduce stress in cats, such as pheromone diffusers or sprays. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if one might be suitable for your cat.

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Summary

If your cat wakes you up in the middle of the night, they likely do it because they are playing, and they may or may not do it on purpose, since many cats are active throughout the night. Some cats also become active when they are about to use the litter box, and if they find the litter box dirty, they may wake you up to take care of it.

If your cat gets hungry, they might also wake you up, especially if they know that you will get them food. However, if they seem to be urgently trying to wake you or if the waking is persistent, it could be a sign of a health problem, so it’s a good idea to contact the vet to have your pet looked over.


Featured Image Credit: Stanimir-G.Stoev, Shutterstock

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