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Why Your Cat Wakes You Up at 4:00 In the Morning

This is dedicated to everyone who’s been awakened at the crack of dawn by their cat! The truth is that it may not be hunger that drives your cat to rouse you. It’s because cats are crepuscular—a great word that describes activity that takes place at twilight, i.e. at dawn and dusk. Prey tends to be active during these times, so cats naturally evolved to take advantage of Mr. Mouse’s social hours. If anyone tells you cats are creatures of the night, that’s not technically true. Cats have superb night vision, but even they can’t see in pitch-black darkness, so cats tend to sleep when it’s dark/night.

So, what can you do if your cat’s crepuscular peak hours don’t coincide with yours?
It goes without saying: don’t allow your cat to share your bed/bedroom. And it may be best to shut your cats in a room at night as far away from the bedroom as possible so that you don’t hear them scratching the door in the morning. If your cats are your bed companions, try getting blackout curtains to shut out the early-morning sun. That might buy you a bit of time (but not much – I have black-out curtains). Try earplugs to block out their crepuscular cries (works a bit, but not much use when the cat decides to walk on your face, or make bread on your chest). Try keeping your cat awake during the day so it sleeps longer at night. Apparently, cats sleep up to 16 hours a day!

What To Do If Your Cat Wakes You During the Night to Play
Some cats need to be locked out of the bedroom because they may nip at your toes moving or swat at your eyelids twitching while you sleep. If your cat cries and scratches at the door, you can discourage him by placing something he dislikes in front of the door, such as vinyl carpet-runner (placed upside-down to expose the knobby side) or double-sided sticky tape. If your typically well-behaved cat suddenly starts wandering restlessly at night crying or needing to eat more, there may be an underlying medical concern, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) that is easily controlled with medication. Have him checked out by your veterinarian. Excessive nocturnal crying can also be due to age-related deficits, such as a loss of hearing, vision, or sense of smell. Try moving your cat’s food and water dish near his bed and put his litter box along an easily followed path. Letting the cat sleep near you may be comforting to you both.

If your cat wakes you up during the night to be fed, try an automatic feeder with a built-in timer to dispense food according to a preset schedule. Set it to open once or twice during the night. Your cat should learn to wait by the feeder rather than bother you. Feeding several small meals during the day may also help curtail your cat’s excessive nocturnal appetite. Save the largest meal for right before bedtime. Bonne nuit!

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