You realize it’s been a long day as you pull up the comforter and get all nice and snuggled in bed. Ahhh, calm and time for rest!
You can’t help but relish in your calm solitude, only to have it all ruined moments later from a wild cat flying through your bedroom like a stampede.
Causes of Your Cat Going Crazy at Night
Cats are naturally nocturnal animals, preferring to spend their waking hours while we sleep. Why is this, you ask? Well, most wild cat species are solitary hunters, relying partially on stealth to hunt. What better time is there for stealth?
More specifically, cats are crepuscular hunters, meaning they prefer to hunt at both dawn and dusk. Cat’s aren’t able to see clearly in the complete dark much better than we can, but a reflective membrane near the back of their eyes helps them see much better in dim light.
Your little pet kitten probably spent a lot of the day napping, or at least resting, while you were out working the day away. Naturally, the little one has plenty of energy just waiting for a thrilling night ahead! Your cat probably doesn’t realize you don’t feel the same, and certainly wouldn’t understand why if he did.
Why not play with your cat before you go to sleep? Exercise the little one! All of that energy reserved for those hunting activities (that probably aren’t going to happen) has to go somewhere!
Underlying Health Condition
Do you find yourself kept awake by constant meowing, yowling, or a wealth of other cat noises? Does the little one ramble on and on until let into your bedroom, only to want out two minutes later?
Your cat could just be dealing with some kind of underlying condition causing pain, discomfort, and anxiety. Just to be safe and rule out any medical problems causing these behavioral changes, you’ll want to take the little one to the vet.
In fact, unusual excess meowing or vocalization, or even growling and hissing when approached by other animals or humans (unusual antisocial behavior) is a sign of discomfort.
Cats are living longer and longer these days, domestic cats in general enjoying a longer lifespan. Age can do a few things to a cat that could lead to an increase in kitty-speak. The first is common sense right away, while you might not expect the second.
Your pet’s body is simply beginning to break down as the little fellow ages. It is a simple fact of life all animals must endure eventually!
The body’s cells no longer copy and replace themselves so rapidly, affecting pretty much every function you can think of at some point. The protective, cushioning tissue in between joints has worn down over time, ultimately leading to arthritis (most commonly Osteoarthritis).
Though dogs rely on vision to a point, they have immensely powerful olfactory senses to track prey that a cat does not. Though they are able to smell and hear to a greater degree compared to humans, cats might have trouble coping with gradual vision loss (i.e. cataracts, a common fact of aging).
Believe it or not, there is a condition common in aging cats much like human Alzheimer’s disease, called feline cognitive dysfunction. As mental faculties begin to deteriorate, your cat might seem confused often, even restless and easily startled.
Increased meowing or vocalization is a symptom, along with anti-social behavior, possible aggression toward other animals, and breakdown of learned behaviors (any training or habits). You can read a more in-depth article here.
Ways to Lessen the Midnight Cat Crazies
You’re fed up! You just can’t take this anymore! You need to sleep! Well, what are you going to do about it?
Play. Eat. Sleep.
Follow these suggestions in that exact order! You already know your cat has probably slept through much of the day, instinctively reserving energy for the potentially demanding and survival dependant (your cat might think so) hunting activities to come. Throw in some enrichment activities!
Cats in general are an extremely prey-driven species, so settle on a game that resembles hunting. Maybe you have some sort of small (stuffed) mouse or so light feathery object you can attach (with string, not a metal hook) to the end of a pole. Play that mimics predatory activities tends to stimulate our cats the best!
When it comes to humans, research shows we release elevated levels of serotonin after eating. Whether or not this is true for cats, feeding would simulate ‘catching the prey’. More importantly, consider the act of hunting itself.
For a wild cat, hunting requires tremendous amounts of energy. After the hunt, they have fed and sleep becomes an option. Your cat might not have the instinct to push sleep until after that evening meal!
Let’s consider the physiology of digestion. For humans, we might feel fatigued after eating, as the glucose in our bloodstream is slowly allowed to enter our cells so they, in turn, can feed themselves. The biochemical processes themselves tend to cause a feeling of fatigue.
Because hunting activities can require so much energy reserves, many cats will opt to get as much rest as possible during the daytime. After all, what needs to be done during the day? If you work from home, try influencing that daytime schedule with periods of interaction.
Stay Active During the Day
Simply don’t allow your kitty to sleep during the day. Now, there is a line to be drawn between sleep deprivation and stimulating activity! Keeping your cat entertained and awake for a day that would normally be spent resting isn’t going to hurt since your cat’s survival doesn’t depend on any kind of hunting.
Just make sure that the sleep cycle resumes in the evening and your cat doesn’t begin displaying behavioral changes. Watch your pet’s activity levels and make sure there is no large shift in weight. Drastic weight changes are usually more concerning in cats.
Play with your cat in the morning! Start the day off with some stimulating engagement, just as if you were going to walk your dog in the morning. 10-20 minutes isn’t going to break your day!
Get a Play Buddy
Why not adopt another kitten? Unlike most other domesticated pets, cats can be very self-sustaining. They don’t need to be let outside and won’t be nagging for your attention 12 hours a day. The social interaction will benefit your kitty, helping psychological development.
For the dog lovers out there it’s an easy sacrifice, but life requirements might prevent them from adopting more than one or two. Most cats are generally much easier to care for.
There are many upsides, but a possible downside to this. If your cat is a young kitten, a new playmate could be easy to socialize. Older cats used to a life of solitude may become territorial (most common in intact males, even more so around females in heat), which could involve spraying all the way up to outward aggression.
How well socialized is your little one? While adopting a second cat is a fantastic idea and extremely noble, it needs to be an educated decision.
Shut the Door
If your cat simply can’t access the room, your problem is solved! Or, is it? This is an option to consider, but might not be as simple as it sounds.
The nagging kitty willing to meow right outside of your door endlessly, only stopping every few moments to reach a swiping paw underneath that crack and let you know he exists, might disagree.
Shutting your door might just do the trick! For those pet parents with a restless little one who just can’t seem to get comfortable, have you spoken to your veterinarian?
If your pet simply won’t leave that door alone, think about laying down something he won’t want to step on. Aluminum foil may work, or something else that makes noise. Just make sure it is safe.
For Old Cats
When it comes to unusual behavioral changes, you should be constantly aware of potential medical problems. Don’t let dreadful thoughts of ‘the worst case’ constantly overwhelm you, but don’t ignore the possibility.
Veterinarian prescribed drug therapy might just be a solution to consider! The idea of medicating our pets carries a heavy stigma, but may just help make kitty’s life more comfortable. Even if the thought just sounds outrageous to you, simply discussing your options with your vet never hurts a thing.
For those suffering from cognitive decline (mentioned earlier), establish a consistent, rigid daily routine. Make things as constant and predictable as possible for the little one because abrupt changes can cause stress. Even healthy cats prefer the order of quiet routine. Cats don’t always respond well to abrupt change.
Go easy on the play, keeping those joints in mind. Proper weight management is especially important for older pets! You don’t want those injured or weakened joints supporting more than they have to.
What to Never Do When Your Cat is Wild at Night
Never Show Attention to Your Cat
When they are going wild and crazy! If you get up, talk to them, pet them, pay any attention to them in the middle of the night when they are going crazy you are just teaching your cat that is how they get your attention. Cat’s are super smart.
The base idea is very simple and the exact same when it comes to certain other intelligent animals. If you give in to your pet’s vies for attention, or whatever he wants, he’ll only learn that unwanted behavior will get him what he wants. If your cat whines long enough, for example, you’ll eventually reward him with attention.
Sometimes, a playful kitty might unintentionally injure an owner at night. The little fellow didn’t mean to! Nevertheless, you might just have to shut the kitty out of your room at night. You can try laying down some aluminum foil or scratch mat (available at pet stores) to discourage your cat from stepping near the door to paw at it.
We have one who gets special food, sometimes coming in every morning. The little rascal will climb on my husband’s belly and cry in his face! Just like clockwork he gets up feeds her and goes back to bed. They have their own little routine. My point is despite what anyone says you can train a cat.
Plus cats thrive on routine. So don’t let midnight cat crazies become one of them! Create an ordered routine, and stick to it.
Don’t Punish Your Cat
Unless you are an experienced behaviorist and know exactly what you are doing, don’t try and punish your cat because the little guy did something you don’t like. Cats don’t think like humans or even dogs, and positive punishment/aversive based training techniques don’t work the same way.
Not only are your punishments likely not going to accomplish what you want, but you will also probably create a stressful environment and make matters worse. A stressed, injured or afraid cat will usually have the instinct to hide from perceived tormentors, so you might not see your cat very often from that point.
Create that Ideal Peace and Calm
Now that you know cats thrive on order and routine, use it as a tool to battle the midnight shenanigans! All you have to do is change the structure. Exercise your kitty in the mornings, evenings, and even throughout the day! At the same time, let the little one know he can expect a peaceful, quiet order of events.
Those midnight crazies are pretty common! The difference is: now you have the tools to handle them. If this is a sudden change in behavior take your cat in for a full checkup to rule out any medical issues. If that all checks out start simply by playing with your kitty and wearing out all that pent up energy.