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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nocturnal Cat Activity

Cats may be known for their propensity to sleep away a good portion of their lives but when they are awake, cats can be very active. These periods of activity often happen during the night. The cat may want to play, eat, or simply want company. Young cats in particular can drive their owners crazy from sleep deprivation!
Your cat’s ancestor, the African wildcat, is predominantly nocturnal. Domestication has shifted the cat’s activity patterns to be more diurnal (awake during the day), but they still tend to wake at least twice during the night. The good news is that your can retrain your cat to let you sleep in peace.
IMPORTANT: If you own a cat who has traditionally not bothered you, but is now restlessly wandering about the house and crying during the night, there may be an underlying medical problem. If your cat is also eating noticeably more, she may have an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which can be easily controlled with medication. To be on the safe side, have the cat checked by your veterinarian.
WHAT TO DO: - Schedule a few play sessions with your cat during the evening. Interactive play is best, using toys that mimic the movement of mice and birds, such as cat dancers and kitty teasers. Games with Ping-Pong balls, soft balls, and furry “mice” toys are great for kitties who like to fetch. Try to play until the cat is tired. - Feed the cat a main meal just before your bedtime. Cats tend to sleep after a big meal. If your cat continues to wake you during the night for food, obtain a timed feeder that you can set to open once or twice, with fresh food, during the night. The cat will learn to wait by the feeder rather than bother you. Make sure you adjust meal sizes so your cat doesn’t gain weight. - Incorporate a variety of enrichment activities to keep your cat busy during the day. The more active your cat is during the day, the more likely she will sleep at night. See our
information on enrichment for helpful tips. - If your cat is social with other cats, consider adding a second cat to your family. If the cats are compatible, they will play with each other and be more likely to leave you alone. But be forewarned—conversely, they may both decide to play during the night! - If your cat tries to play with you or wake you while you’re sleeping, you may need to banish the cat from your bedroom. Playful cats have been known to unintentionally injure their sleeping owners—for instance, the cat may notice your eyes moving under your lids and swat at your face in play. If your cat cries and scratches at the door, you can discourage her by placing something she dislikes in front of the door, such as vinyl carpet-runner (placed upside-down to expose the knobby feet), double-sided sticky tape, foil, or a Scat Mat™. Alternatively, you can set up a “booby trap” outside your door. For example, mount your blow dryer or place your vacuum cleaner by the door and plug it into a remote switch, which you can find at Radio Shack. When your cat wakes you, you can hit a button on the remote to turn on the appliance. The startled cat will be unlikely to return to your door after that!
WHAT NOT TO DO: - Do not get up and attend to the cat—unless, of course, you suspect something is wrong. If you rise and feed the cat, play with her, or even interact with her for a few minutes, you are reinforcing the cat for waking you up. She will likely become more persistent each subsequent night. Even scolding the cat is unlikely to work, because negative attention is better than no attention at all for some cats.

Source: SPCA