Cat Poking At Night
If the night patting and poking of your cat wakes you up more frequently than your alarm clock, it’s time to save your sleepers from the relentless paws of Mitten. While cats spend much of their time sleeping, during each daily cycle, have many wakeful periods, and for many cats, nighttime is prime play and eating time.
It will take patience and determination to retrain her if Mittens has discovered that poking you awake is a great source of entertainment.
If at 4:00 a.m., Mittens wakes up Hungry, she’s likely to poke you awake to feed her only to find an empty food bowl. If you regularly feed her right after waking up every morning, this is particularly true. If Mittens does not overindulge, aim to hold her dish of food filled with kibble for snacking at any time.
Move your cat’s daily meal to dinner instead of breakfast if pudge is a concern, so she is full at night. A timed feeder set to open at the time Mittens usually pokes you up, or a filled treat ball to keep her occupied and fed throughout the night are other choices.
A bored cat is a regular explanation for nighttime poking. If Mittens spends her day alone and sleeping when you’re at work, she’s likely to wake up during the night in the mood to play. Enjoy a vigorous playing session with Mittens an hour before bedtime to fulfill the desire for nighttime exercise, mental stimulation and quality time with you. Using a laser toy, a feather on a loop, gloves with dangling fingers or a trailed piece of yarn to keep her pouncing and leaping.
Provide your cat with entertainment during the day when she’s home. A perch near a window, a catnip mouse, an enclosed ball track or a food puzzle all provide excitement for Mittens and an opportunity to burn off steam.
If you’ve tried to adjust the feeding routine to keep Mittens occupied, but at night she’s always poking you up, she may just be in the habit of waking you up for attention. After all, she sees no reason why you shouldn’t provide her with petting and cuddling if she’s awake. It’s not convenient, but by avoiding her punching paw, you can break her habit.
At the first tap, simply turn away from her, pulling the covers over your head if necessary. Don’t in any way move, talk or respond. Before giving up, Mittens will possibly continue probing for several minutes. Remain consistent. You’ve clearly taught her to be persistent if you break down and respond. It may take a couple of nights, but if you are totally unresponsive, Mittens will finally give up trying to get you awake.
If the nighttime poking and pawing of Mitten is a new habit, and she demonstrates other symptoms of health concerns such as loss of appetite, litter box behavior changes, lethargy, moaning or meowing; or if she is a senior feline resident, it is time for a trip to the veterinarian to rule out health problems.
Health issues discomfort or pain could make your cat anxious at night, looking to you to alleviate her distress. Similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, old cats can develop confusion, leaving the cat scared or frightened at night and finding your comfort. Your veterinarian will give you counseling and instructions on health problems that trigger Mittens to wake you up during the night.