Sign Up for Cat Talk
Get the latest health and behavior news and
advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Feature August 2014 Issue

Unhappy Bedfellows?

Here's how to maintain a close bond with your cat and still get a good night's sleep.

Nothing is more appealing to many cat lovers than snuggling up with a beloved feline companion, whether it’s during some relaxing television time, reading an engrossing book or even turning in for the night.

But what happens if you’re a person who tends to wake up easily, in the middle of the night, and then ends up staring at the alarm clock for several hours before you need to get ready for work? Is there a way to have the best of both worlds?

THINKSTOCK

While this sleeping arrangement may be "sweet dreams" for some people, it doesn't work for all cat owners.

Where it all begins

Newborn kittens snuggle with their mothers for warmth and security, and cats often continue to appreciate snuggling into adulthood. Sleeping in bed with their human family provides many cats with comfort and contentment. If you tend to sleep peacefully through the night, having your cat draped across or legs or wedged comfortably next to your body is wonderful.

If you are a person who wakes up at the slightest provocation, however, the shifting weight of a cat’s body may not be so wonderful. Add to that the possibility of sleep deprivation, unintentional scratches on your hands or face from a cat trying to convince you that it’s time to get up — and the all-too-common complaint of getting your toes pounced upon as you move your feet under the covers — and you have a scenario that is in serious need of adjustment.

Provide a separate bed

If you would like to allow your cat to sleep in bed with you — just not on you — you can encourage her to sleep on the other side of the mattress by providing a comfy pad, mat or a favorite cat bed. If your cat is accustomed to sleeping on these surfaces elsewhere — like an inviting, sunny windowsill, for example — she will be more likely to seek them out. Sometimes, just having a piece of fabric your cat enjoys — like a warm fleece or faux fur — will be enough to entice her to her designated area.

You can also buy — or build — a comfortable perch and put it near your bed and also by a window. This can satisfy your cat’s desire to be close by — but also gives her an opportunity to watch the nocturnal activities that cats can see with their keen nighttime vision.

THINKSTOCK

Providing a cozy bed near you and next to a window can be the perfect solution for a good night's sleep, while keeping your cat happy, too.

If you have decided that you don’t want your cat in bed with you at all, you can try to keep the bedroom door closed. If she begins scratching at the door to get into the bedroom and you need to let her in, try placing something on the bed to discourage her from sleeping on it, such as a plastic rug runner or a strip of aluminum foil. This may encourage your cat to seek out a more comfortable sleep spot on her own.

Change some routines

If you don’t mind your cat sleeping with you — but you would prefer she not wake you up first thing in the morning for her accustomed breakfast — try feeding her at night or bringing a dish of food into the bedroom so she doesn’t have to travel far if she’s hungry.

Another option is to purchase a battery-operated food bowl with its timer set to open whenever your cat is most likely to start pestering you. An automatic feeder that deposits food a couple of times throughout the night can also help to attract your cat’s attention and may end the early morning wake up call. Just be sure to incorporate this “midnight snack” into her overall daily calorie intake or you may soon have to tackle an obesity problem, as well.

You can also try to establish a routine just before bedtime where you play with your cat and try to tucker her out. After the final pounce of victory, reward her with a little snack.

Whatever you decide, you need to be consistent. Waking up and rising whenever your cat starts bugging you — such as on weekends when you may want to sleep later than usual — will simply reinforce the unwanted behavior. If you don’t provide her with food or attention first thing in the morning, she will eventually learn to wait. — Catnip staff

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

New to Tufts Catnip? Register for Free!

Already Registered?
Log In