When your cat won’t let you sleep, it’s not just annoying. It’s a serious problem that needs to be solved because not getting enough sleep can lead to a whole host of health problems, like obesity and diabetes. And the inability to function normally during the day because of lack of sleep can affect your driving and work performance, which can lead to more stress at home and on the job. This post will explore some possible solutions for the problem of an animal companion who won’t let you get a good night’s rest. From behavioral changes to modifying living spaces, there are many ways you might find solace in your own bed once again.
Addressing the problem
WebMD has an interesting guide on managing cats’ nocturnal behaviors; here are some inspired solutions that may work in your circumstances.
First of all, you need to determine whether your cat is one of those who enjoys dominating his human—in other words, one who would rather sleep with you than in separate quarters. And then you need to figure out why this is happening. Is it a desire to be closer to you? A desire to rule over you? Is he sick? Many cats gravitate towards their people and do not necessarily seek a place of relative safety. Unlike dogs, whose behavior is very cozy and warm, cats are more independent: they will find the top bunk or bed frame in choice positions where they can look out over the room and see everything that is going on there. This means they consider it a safe haven away from the world. If your cat is sleeping right by you, this could be a sign that he is very much enjoying having you as his close companion. However, if he moves further away, it’s clear that either he doesn’t appreciate having you near him at all or that he’s not comfortable with separation from you but still wants to feel close to you at bedtime.
You can thwart domination attempts by placing your bed in an alcove or on a platform, so the cat has to climb up and come over to get in with you. Don’t give in and let him sleep with you just because it’s easier or because you love the company. If he can’t get to you, he can’t dominate you. If he can’t rule your space, he’ll move on to greener pastures. If your cat is trying to rouse you in order to keep you awake (many cats do this), it’s important not to give in to her or him because that reinforces the behavior and makes it harder to stop. When your companion is up all night demanding attention, try giving her a few scratches and then putting her back down on the floor near you, but out of reach of your bedding so she has no access to your skin. Sometimes all it takes is to get a few minutes of good sleep and your cat may realize you need some rest too. Other times, though, it may take you a while to feel refreshed after getting up, and if your pet isn’t happy, the purring and rubbing won’t help, no matter how enjoyable that kind of behavior is for the two of you. If you’re finding that the cat’s presence isn’t soothing but irritating because she’s constantly by your side—even perched on your shoulder or between your legs—make sure she really does have a place to be other than near you at night. You’re not alone, this is a common problem amongst cat owners
This is not an uncommon problem, a series of common questions at StackExchange show that you are not alone. There are things your cat can do to determine whether she prefers sleeping with or away from you. One is to let you know when she’s in the mood. Older cats are able to sense when you are about to nod off (as they themselves do) and may be trying to rouse you so that you’ll be ready for sleep when they are. A cat who isn’t sure which direction she’s supposed to go in might sniff around your bed, snuggle up with you, and then go over her territory to find out where she belongs. If your cat comes into your room regularly, this usually means she’s feeling secure enough not to need a separate place off by herself. But if she’s coming up to your bedroom and not making a decision, either way, it may be because she’s not getting enough sleep where she is and is using your bedroom as a place to catch some winks.
Your cat will usually take her cues from you when it comes to the bedtime routine. That means if you’re not sure whether she’ll stay with you or go off on her own at night, don’t make a big fuss about “putting her down.” Since that is what triggers separation anxiety in animals and can lead them to cry out for attention, this could confuse things further. The cat will need to show you which side she’d prefer. If your cat does start seeking attention in the middle of the night, try restricting her access to you. The next time she gets onto your bed, gently put her down on the floor and then lock yourself into your room or out of hers with a baby gate. You can also train your cat by either rewarding him for not coming into the room or punishing him for getting in (see below).
Make sure you aren’t encouraging your companion to stay near you all night long in the first place. In a Reddit thread discussing the problem some people have recommended putting a baby gate between your bedroom and your cat’s own, so she has to go through it to get to you. Don’t let your cat roam free in any other part of the house where you can see her so that she feels very restricted and can’t find a place to be. If you are able to, try getting some sleep without your companion present: Your cat will probably appreciate it when you do, and sometimes separation anxiety is caused by physical discomfort rather than emotional stress. Taking a few minutes each morning to give your cat some quality playtime with toys or treats can also help her feel more relaxed at night.
Training Your Cat to Stop Stealing Your Sleeping Space
If your cat is jumping into your bed or demanding too much attention at night, try setting some boundaries. If you are able to, try working out a schedule where you are sleeping in a room separate from her. You can also use an incentive-based training method called clicker training. According to a blog post from Catschool.co this is a very effective method for training cat behaviors. Start off by sitting on the floor near your cat’s favorite sleeping spot and click the clicker right when he’s napping. Reward him with a treat (the treat should not be something you usually give him). Eventually, he’ll associate this clicking noise with good things. After a few sessions of this, move your chair so that you’re sitting beside his bed or in it (depending of course on the size of the bed). Click again when he’s napping, and again reward him with a treat. Keep doing this until you are able to move back to your own room (or to whatever room is farthest away from where your cat sleeps).
How to Click Like a Pro
Clicker training is an easy way to teach your cat good behavior without any force or frustration. All you need is a clicker and some cat treats. The clicker is like a remote control for your cat, and it teaches him how to communicate more effectively with you. You can also use the clicker as an extension of your hand so that it seems more natural for you to point toward something while clicking, rather than pointing and yelling. You can practice clicker training with your cat on his bed but remember to only use treats and praise. Clicking and yelling at your cat will only frustrate him, and it may make him fearful of you as a result. You can also train your cat with a treat-treat fading method if you want to periodically reward him with food and petting for good behavior. Just make sure that you’re giving the treat immediately after he does something good, not when he’s doing something bad. If you want to use these methods for overnight training, be very careful not to click while your cat is sleeping or the next day she may associate the noise of the clicker with being fed.