Taking a cat companion under your roof always provides a great attraction for the cat Guardians. From the first time playing with a wand toy, crazy pursuits after candy wrappers, through trying to maneuver around a cat on the office chair to the meowing wakeups at 4 a.m. - you can expect anything and everything with a kitten. Early morning and late evening activity is definitely one of the hardest elements of a cat’s natural cycle that every fabCat has to face. How can we manage it and why are cats always early birds?
The cat wakeup philosophy
Cats can sleep for around 15 to even 20 hours a day. Beginner cat Carers are often surprised why, with so many hours of sleep in a day, kittens feel the need to wake up at inhumane morning hours. The time frame between 3 and 4 a.m. is surely not the time for wild pursuits and intense play. Unfortunately for us, dusk and dawn are the prime time for hunting and activity in the cat world. And since the sun rises quite early in the summer, cat’s energy boosts in the middle of the night are no surprise.
The nap and wake-up time is not programmed into cats with no chance of changing it, like an internal alarm clock that’s impossible to turn off. Cat’s highest activity time depends on their age (kittens sleep more), metabolism and diet, as well as the lifestyle of people and other animals in the house. It’s a good sign for you, fabCats - even if your fluffy companions love waking up at night, there’s a chance to work with them and slowly get their schedules to fit yours.
Do cats need to wake up at night?
Cat’s nighttime wake-ups or general activity shouldn’t be a problem in general - everyone has to get up from time to time to go to the bathroom or for a glass of water. The issue is that for some cats, the middle of the night is the best time for playing and, with the lack of anything better to do, destruction. Stories about cats pushing plant pots off the shelves are, sadly, based on real events and experiences of many cat Guardians.
What can we do about it? The good news for you is that cats can be taught to better manage their time in the day. The key here is not only working on the cat’s day cycle, but also on our, hooman one. What’s more, success comes on the back of finding enough time for the cat in the chaos of our daily lives. Cats, just like any other beings, require activity, or something to do, something to put their energy into. They’re like balloons that we’re slowly filling up with our energy during the day - if we don’t let the air out in time through play, attention and activity, the balloon will pop on its own, right when we least expect it. And it’s entirely possible it will happen when we don’t want it to - e.g. in the middle of the night.
Sleep well, fabCat
How to go from theory to practice and let the air out of the energy-filled kitten balloon? Routine, routine, routine. Cats need it in their lives and love it when everything happens according to the schedule. Playtime before breakfast, eating together with the hoomans, Carers leaving to work and coming back, energy levels go up, playtime, dinner, grooming, sleep. If all of the cat’s needs are met and the natural energy bursts are properly used during playtime with the cat Guardian, the risk of sleepless nights is much lower.
Looking at this from a human’s perspective, it’s much easier for us to go to sleep in the evening and sleep through the night if we don’t have too many responsibilities on our plate and if we manage to finish them off during the day. A cat’s daily plan is simple - hunt, catch, kill, eat, groom, sleep. The cycle can be repeated two, three, or five times a day. It’s important that we always find time for it and schedule the playtime or feeding time according to the cat’s natural cycle. Trying to wake up the cat to play when they’ve just gone to sleep is not going to work, but it’s not a sign that we should give up on playing that day entirely! It’s just not the right time, just like for us it’s not a great perspective to wake up at 3 a.m.
Cat that had fun before sleeping is a happy cat. However, let’s not throw them into crazy pursuits 5 minutes before their bedtime. Let's give the cat and ourselves time to rest after the playing session - time to eat, groom and cosy up. After a while the cat should get accustomed to their new routine and be content with the new order of day.
Cats will be cats
Figuring out a routine and working with a cat according to some set outlines is one of the basics of cat’s behaviourism. A good routine leaves some space for small changes in the cat’s calendar, but also gives them a sense of security and confidence. In all of this, as cat Guardians we have to remember that we can’t change the cat’s nature entirely - the natural day cycle is a higher power that all the other elements of a cat’s life work around. Cats will always be cats! So if the weather is changing or the seasons are changing and the cat is getting up earlier, waking up the entire family too, let’s not punish them for behaviours that they can’t change. Instead, let’s get back to working on their routine and make the new daily schedule fit the new circumstances.
What time are your cat alarm clocks waking you up, dear fabCats? Do they manage to get you out of bed bright and early, or do they sleep through the night and roll out of bed only at the sound of you opening the fridge? Be sure to share your cat schedules in the comments and let us know if you’ve ever worked on eliminating the middle-of-the-night wake-ups or if they naturally got used to the human wake-up hours.