How to Train Your Cat to Sleep at Night (So You Can, Too!)

Teach your cat to sleep at night

Imagine yourself lying comfortably in bed and falling asleep…when a heartbreaking howl and nail-claws at the door shake you awake. It might sound like the opening scene of a horror movie, but instead of a masked killer, the identity of this insidious sleep disruptor is your cat. But before sleep deprivation marginalizes you, consider making a few simple changes to help your cat sleep at night — and get some much-needed sleep in the process.

Typical nocturnal behavior of cats

When the lights go out, it’s not uncommon for cats to increase their hunting behavior. This can include:

  • Howl or cat howl – a high-pitched howl made by cats
  • scratching at the door
  • Running over the face and body of their owner
  • Dash back and forth in space
  • Nibble on exposed toes or dig at blankets

Causes of active nocturnal behavior in cats


There are many reasons cats appear after dark as circus animals in the moonlight, from age to diet to personality and beyond. Marci Koski, a certified feline behavior and training consultant, says that while kittens get a boost of energy after a meal, older cats can become more sleepy and lethargic. She also says that most cats do best with multiple, small meals throughout the day.

“A cat’s stomach is about the size of a golf ball, so they can’t really digest even large meals,” she says. “Two meals a day really aren’t enough, so I usually recommend four to five smaller meals throughout the day. That way they can digest and then rest.” A cat that only eats two meals is likely to get hungry in the evening and will come crying to its owner for a late-night snack while a larger meal is served later is used as a leftover.


Another common reason for midnight mischief is plain boredom. As natural hunters, cats crave mental and physical stimulation. Koski says cat owners should aim to provide their cats with opportunities for enrichment through play sessions.

“Try to find activities that produce natural behaviors,” she suggests. “Cats shouldn’t sleep all day and look for something to do at night. Make sure the cat has access to plenty of toys, food puzzles, and vertical spaces to climb and explore.” Playing not only satisfies the cat’s need to seek prey, but also eats it so it can use less energy later.

pain or health problems

It’s important to remember that certain cat behaviors are meant to convey pain, fear, or general health issues. cat music can be a sign that the cat has digestive problems, a surge in hormones, insecurity, disorientation and cognitive dysfunction, or other health problems. Of course, howling can also be a dramatic need for attention, but often a cat’s howl is an indication of a more serious concern. If this behavior persists and is accompanied by changes in appetite or litter box use, you should make an appointment with the vet.

How to teach your cat to sleep at night

Cats are highly adaptable, Koski says, meaning organized and coordinated attempts to adjust their schedule to a more human-friendly time frame have a high probability of success. Perseverance and consistency are key to getting your cat to sleep at night so you can too. Koski claims that with a concerted effort over the course of a few days, cat owners can effectively change their cat’s schedule and behavior by:

  • Switch to regular feedings throughout the day
  • Mental stimulation with food puzzles and cognitive engagement
  • Facilitate frequent playtime

“Cats sleep about 20 to 22 hours a day,” she says. “But in the wild, they also spend time hunting, which uses up energy. The best thing you can do is let your cat hunt and eat regularly.”

This is how you simulate “hunting” for your cat

Koski describes “hunt” as a game of stalking and chasing something like a feathered or jingling toy. Cats like to pick up their prey, so make sure the toy is small enough for them to carry. Once the cat has “caught” the toy, provide food to complete the hunting sequence. Try this an hour before you plan to go to bed.

An outdoor cat can hunt up 10 times a day, so it’s important to mimic these natural behaviors frequently and allow cats to express their natural instincts. The hunt-food-sleep sequence is ideal for adult cats, Koski says, but kittens may need a reorganized sequence that looks more like food-play-sleep.

An automatic feeder can help achieve multiple feedings per day without spending too much time tending the cat, says Koski.

Why doesn’t my cat sleep at night?

Although cats are often considered nocturnal after dark due to their hunting tendencies, Koski says they are actually crepuscular. This means these inquisitive creatures are most active at dawn and dusk, when their prey is most active.

“When prey animals are out, it’s usually in lower light conditions because they don’t want to be eaten by predators,” says Koski. “Cats can see very well in low light and benefit from it.”

It may be tempting to wake up a sleeping cat during the day so it’s more sleepy at night, but Koski says it can backfire. “Don’t try to wake a sleeping cat,” she warns. “Sleep disorders can trigger distrust or anxiety.”

The last word out sleepopolis

After several days without sleep, even the cuddliest of kitties can be in line for eviction. But with a few adjustments to the cat’s playtime and feeding times, the nightly roaming and howling can be mitigated. Make a commitment to keeping your cat occupied and you’ll be sound asleep again in no time.

Aye Goare

Aye hails from Ohio and lives in Los Angeles, where she spends her days reading, exploring the great outdoors, finding great food and making art. She graduated from Ohio State University and considers herself a lifelong student because she loves to learn new things. A former television news journalist, Aye Enjoys reporting across different media and enjoys taking videos and photos of her experiences.

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