Why does my cat go crazy at night and how can I stop it?

Late-night zoomies, ruckus time, whatever you want to call it, it’s something that all cat owners are familiar with. They will dart around your home with a sudden burst of energy at 2am, oftentimes knocking things over or even trampling on their sleeping owners’ faces. If you’re super lucky then your cat will likely accompany their zoomies with a chorus of meows while you sit there wondering “Why does my cat go crazy at night?”

Cats are amazing and adorable and hilarious, but when it’s 2am and you’ve got to get up for work in 4 or 5 hours then those zoomies aren’t exactly endearing. The lack of sleep mixed with the inevitable cleanup the next morning isn’t really a great way to start your day. 

This is something that all cat owners have experienced and something that new cat owners will undoubtedly experience, but what causes these sudden bursts of energy? Is it simply because cats are nocturnal? Wel, yes and no, but it goes much deeper than that!

So why does my cat go crazy at night?

Cats go crazy at night because they are crepuscular. This means they hunt and are active in the evening and early morning. Your cat has a natural instinct ingrained into their genes that causes them to want to hunt and travel during those times. In addition to their nocturnal instincts, there are other factors that can exacerbate these behaviors at night:

Boredom – If your cat is bored then it will look for some kind of attention from either its owners or other animals in the household. It may not seem like it at all times, but cats are social animals and sometimes they crave interaction with just about anything that shows signs of life. 

Daytime Loneliness – If your cat is home alone during the day then it’s likely that they will spend most of their day sleeping and relaxing. All of this sleep will cause them to have a good amount of energy built up, waiting to be released in the evening and during the night when you’re at home. 
Hunger – Again, your cat has evolved to be a hunter at night. Cats will often wake up at night to hunt and find food. This adds to their extra bursts of energy.

How can I get my cat to sleep at night?

Despite their nocturnal nature, it is entirely possible to “retrain” your cat to sleep at night (or at least not wake you up) and avoid these bouts of nighttime craziness. 

Keep your cat awake during the day. Let me start by saying if your cat shows signs of exhaustion then please do not torture them by forcing them to stay awake. However, you should play with your cat a lot during the daytime or after you get home from work. Use cat teasers or lasers or something they will certainly get the cat’s attention. If they start to doze off into a little cat nap then try and distract them again to encourage them to stay awake. A good and thorough play session right before you go to bed is also a fantastic idea!

Change your cat’s eating schedule. It’s very common for cats to fall asleep after they eat. Rather than feeding your cat a full amount of food before heading out to work, set up an automatic feeder that feeds them a couple of times throughout the day. This will ensure your cat wakes up to eat and won’t necessarily fall right back asleep. Also, since cats like to sleep after they eat, you might consider feeding your cat at night right before you go to bed. 

Stop encouraging your cat’s behaviors. If your cat comes meowing to wake you up 2 hours before your alarm goes off because they’re hungry, don’t get up to feed them. This just encourages them to wake you up. If they come and jump on you at 2am while you’re asleep, try your hardest to ignore them so that they learn they can’t get attention from you when you’re asleep. 

Set boundaries for your bedroom. If none of these daytime changes work then that’s okay! Welcome to being a cat owner where essentially none of the same rules and normals apply from one cat to another. You now need to set some hard boundaries. 

First, set up a nice comfy spot for your cat to sleep that’s as far away from your door as possible. Second, make sure their litter box is as far away from your bedroom door as possible. Lastly, shut your bedroom door at night, stick a towel under the door to prevent them from scratching at the carpet or trying to rattle the door. 

Can I give my cat medication to make them sleep at night?

Do not give your cat medication unless it is literally medically necessary. If they have no medical need then do not subject them to that. 

“All of this seems like so much work and I’m just so tired, can’t I just give my cat some medication to knock them out for the night?” If this is how your mind works and you don’t have a cat yet then we suggest not getting a cat. If you currently have a cat and still think like this, then maybe reach out to a local cat rescue to tell them that you’re not fit to be a cat owner and ask them to help rehome your cat. 

How would you feel if you were talking to your neighbor and they were complaining about their 2 year old that just wouldn’t sleep at night. Your neighbor says “we finally started giving her Benadryl at night to make sure she doesn’t wake us up anymore!” Any halfway decent human being would think “Wow, they’re literally drugging their child every single night!” Right? Exactly.

DON’T GIVE YOUR CATS MEDICATION UNLESS IT IS ACTUALLY MEDICALLY NECESSARY. If your cat is otherwise healthy but just can’t seem to break that nocturnal cycle then oh well, deal with it, and welcome to owning a cat!

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