Train Your Cat to Let You Sleep

The answer to your nighttime prayers is here — Jackson Galaxy is explaining exactly what you have to do to ensure a good night's sleep, no matter what your cat does about it. 

Cats are nocturnal. It is normal for them to be active at night. If you find this annoying, rather than punish your cat for following her natural activity schedule, train her to shift her active phase to earlier in the evening or later in the morning.

Who's training who?

The first rule of treating this behavior problem is not to make matters worse. One reason your cat is acting this way is because you are allowing him to. Some owners actually get up and play with their cat, thinking he is lonely. Others feed the cat and then wonder why kitty wakes them up in the middle of the night. Basically they have been training and rewarding him to do so. Certainly you should be sensitive to your cat's needs and feelings, but if he is lonely or hungry, then play with him or feed him earlier in the evening.

1. Feeding schedule

The one thing that is most important to what we're going to do right now is their feeding schedule. Remember something, if you allow your cats to graze all day long, if you allow them to eat whenever they want to eat, then not only do you not have a chance of affecting their behavior even a little bit, but you're not allowing their body to process food in the natural way. They're constantly in this arc of digestion.

And we don't want that because then their energy is totally unpredictable to us. Here's what I would ask you to do. If you free feed, make it stop. The next step is, you bring in meal time. Real big change in a cat's life is not met with nice things.

And you do not want to encourage bad behavior, and by making rapid changes like that, you kind of are. We'll keep the dry food out, but then every day you just put less and less in there. And by the end of that first week that, there is food down there, they don't feel like they're missing anything.

But by an hour after you leave for work, they've polished it off and now they're waiting for a meal. Now here's the rule of thumb. I would like to see no longer than between six and eight hours you can make it happen. So you're feeding three meals a day and then your cat's energy is coming up to meet those meal times. And I guarantee you, within a week or two of instituting this meal time, your cat's energy will come up to meet your schedules. 

2. Daily routine

You cannot expect your cat to sleep 24 hours a day. He needs to play sometime. If you find his nightly play sessions bothersome, then make sure your cat plays earlier. If you do not provide him with some kind of daytime activity, he will spend the day asleep.

Let's say your bed time is 11 o'clock. OK. So by 9:30 you should be feeding your last meal. But you don't want to do that in a vacuum. In the past-- you know me-- we have been talking about hunt, catch, kill, eat. Right? And so that means playtime. That means you have a really nice, chunky play time right before that last meal. You bring them to a boil during play time.

You get them just pooped out. Then you let them come down for a second. Again, all cats have the second wind, the third wind. Cats are built for speed, not for distance. So bring them to a boil, let them come down. Bring them to a boil, now it's going to take less time for them to get worn out. Now less time, now they're tired, right? When they pooped out, boom. Now, hunt, catch, kill, eat. Feed their last meal of the day.

3. Now it gets tough..

And then you go to sleep. Now we're getting to the hard part. So now it's 3 o'clock in the morning, and your cat is waking you up. But you know, I gave you a meal at 11 o'clock. I wore you down at 9:30. You should be down for the count right now, but you're not.

What you've got to do at 3 o'clock in the morning, your cat's driving you crazy. You ignore them.

You ignore them completely. Completely. And you definitely don't get up, feed them, walk around, go to the bathroom, come back again. You don't play with them.

Nothing. You ignore them completely. Because that is payoff. Negative attention, positive attention, any attention whatsoever is still attention. You have to extinguish the payoff.

If you tell them night after night after night that nothing's going to happen when they do that certain behavior, that behavior will stop. So people, what that means is that for about 10 days to two weeks, it may be really, really long nights.

In summary:

First thing you do is change your cat from free-feeders to meal-feeders. Next thing you do is you feed in conjunction with play. Then don't forget, the last meal of the day an hour and a half before you go to bed. You're going to hunt, catch, kill, eat, let them groom and sleep until you go to bed. Then we get through the night. And then the last step, folks-- the last, most important step is, ignore them. You can affect your cat's body clock, and that's how you do it. That's how you sleep through the night.