Why do cats go crazy at 2am

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!

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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!

In case you’ve had enough of your furry alarm clock

By: Mieshelle Nagelschneider, Cat Behaviourist, host of the TV show My Cat From Hell (2021), and author of the cat behaviour science book, The Cat Whisperer

Why is my cat meowing at night? I just want to sleep!

  • Cat Myth #1 Cats are nocturnal (most active at night).
  • Cat Fact #2 Cats are crepuscular (most active at dusk and dawn)

“Even with your head buried under a pillow, that meow can sound like an airplane during takeoff. The cat will relentlessly try to pass himself off as a rooster until you show signs of waking up to give him attention or feed him. Why? Maybe his internal hunting clock has been set to go off around dawn.”
—excerpt from The Cat Whisperer

It’s not uncommon for my clients at The Cat Behaviour Clinic to tell me that they have not had a good night’s sleep in several years. Their cats have been routinely waking them up all throughout their sleep by meowing at night, especially between the wee hours of 3 and 5 a.m. This common feline behaviour can occur because of a cat’s natural instincts, because of other factors at play, or both. Some cat breeds are chattier than others and breed disposition may also factor into night-time interruptions. A good night’s sleep has become a thing of the past for many cat owners and they are happy to get even four hours of sleep each night. Some of my clients have practically fallen asleep driving to work in the morning due to not getting enough sleep!

Common reasons for your cat’s nighttime vocalizations:

  • Your cat’s internal hunting time clock is set for morning (between 3 and 5 a.m. to be exact) instead of in the evening time.
  • Your cat is not active enough during the day and therefore is more awake at night.
  • The last feeding of the day for your cat is too early and your cat’s body is waking him up early in the morning due to hunger.
  • Change of environment (e.g. you’ve moved to a new home and there is more light coming through the windows in the morning than in your previous home, which is waking your cat up earlier).
  • Change in schedule (yours or his).
  • You’ve reinforced the meowing at night behaviour by giving your cat attention which can prolong the meowing behaviour once it starts.
  • Health issues may be at play, especially if the behaviour has suddenly surfaced with no changes in the cat’s environment.

What you can do to get your cat to sleep through the night and past the wee hours of the morning.

Feed later in the evening. If you feed your cat on a schedule during the day, be sure to feed the last meal of the day a few hours later into the evening. Or, for example, it could be that you will need to divide your cat’s current last meal of the day into two servings—one being given at 5 p.m. and the last portion given at 10 p.m. This can help your cat feel more satiated throughout the night and into the morning.

Keep your cat awake more during the day. Enlist the help of a timed-feeder to feed your cat a few times a day. Spacing meals a few hours apart can help keep your cat awake more during daylight hours. No cat should go several hours in between meals during the day. There are timed-feeders available for both canned cat food and dry. Incorporating a food puzzle into the daily feeding—the Stimulo by Aikiou is my favourite—is also another option to help keep your cat stay awake more during the day. He will have to work at getting the food and this will take longer than simply eating it out of a bowl.

Simply put, if your cat is keeping busy and is awake more hours during the day, he naturally will sleep more hours during the night and even later into the morning. This means more sleep for you too!

Reset your cat’s internal hunting time clock. Getting your cat to “hunt” (aka: playing with cat toys) can be an important strategy to resetting the hunting time clock to evening instead of morning. To reset it to evening, use a wand toy (the Playful Panther is my favourite) to play with your cat in the evening before bedtime. It can take several days of this strategy before you start to notice any effect.

Ignore the behaviour. Once the meowing behaviour starts, it’s important to not reinforce the behaviour by giving any form of attention to your cat. If you do, you can end up training your cat to meow even more and create a real problem. If your cat is accustomed to getting a response from you when he meows, once you stop giving him attention for the meowing behaviour he will try twice as hard to get your attention. This is called an extinction burst or the “it gets worse before it gets better” phenomenon. Be patient. This can last a few weeks, but continue to ignore the behaviour no matter what and it should get better.

Medical Alert: Please have your cat checked out by your vet. Health issues that could cause cats to meow excessively include thyroid issues, kidney problems, diabetes, arthritis, tooth pain, or any other kind of pain.

Check out Mieshelle Nagelschnider’s cat behaviourist clinic.

Why do cats go crazy at 2am

It’s 4am and you are thoroughly enjoying your REM sleep. until your cat starts nibbling at your toe or poking at your face. Wake up! It’s time to eat!

I lovingly refer to to this exhausting part of cat ownership as Night Nudging. In fact, Night Nudging is so common, that cat owners accept it part of the deal. Cats are so wonderful that they are worth waking up for. While this is true, wouldn’t it be extra-wonderful if you could love your sweet kitty AND sleep through the night?

Why do cats Night Nudge? In nature, cats may make as many as 100 hunting attempts to catch the 8-13 small prey a day they need to survive. This hunting is not limited to daytime. While cats are also champion sleepers, their bodies are created to have the drive to hunt and eat small meals all day and all night. With the lack of mice and birds roaming your home in the wee hours of the night, your cat will hunt your sleeping self!

There are ways to support your cat’s natural hunting instinct. Use a feeding device to hide food around your house at night. Now your cat can spend the night the way nature intended for a cat -hunting, catching and playing with small portions of food before eating them and you get to spend the night the way nature intended for humans – sleeping!

Doc and Phoebe’s Feeder is the first and only complete indoor hunting system for cats. It was designed to recreate the natural Seeking Circuit of the feline hunter and fulfill their natural instincts. It is safe, clean, easy to use. Finally, your cat can hunt for its feeders, instead of you.

Why do cats go crazy at 2am

When I say “old sick cat,” what image pops into your mind? A dehydrated, quiet little creature bundled up into a pillow? Maybe he or she is turning their nose up at food, or vomiting it all up. If you’re like most people, you didn’t imagine a cat meowing vigorously in your face at midnight and chowing down their food like there’s no tomorrow. But yes, that image fits as well.

It’s a strange paradox of feline medicine that one of the earliest signs of illness is a symptom usually associated with robust health: a great appetite. Most of the time owners are happy to report that their senior cat has recently rediscovered their kitten pep. “He’s been so feisty!” they tell my technician. “He empties his bowl within 5 minutes, and he’s so active he’s even lost a few extra pounds!”

Hyperthyroidism is a common affliction of senior cats and the most common endocrine disorder in the feline. Over the past several decades the incidence of hyperthyroidism in felines has been on the rise, though no one is certain why this is the case. Theories abound: canned cat food, improper levels of iodine, alien motherships; while the jury is still out, the best one can do is be aware of the signs and seek veterinary care if you suspect this disease.

So what is hyperthyroidism, exactly? The thyroid gland, a little blob of tissue at the base of the throat, produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. Most cases of hyperthyroidism stem from benign tumors that form in the gland; these tumors do not spread, but pump out high levels of thyroid hormone. The results are what you would expect for a cat with a thundering metabolism: they eat like crazy yet still lose weight. Left untreated, the disease can lead to life threatening cardiac issues, so it does need to be addressed.

The good news is, hyperthyroidism is easily diagnosed with a blood test and can be treated a variety of ways. Most veterinarians begin by treating with oral medications, which can be adjusted as needed. Some cats respond to dietary therapy with a prescription low iodine diet. Once stable, owners can continue with the oral medications for life or can look for a more permanent solution: either surgery or radioactive iodine.

Yes, you can nuke your cat into better health. Strange as it sounds, a single injection of radioactive iodine is extremely effective at targeting just the abnormal cells in the thyroid gland while leaving normal tissue unaffected. It is expensive, but gaining popularity with both veterinarians and owners who don’t like giving their cat a pill twice a day.

Unfortunately, cats can die from thyroid disease.

My own senior cat was recently diagnosed as being hyperthyroid after exhibiting some of these classic signs. Because he is a good cat and likes to allow me to experience all the fun kitty diseases, he is both severely food allergic and hyperthyroid, giving me plenty to manage. And even as someone who does this for a living, pilling him twice a day is a pain- I get that!- so perhaps in the future you will see me blogging about our own adventures with radioactivity.

And what, you may ask, was the sign that made me test his thyroid levels?

I caught him chewing into a bag of Oreos at 2 am like a college student after a night on the town.