Left to their own devices, many cats are more active during the night than during the day. This is not to say that cat owners should accept being woken up throughout the night by a pet that wants to play or be fed. Training a cat to sleep, or at least leave its owner alone, at night is possible.
Young cats and animals that are left alone to sleep inside of the house for a large part of the day are most likely to exhibit excessive nighttime activity.
To help eliminate unwanted nighttime activity, encourage cats to be as active as possible during the day. Stalking and "hunting" are favorite activities so provide cats with different types of toys, crumpled up paper, and empty boxes that promote these activities. Cats may play by themselves for a while, but owner-directed activities (e.g., feline fishing poles or laser pointers aimed across the floor) often lead to longer play periods. Cat videos, fish aquariums, or placing a bird feeder outside of a window can also provide hours of entertainment. In some cases, bringing another cat into the household is helpful, but it also increases the chances that other behavioral problems may develop.
At night, keep the cat out of the bedroom. If it scratches or cries at the closed door, completely ignore the behavior. Even scolding a pet under these circumstances will encourage it to continue. If the cat wants food, feed it right before bedtime or set up a timed feeder to dispense a meal in the early morning.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008