You’re sleeping tightly – and the next thing you know, your feline has woken you up to ask for some petting. You lazily reach over and put your arm over your cat. This has happened before, and you start wondering why your cat does it.
Your cat wakes you up to be petted because cats naturally are active between dusk and dawn. It knows that you’ll wake up to pet it even if it interrupts your sleep. Boredom and a desire to feel “pleasure” will also drive cats to summon their sleeping masters.
After petting your cat, it’ll doze off right away, sadly. Now, you’re the one left wide awake! So while you’re at it, you might as well read on to see why your cat likes doing this.
Why Your Cat Wakes You Up for Some Petting
Although cats are somehow unpredictable, they have a habit of rousing their owners in the middle of their sleep. Your cat may not wake you up directly, although most do, but its noisy antics are enough to make you come alive.
Let’s discuss the reasons why they wake you up to be petted.
Cats Are More Active At Dusk and Dawn
You can blame cat biology for all your sleepless nights. Cats are nocturnal and they’re designed that way. However, they can adapt to their human routines and sleep during the middle of the night. They can also be awake during a large portion of the day.
How much sleep, then, do cats need?
Cats are Voracious Sleepers
Cats are naturally more active at dusk and dawn, a.k.a their waking hours. They require about 15 to 20 hours of sleep per day, which are usually during the mid-morning and mid-afternoon hours.
These may even take longer, especially if the weather is inviting. Just like humans, cats, mainly the indoor ones, will slumber longer when it’s raining outside.
And since they’ve slept for most of the day, they have the energy to wake you up. Not surprisingly, they’ll demand to be petted, among many other things.
However, cats wake up easily, but why?
Cats Wake Up Easily
While a voracious sleeper, your cat can get roused from sleep easily. Again, it all boils down to biology. Your cat’s nocturnal eyes are very sensitive to light. Even a peak of sunlight is enough to wake it up.
The same goes for sounds.
If cats hear the birds chirping, or the cars honking, they’ll jump out from their beds. Of course, the next logical move for them is to wake up their sleepy masters to be petted.
Cats Have Predatory Tendencies
Cats follow a graveyard sleeping schedule because they’re wired the same way as predatory cats or wildcats.
Observe your house cat. Although it’s tamed, it’ll still act like the larger, fiercer cats. It’ll aggressively pounce on a target, their own shadow included.
Since cats are essentially mini-lions, they naturally follow the latter’s habits of hunting at night.
Like cats, lions do this because their eyes adapt quickly to the dark. This gives them an advantage over their prey, especially during inclement weather.
In other words, your kitty is wired to “hunt” between dusk and dawn. Sadly, hunting means waking you up.
Cats Can Get Bored
The recent pandemic has shown us how boring it is to be locked up in the house for long, but your cat may not enjoy staying at home, either. Remember when you left it at home all day while you toil at work?
Well, your cat has done pretty much everything it could while you were away. Your cat ate, played, and slept a lot already. Your cat is happy to see you once you get home, but alas, you’re too tired to play with it.
You head straight to your bed to catch up on sleep.
The next thing you know, it’s trying to wake you up. Not content by scratching the wall, it decides to jump on your stomach.
Since it was alone when you were at work, and now that you’re asleep, your cat is bored and a little lonely. It now takes the opportunity to wake you up and asks for some petting.
Your cat knows that you’ll give in anyway, which brings me to the next reason.
Cats Know Their Owners Will Wake Up to Pet Them
Humans can train dogs, but not cats. They’re experts in training their masters, so let’s go back to my example above. Your cat was bored, so it decided to wake you up.
You did, and you petted it in an attempt to shoo it away.
In your cat’s mind: “So…my master will pet me when I wake them up.” *evil cat laugh* It’s what Dr. Katherine Miller, an animal behaviorist, identifies as intermittent gratification.
In her interview, she explained that it’s similar to the way slot machines work. You pull it 50 times, and you win. So you pull it for another 52, maybe even 100 times, before it pays off again.
As for cats, the delay in gratification (which is you waking up and petting them) appears to be better than responding to their need right away.
Petting is Pleasurable
Cats will wake their masters up to be petted simply because it’s pleasurable for them. This desire for physical touch is something they had developed back when they were kittens. Their mothers licked them to clean them as well as nurture them.
During this act, both enjoy a surge of oxytocin. This hormone, in turn, conveys a feeling of pleasure. Unless you have your cat’s mother as well, your kitty will seek to recreate this feeling of satisfaction.
How To Stop Your Cat From Waking You Up
Your first approach may be to shoo your cat or lock it outside the room. While it’s a short-term solution, it won’t stop until it gets what it wants, and that’s to be petted. If you want to avoid your kitty’s nightly wake-up calls, then take a look at some techniques you should try.
Install Devices To Prevent Your Cat From Waking Up
As discussed earlier, your cat’s eyes are sensitive to light and sounds. To keep it, and you, sleeping soundly, it’s best if you install dark blinds or use a white noise machine. Some cats will wake you up for food, too, so an automatic feeder should prevent them from doing so.
Use the Cycle of Four
The “cycle of four” basically refers to the fact that there are four things that wear your kitty out before bedtime. Once they’ve done these things, they are more willing to sleep longer, which lets you sleep longer.
When training your cat or kitten not to wake you up, follow these steps:
- Let it hunt. Since hunting prey in your home is impossible, you can recreate the experience by giving your cat an interactive toy.
- Feed your kitty ahead of bedtime. Make sure that your cat eats the final part of its meal from a bowl or feeder.
- Groom it often while you’re awake. Spoil your cat by brushing, bathing, and clipping its nails.
- Wait for it to sleep. Your kitty is sure to nap after doing the activities above.
Just remember that it’ll take your adult cat a bit of time before it surrenders to the cycle of four. Expect it to demonstrate an extinction burst, where it reenacts the behaviors that the cycle has curbed.
That means you can count on your cat to wake you up to be petted. While this could be tough, your cat will eventually stop in a week or two.
Do Crate Training
As the name suggests, it involves letting your kitty sleep in a crate. This will help your cat “realize” that nighttime is for sleeping and not for waking you up to be petted.
If it’s your first time doing so, make sure to watch this video on how to crate train your cat.
Cats will wake their masters because they’re naturally active at dusk and at dawn. Some do this out of boredom, while some do so for pleasure. In most cases, some cats rouse their owners up because they know they’ll give in.
While annoying, you may stop your cat from doing this by installing helpful devices. The cycle of four and crate training may work as well.
- Fetch by Web MD: When Your Cat Wakes You Up
- Pet MD: Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
- WWF: Top 10 facts about Lions
- The Spruce Pets: Why Cats Like Being Pet
- Manhattan Cat Specialists: Your Cat’s Eyes
- YouTube: HOW TO CRATE TRAIN YOUR CAT – the STRESS-FREE way
Pam is a self-confessed cat lover and has experience of working with cats and owning cats for as long as she can remember. This website is where she gets to share her knowledge and interact with other cat lovers.