Confessions of an Insomniac Cat Lover

I can’t remember the last time I really had a good night’s sleep. It seems that the older I get, the more that sleep eludes me. To make matters even worse, there are those times – as a result of my sleep deprivation – that my usual even-tempered demeanor can, without warning, turn me into a screaming meanie!

Tabby cat on stairs

While I generally blame my insomnia on advancing age, whenever I see our two senior Oriental Shorthair kitties, Dr. Hush Puppy curling up together, apparently without a care in the world, drift off to dreamland before you can say “Jack Robinson”, I start doubting my assumption that for me, difficulty falling asleep is just age-related. In fact, research scientists claim that older folks need just as much sleep as the young’uns.

While it’s difficult for me to admit, I have recently developed jealous feelings toward our cats. I just cannot “grok”1 the reason why it is so easy for the cats to be embraced by Morpheus, (the mythological Greek god of dreams), while I am left for hours tossing and turning; just praying to him to also visit me so I may catch a couple of winks.

Even though I have no doubt that our cats adore me, I sometimes wonder why they appear to be so incredibly empathetic and understanding; accepting my nocturnal restlessness. And if I happen to wake them up, most of the time they just open their eyes for a second, yawn, and just quickly change positions, instantly falling back to sleep. They generally make no big deal over my disturbing their tranquil slumber, while I am energetically foundering on the bedclothes like a beached whale.

Please don’t get me wrong; even for a moment. Our kitties’ reactions to my misery are not always sweetness and light. Although most of the time the cats are sympathetic, they aren’t always little angels. There are those occasions when, in frustration I start moaning and groaning that they’ve simply had enough of my late night gymnastics, wake up and give me the evil eye. Their cursing glance is quickly followed by a mass migration out of the bedroom to seek quieter and more stable accommodations in other locations around the house. Naturally this makes sleep even more unavailable to me since I immediately feel guilty for disturbing them.

Yes, I freely admit that I am jealous of our cats’ ability to sleep. My envy even turns me into a green-eyed monster, full of resentment toward almost every cat in the world, who, no matter what their location or the condition in which they find themselves is able to easily fall asleep in a heartbeat.

But, since I love all cats so deeply, my vexation is fleeting. I just have to marvel at and admire these magnificent felines and the gifts with which they are endowed. But I have a sneaking suspicion that if I remain completely open. I may learn to relax and perhaps one of these days, their wondrous sleep ability will rub off on me.

What do you think? Tell us in a comment.


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Confessions of an Insomniac Cat Lover — 72 Comments

  1. Interesting subject and an amusing one as well. I have similar sleep difficulties now that I’m older and rely on the radio to see me through the night.

    I’m not sure why older people have more difficulty in sleeping. I don’t let it bother me. I just sleep when I want to and if I don’t want to, I do something. In the past I used to work on the website even in the middle of the night because it was better working than lying awake doing nothing.

    Cats, of course, are crepuscular so they are going to be more active at dawn and dusk. Also, a lot of the time cats are snoozing, which is why they wake up so quickly because they’re not actually waking up they are just opening their eyes. I believe that cats sleep a regular amount of time much like people but have the ability to kill time while snoozing which humans find difficult to do for very long except when we get older 😉

  2. dont think i could comment. i have struggled for years with sleep as its often connected to anixety. Now that its getting wintery and colder it seems its alot easier to go to sleep which is abit strange as when its too hot its a struggle. im babysitting friends cat atm for 3 weeks feel very sorry for her as shes alot like cass looks like her too. will post a photo soon. Shes not allowed inside so has to sleep outside in the cold. We made up a cardboard box wtih blankets and bedding with sheepskin so hopefully she be ok. so sad she can’t stay inside. Its only been as high as 6 degrees all day here today. Snow been falling down in the south island and the air is so bitter.

      • What a lovely cat! I’d scoop this cat up right away and install her in my home, making it her home as well. 😉

      • She is lovely! I’ve never seen mottling like that, but beyond that, she looks as though she is loved; doesn’t she?

    • Oh dear that seems harsh to leave the poor cat outdoors in all weathers and not allowed indoors, makes you wonder why the person has a cat at all doesn’t it.

      • cause the guy whos a friend of my ex is abit of a traditional type person where cats should be outside, which we dont agree with. Thats why made her a box with blankets. Also this is the same guy whos gettting married to a women whos afraid of cats. So if we cant get a home for this cat will prob just take it ourselves. As shes a lovely girl. so im keeping an eye on her for nxt few weeks. its a shame couldnt bring her up here. but i think the other cats would be upset with me. i agree he doesnt really treat her well sometime. but hes set in his ways.

      • thats ok sorry. ill try and remember. The cat is locked out as theres no cat door and the person prefers the cat outside which i dont agree with at all. also the person involved is going to india 4 three weeks to get married am checking on her regularly she has a box outside and have put some water out. its not an ideal situition i agree. i wish i could just bring her up here at home. its just down the road

        • Kylee, the man is marrying a woman who fears cats.

          It’s not going to be good. Obviously, he prefers his wife-to-be over the cat. I’ll bet that he lets her stay inside!

          I don’t think I can candy coat what I want to say, so here goes…
          Screw that very bad owner, bring her into your home, and call her your own.
          My guess would be that the jerk won’t care.

          • yea i know what your saying dee. i feel the same. Shes a lovely kind natured cat. Doesnt derserve to be outside. esp at this time of the year. Ill prob have to go get her and bring her home even if its temporary. while hes away till can decide what he wants to do.

    • Kylee, blankets won’t keep her warm. They get damp and are colder than nothing at all outside. Put straw or hay in her box. It’s much warmer and the kitty can burrow down into it.

      Or just bring her into your house temporarily. Even if you have to confine her to a single room it’s better than being out in the freezing cold.

      • I’ve used shredded newspapers at times too.
        But, I keep a ton of the mylar reflective thermal blankets. They’re great and are really cheap at Amazon.

    • Why can’t you bring her in and put her in a bathroom if you think your cats will not like her. If you are going to keep her then they will have to get used to her. 6 degrees is bitter cold and that cat a can die out there. Please bring her in.

        • hi everyone have found at my friends he has a spot thats sheltered out of the wind and rain and cold, so i think she will be ok. He also got a bed there for her so i don’t feel so bad now. Will still keep regularly look on her each day. Went there today she wasnt there. Thanks for everyones friendly comments. its in like an enclosed shed with wood surrounded.

          • I still feel the cat ( Essie is beautiful and looks so sweet ) should be indoors. Winter time with a single digit number is no place for a cat or dog to be outdoors. Why does he want a cat if not to be indoors so he can give it love and affection and enjoy the cat’s company ? Give it to someone who loves cats and will take really good care of her. Making a shelter outdoors is not really loving and wanting a cat for the right reason or he never would have left that cat out one single cold day !

            • i know and i feel the same but the thing is this cat has been used to that situation for so long. he should of really put her in a cattery i know what your thinking. i did think bringing her up here but i got 5 other cats and i could hate for her run away. its not an ideal situation i realise but she seems to be used to it. if it was my cat id never do that. it breaks my heart that she not loved totaly. i think ill put her inside the house at night and leave some kitty litter inside that way she be able to sleep.

              • Being in at night will help her i am sure. . Why not bring her to a No Kill Shelter so someone can adopt her on a indoor only adoption. All through the states there are coyotes, hawks and eagles so she is in danger not only of freezing or being hit by a car, beaten by sicko’s that do that when they see a cat but also being killed by a car. How old is she and how long has she been an outside cat ?

              • hi ru im not sure how old shes prob 5 or 6. im really hoping when this guy gets back and once if this realtionship works out they are able to keep her . As he says he does love her. as usually when hes home shes inside. Over here in New Zealand which is where im from. at least im going down once a day and spending quality time with her for the nxt 3 weeks. As i have abit of time on my hands i can at least to that for her. Have talked that if cant find her a home if things dont work out we will prob have to take her if no one else can. i know hes prob had since 2010 or 2011 i cant remember how long. Prob be a few years. Things for outside cats over here in new zealand are slightly abit better, she seems to of coped well. my cats are amostly all outdoor/indoor cats but in winter prefer them inside as its their home too. id rather they be inside than in the freezing cold. thanks for understanding it means alot .

    • The cat would be better in a shelter than locked outside in below freezing weather. The “traditional” jerk who locks her out should try spending the night in a cardboard box. At the least, get a Styrofoam container (pharmacy packing boxes are best), cover it with plastic, line it with straw and a fleece (not cotton) blanket. There are electric pet warming pads available. She needs to be rehomed or taken to a shelter.

  3. I sleep badly at times as well, many is the night I’m thrashing about red hot trying to find comfort and pushing my head into the pillow in an effort to get to sleep while Walter lies serenely breathing deeply beside me or down by my feet, sometimes he comes up the bed to see me and gives me a bit of love before throwing himself down on his side and letting me hold his paws while he drifts off again, I think he’s used to it, he never bats an eyelid when I whip the covers back to cool off then drag them up again when I feel cold. Cats probably see it as a weird human trait, wasting good sleeping time is an unknown pastime in the cat world.

    • very true barbara im often having to move blankets esp when theres lots of cats i.e rebel, which is hard to move him cause as soon as i move him hes back there again, he doesnt like much being moved and complains alot about it.

  4. An interesting post!

    Physiologists say that the sleep-regulating mechanism of the brain loses some of its effectiveness over the years.

    Yet many people in extreme later life sleep as blissfully as cats and dogs. My grandmother was one. At age 93 she sat in her parlor until midnight, night after night, reading the Bible or working crossword puzzles, then went to bed, and was up bright and early at 7:00 a.m., corseted tight as a drum, wearing one of her pretty, flowered home-sewn frocks, the seams on her nylons ramrod straight, her coiffure just so.

    My father, also late in his life, slept very well. Hereditary? Am sure it was. Both had easy-going, non-neurotic personalities. Seldom irritated by other people or things. Non-critical. Non-worriers. Not emotionally hypersensitive. Que sera, que sera types. Accepting of life. Accepting of death.

    My former friend and neighbor in Seattle, another woman in her mid-nineties, has apparently never suffered a sleepless night in her life. She’s a paragon of achievement: deeply devout (Catholic), engaged in every humanitarian, creative, productive, family-oriented, horticultural, political (peace-activist) endeavor on the planet — and also sleeps like a dog or cat, as she describes it.

    My mother was neurotic and introspective – a chronic worrier, somewhat inclined to depression – and endured the last 40 years of her life without once shutting her eyes, or so she said (like Marcel Proust’s grandmother [or aunt – forget which]). I take after her to a T and, after reaching age 24, couldn’t sleep without sleeping pills. While I manage to keep it under wraps, my emotional thermostat has been so hair-raisingly high all my life (the dial is stuck) that if I have to wake at 5:00 to be somewhere specific or do something special, I’ll fall asleep at midnight, if possible, wake two hours later, get up and start dressing, thinking it’s already 5:00 a.m.

    Haven’t taken pills since age 34, and have now reached a point where I go for days with only two or three hours of sleep each night. My insomnia is so relentless, there are days when I dare not drive. Eyeballs ache. Frontal lobes feel like size 10 feet crammed into size 6 shoes. Some essays in my C-drive are partially incoherent from sleeplessness. My metabolism is topsy-turvy, and am generally up and about until 2:00 a.m. every morning. (It’s now 1:30 a.m., and the nerve-endings are zinging away full blast.)

    But I can sleep for an hour, like a toddler with nary a care in the world, during the day when sitting in a chair. Ethel, my good little girl who has left me, loved to climb in my lap at such times and sleep while I slept. She never moved – she was still as could be, and very content. I also sleep – dead to the world, but with vivid dreams – with the radio blaring at a high volume during the day (and softly all night).

    A great author, Chaim Potok, said people have a hard time sleeping at night because THAT’S when they’re plagued with thoughts of the things they should have done during the day. Not sure about that: many high-achievers have been lifelong insomniacs. Gorbachev, for one, William Styron, for another, et al., et al.

    What tore my heart were the final minutes with Ethel. She lay in my arms in the vet clinic, pumping my wrist with her plump little paws and – as ill as she was – purring away with happy contentment, not knowing I was giving her over to the vet to be killed within minutes. My memory of her sweet trust in me is beyond words…

    Part of the reason animals often sleep more readily than humans is that they have no future. They live, in their touching innocence, only in the present.

    One thing that might work: don’t nap during the day! Hard to resist if you’ve had a nice lunch and sit down in a comfortable chair. Trouble is, physicians say it’s highly beneficial, and of course many cultures worldwide enjoy a siesta. The downside? You’ll lie awake until 4:00 a.m. if you sleep in the daytime. Can’t win, in other words.

    • Sylvia Ann I’m sorry that you have insomnia. I’m sure insomnia is more prevalent than people think it is. I know a person who can fall asleep in the evening perhaps having gone to bed early and then woken up about 2 hours later having slept very deeply to believe that it is the following morning and that she has to go to work, indeed is late for work! Historically she is a poor sleeper. I’ve always slept very well indeed until about 5 or so years ago. I do sleep adequately, though, I believe, getting about 6 hours a night, on and off.

      I like listening to the radio at night, chat shows. It is quite comforting and it is quite nice to work at night when there is total peace and quiet with nothing to interfere with what you are doing. It can be peaceful working at night.

  5. Dee -thank you so much for your kindly suggestions. The ‘FERAL CAT’ post has disappeared, and I don’t see the ‘SEARCH’ box with any consistency, so can’t find the post. Didn’t write down your URL for the Yahoo.ask site, but will search again for the feral essay tomorrow. Will try your AOL e-mail suggestion, though – and if I can’t – since I have no technical aptitude – will ask my librarian to help me set up an e-mail site in a couple of days. Thank you again!
    Howdy, pal Ruthie — Admired your latest. And yes — it’s spot-on. xx

    • yea thats the cat im looking after at the moment she reminds me alot of my cassy. im catsitting for 3 weeks syliva.

  6. I can get to sleep OK, having had a night time kiss and cuddle session with Jozef, we both settle down, but I wake up a lot in the wee small hours. It doesn’t bother Jo, he just snoozes on if he’s still on my bed. Sometimes he’s gone to join Babz and Walter and my bed is lonely
    I love it when it’s a cold night and he comes under the duvet, that’s a lovely cure for insomnia 🙂
    Walter never comes on my bed to sleep, only to ‘help’ me make it lol

  7. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I long for it. I managed to stay awake for one of the most amazingly, haunting TV programs last night- “The Normal Heart”. More about that one day. But the cats slept through it of course, and then followed me into the bedroom where they promptly resumed their noctural prowess. I think I got about 4 hours sum total. I think I am a worrier- about what I haven’t done- what I need to do- these thoughts keep bumping up against each other throughout the night.

    But the cats have no such thoughts ’cause they have righteously completed all their tasks- such as sleeping in window box I set up for them- then trying the sofa- testing the “sleepibilty” of all the objects in our home. LOL

  8. I never have a problem getting to sleep. It’s a “dead to the world” sleep for about 3 hours.
    Then, everything takes an annoying twist.
    It’s on and off with covers, trying not to accidently throw a cat off the bed, turning my pillow to the cool side, up to the bathroom to empty my not-so-elastic-anymore bladder, and peeking at the clock at intervals.
    The worst feeling is believing that I’m not asleep when I must be, because an hour or so will pass unnoticed.
    And, not one furry bed partner is bothered by any of this.

  9. Wow, you too, Jo? I’ve been hyper all my life (my doctor, the first time he saw me, said I was a “firecracker”) and regard sleep as a necessity, but to be taken lightly, because it takes up valuable time better spent working and doing other things…as for the clowder here, my Rani has the recent habit of yelling at me about 1/2-1 hour before I want to get up. Sometimes others join in. So I guess they’re trying to help me out. Ya think?

  10. Cisco is the cat who sleeps with me, the closer the better as far as he is concerned, and really hates it when I’m restless and shift both of us several times trying to get comfortable. Eventually he gives up in disgust and leaves or instead he and Pancho cuddle at the foot of the bed. If I move the little guy, I try to move him where he will have more bed and not be put off on the floor. I swear sometimes he isn’t sleeping the whole time I sleep but stays awake to keep an eye on me. He is a very conscientious cat.

  11. The other day an M.D. on the radio said inadequate sleep robs a person of 40 percent of his learning capacity & memory, causes more traffic fender-benders & fatalities than DUI, and flings open the door to flaming dementia two or three years down the road. He claimed it is more ruinous to the health than two packs a day. Sleep deprivation and sitting glued to a chair for hours, according to scientific research (such as it is), are the freeway to cognitive dissolution. The Autobahn to myocardial infarction.


    Thank you, Michael, but the post I was searching for & couldn’t find was five or six days old. Dee kindly transmitted, a 2nd time, the Yahoo.ask URL she provided in that post.
    —And thanks again, Dee!—

    Do you want to hear this, Ruthie? This morning it’s standing at my padlocked gate and two-finger WHISTLING – as one would to a horse in a pasture – to come out of the house and visit. OMG. Am packing and moving. xxx

    • Rut Roh Sylvia Ann! I would hate to let my writing go to seed.. LOL. But with my two Muse kitties I think I can always find some interesting material.

      Memory is not great- but since I have chronic Lyme disease- how would I tell the difference? LOL

      Cats are supposed to purr you off to dreamland. I have to tell them this is a rule:)

      • Oh, Jo.
        Did you contract Lyme while here in Florida?

        I know the risk is higher around horses, deer, and farm animals; but, I feel so lucky not to have ever had it, because I had several ticks (usually in my hairline) on me when I was a kid. I spent hours on end in the brush, scrubs, and woods. I spend just as much time today; but, I’m rarely getting any. Maybe it has to do with all the Avon “Skin So Soft” that I have stockpiled here and use to deter mosquitoes. Who knows?

        • Dee.

          Contracted Lyme in NY but Lyme is here in Florida. Problem is its a new strain and no test is yet available. Sigh

  12. hi jmuj shes lovely, just visited her tonite as im on night duty lol. gave her lots of cuddles and kisses she was waiting for me was good, man she reminds me of cass so much. anyway i kept her inside, my ex will feed her tomorrow morning. thanks for lovely comments

  13. Drat it all, Jo – Lyme is bad news! Will never forget my mother combing out my blonde pigtails when I was six, and screeching when she’d uncover a tick the size of a blueberry sipping away at the jugular. Ceanothus, the most beautiful wildflower-shrub, with its smoky blue color, was a favorite host plant of ticks for some reason, and they’d drop off a twig and land on you when you walked through the redwoods. Ticks also paralyzed the hind legs of our poor dogs, back in the day when we lived on a 40-acre farm in Alfred Hitchcock Country (‘The Birds’ – Bodega Bay, CA).

    Am sorry to hear you contracted this darned affliction, and hope you continue to feel ok and write your great essays. Science is finding cures for just about everything nowadays.

    • Thanks so much Sylvia Ann. Lyme disease here in the USA is a hot political issue. Since Insurance companies don’t want to pay for long-term treatment, they got into bed with groups of physicians who claim that there is no such thing as Chronic Lyme.

      Since May is Lyme Awareness month here in the USA, I might add that cats can contract Lyme also. There is no vaccine for cats. Outdoor cats that hang out in shrubs and tall grasses are at great risk for being bitten by ticks. But more about that in the future.

      I was infected while out on rounds with my equine vet- another great story for another time- it was amazing to visit all the barns and help him with the horses. I had been really sick and aching- and my Lyme tests were negative (very poor testing), but my equine vet drew some blood from me, sent it to his lab and that is how I was finally diagnosed and was able to find a doc who knew a LOT about Lyme.

  14. The biggest problems with sleep here are a my husband’ssleep apnea machine that makes noise and Sabu trying to sleep in my face. I can drown out the machine noise for the most part but Sabu is a whole other problem. I have a bad hip and cannot lay on that side so I sleep either on my back or facing into the bed. The second I get into a comfortable position Sabu is right there in my face. Chasing him off the bed doesn’t work for the most part and the insane need to be in my face makes this cat nutso. We are slowly retraining him to lay on the foot of the bed. SOme nights are good and some are not. Love the article.

  15. I absolutley LOVE how you write, Jo! I love your sense of humor! I, too, have difficulty getting to sleep. I have been like that ever since I was a little girl. I remember as early as 5 years old my mother would send me to be and I just could NOT get to sleep. SO, even at that young age, I resorted to reading until I was tired enough to fall asleep. Sadly, reading is a very enjoyable activity for me and I often find myselft engrossed in chapter after chapter before turning out the lights for slumber. But even when I don’t read and lie in bed counting proverbial sheep, or my blessings, or whatever; I find that it usually takes me at least an hour to fall asleep. All the while, I am taunted by my chainsaw wielding husband and my peacefully sleeping kitties. UGH! We just can’t win, can we? 🙂

  16. I shouldn’t laugh, Jo – but it actually took an equine vet and his lab techs to diagnose your condition? For years M.D.s dismissed asthma as ‘psychosomatic’ until they began to notice the link between gasping & wheezing and air pollutants. Your story reminds me of one of my own.

    My Liz Taylor lookalike school chum went to work as a dental assistant. Within two years, she managed to learn the technique by watching, and one weekend she sneaked me into the clinic, sat me down in the chair, shot my jaw full of Novocain, and drilled & filled a molar to perfection. What can I say? She was 20, I was 17 – i.e., we’re talking the Bronze Age – and that filling is still rock-solid intact. Yes, she’d have probably ended up in the pen and I in reform school if we had been caught, but it just goes to show…

    I forget the names of your little men (think it’s Sir Humphrey Pinkerton and Hush Puppy), and also forget if they’re indoor or partly outdoor cats, but it’s easy to see how you’d have reason to worry about ticks. These parasites are disgustingly bad, so wrap up your extremities when you venture into the countryside during the summer. Thank goodness that you finally found a competent physician.

  17. Reno – don’t know if you’re into light or heavy reading, or both, but if you can stand a potato-chips novel (feather-light fluff) and you’ve never read him, give Steve Alten a try. He wrote a series of imaginative novels about a Creature of the Deep: a prehistoric megalothon, a monster shark that lives in the Marianna Trench and rises to the surface to wreak chaos. But don’t read any of his books if you want to fall asleep, as you won’t be able to put them down!

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