By Alex Cooke
You might as well ask the question: how do I get my cat to sleep through the night? Or you might ask the question: why do cats howl in the middle of the night?
As these are search terms by people looking for answers using Google, clearly cat owners are being disturbed at night. They want to know how to fix the problem. They want answers. But the answer is that domestic cats are meant to be active at night.
Domestic cats don’t differentiate between night and day. When a cat is active he/she is hunting. Cats hunt at night. Cats hunt at dusk and dawn and during daytime. It is hardwired into their DNA.
Humans have the habit of sleeping at night. It is a regimented routine. It hardly ever varies. Humans are far less flexible than cats. When humans sleep at night their cat is left alone.
If a person spends a lot of time with a cat and then quite suddenly, from the cat’s perspective, goes to sleep for up to 8 hours during the night, I would argue that it can be upsetting for a cat. He is left alone. He yowls for his usual company. He might mooch around the home like a loose end. He waits impatiently for his owner to wake up. In doing so he wakes up his owner from time to time throughout the night.
The problem is that cats have different biological clocks to humans. This is a major difference between cats and humans and I don’t think that it can be reconciled. I am generalising. Many cats will get into the habit of sleeping at night (often with their owner on the bed) but in general what I have stated is true. Some people keep their cat out of the bedroom by closing the door all night. This may help get some sleep but I have read many comments about cats scratching at the door and meowing to be let through it.
So what is the solution? I’m not sure but I wonder whether you get the same sort of problem in a household where there are two cats who are friendly with each other. If there are a couple of matey cats then they can keep themselves company throughout the night. If there’s a single cat he will seek company from his human caretaker who is unavailable.
A couple of cats should, under the right circumstances, be more likely to leave their owner alone until the morning, the early hours of the morning, when they decide that their owner needs to wake up. Then they will lick her on the face or nip her nose or gently extend a single claw and prick her. This is certain to wake her up.
PS-yes, there are other reasons why a cat might yowl at night and wake you up. One of these is when old an cat has dementia has become confused. This is stated as one reason. Your cat may be ill; that may be another reason. However, I’m going to suggest that everything being equal, the normal reason is that your cat is left alone at night, it is as if you have disappeared and he yowls and meows for your company.