How do I stop my cat from waking me up at 4 am?

Don’t stop her. Let her do it and learn to enjoy it but read on…The first point to make is that your cat is crepuscular by nature and therefore it is entirely normal that she’ll be active at 4 in the morning. It follows that if you have a close relationship with your cat that she’ll want you to be active with her. This is why she wakes you up. And she may like some food at that time. This too would be normal because domestic cats want to go out hunting at 4 am.

How do I stop my cat waking me at 4 am? Montage: PoC. Original photo in public domain (improved).

You adjust

You are living with a top line hunter predator who is active at dawn and dusk and a lot of other times, often during the night. Did you realise that when you adopted her? You should have because humans willingly and voluntarily choose to live with a ‘pet cat’. The reason why I am blathering on about this is because one solution is to accept it. You could adjust your lifestyle to fit around your cat’s. That’s an unusual concept but it is worth suggesting it as it is a solution and a lot of people could manage to do it with a small adjustment. It is often easier for the human to adjust than the cat because we are meant to be more rational and intelligent.

Looking for food

If it is intolerable to you that your cat wakes you at 4 am, it may be because she has got into the habit of being fed at that time. She may have trained you! You’ll just have to retrain her and stop feeding her at that time. I am a fan of leaving out high quality dry cat food like Hills Oral at night so my cat can graze. If she needs retraining don’t respond to her demand for food. She’ll be unhappy for a while but will learn. It may not stop her waking you though.

Looking to wake you for company

She may be waking you for company. We sleep at night which is alien to a domestic cat. Cats might regard this as strange behaviour as they relate to us as companion animals. The fact that we are unconscious for say five hours at a time when they are driven by their DNA to be active may test their patience. Because it is entirely part of a cat’s character to be awake at 4 am I believe that it is very hard to make them change their ways.

Locking out of bedroom

I wouldn’t do this because your bedroom is chock-a-block full of your scent and your cat likes that. She wants to be in it and part of it. To bar her from that pleasure is arguably cruel. Cats instinctively like being on their human companion’s bed for this reason. It bloody well smells of you. They thrive on that. I know a lot of cat ‘owners’ (not cat guardians in my view) lock their cats out of their bedrooms. Not good as far as I am concerned. It is not part of good cat caretaking but I respect the views of others.

Purists standpoint

I have a purists viewpoint on cat guardianship. It is an equal relationship. It’s about give and take as in all relationships. The feline 4 am wake up call is one of those things you should consider giving on. Find something to do with her on the bed like some prep work for the day ahead! Sounds tough but it’s realistic.

What do you do?

If you think I am mad please tell me but provide me with a good alternative that is commensurate with good cat caretaking.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in a many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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