‘My cat wakes me at 4am’ – Jackson Galaxy tells you how to stop it

These are the ideas of the well-known Jackson Galaxy (JG) on this tricky subject. I am sure a lot of cat guardians struggle with this problem; how to sleep through the night without being woken by their cat.

Photo in public domain. Words added.

JG says that domestic cats are not nocturnal. He’s right. Domestic cats are mainly crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk. In truth they can be active at anytime, day or night but prefer dawn and dusk but depending on the individual they can be also be active on an off all night. The bottom line is that cats favour activity during the hours that we like to be asleep. This is the conflict.

Personally, it does not bother me because I wake up early anyway.

JG writes:

“…your cat being up all night is a symptom of your failure to provide Routine, Ritual and Rhythm” (three Rs).

What he is getting at, I believe, is that you can change a cat’s habits through introducing the three Rs.

He says that cat owners can ‘reset their [their cat’s] body clocks’. He says ‘it’s about getting your cat on the rhythm of the household’.

How to do it!

For me this means changing your cat’s habits so that they fit in with yours rather than the opposite. In order to achieve this he makes three points:

Stop free feeding. JG suggests that you feed in conjunction with play. In other words feed your cat his last meal at 9:30 pm but beforehand engage in intense play with him to tire him out. He calls this HCK (hunt, catch kill). He says, ‘Bring your cat to a boil’ and get him pooped. Then he says do the same when he has a second wind. Afterwards he will eat, groom and sleep. That’s when you go to sleep.

Comment: Sounds good but to be honest I am not sure if it is practical. Well it is practical but will cat owners do this routinely late in the evening?

The second point he makes is to, ‘keep them active when the family is active‘. This is also about the three Rs.

Comment: this seems to be getting your cat to adjust to the family rhythm to try and change the cat’s routines.

The third and most difficult part is to completely ignore your cat when he or she wakes you up at 3 or 4am. JG insists in the strongest terms that cat owners must ignore their cat at night when they are woken. This means no interaction. Nada. He says ‘play dead’. Any attention you give is the reward that your cat seeks (‘the payoff for her’). Doing nothing will tell her that nothing will happen and she will stop eventually but it might take ten days to two weeks.

P.S. JG says that he against locking cats out of bedrooms as a way of solving this dilemma. This is because for a cat it is an important place as it smells strongly of you. “It’s a socially significant area’. I can lead to a battle zone: the bedroom door. The alternative is to place heated cat beds on furniture in the room. You can then gradually move these beds to another room if that solution is unacceptable.

What do you do to deal with this inherent problem? The product of our different ways of life.

Source: Total Cat Mojo by JG with Mikel Degado PhD.

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Michael Broad

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

View Comments

  • The digestive enzymes of the domestic cat are most prolific at crepuscular times of day.

    There are limits as to what humans should do to try and re-programme biological processes.

    Providing timed feeders for that 4am sweet spot would be more humane and more effective, if cat stewards find that their cats are waking them too early.

    I am surprised that Jackson Galaxy has not mentioned this simple fact of the cat's biology.

    We created the domestic cat, we have an ethical responsibility to understand them and provide for their needs humanely.

    • "There are limits as to what humans should do to try and re-programme biological processes."

      Yes, I think JG is being too optimistic. I don't think we should force the cat to unlearn eons of evolution. Much easier for humans to get up at 4am :)

  • My cat's nocturnal habits had nothing to do with interacting with me. She simply loved to race around the room in the middle of the night. We lived in a garage. She would jump up on the improvised wooden closet, trot across the top of the garage door, pounce onto my loft bed and race for the other end, glancing at me in terror, jump down, race around the room, jump up on the closet.... and keep it up half the night. Nothing but putting her in a crate could stop her.

    • Hi Dora, is your cat an indoor cat? It looks that way. She is just active at at time when she is 'programmed' to be active. I agree it is not about interacting with you. It is all about her needs. The article does not say that this is about cat to human interaction. It does say that the cure for JG is to get your cat into the same rhythm as humans.

  • Of the 19 cats I've had the past 24 years, only one was very active at night, and I believe that had to do with being on the street most of his formative years. I've found they all have a degree of adaptability, and honestly all my other cats adapted easily to my sleep rhythm, as long as I feed them at dawn and dusk. I get the play part can help but if they get too used to it they'll bug you if you stop. I agree that yelling at them in the middle of the night to shut up will only make it worse and cause more tension. Everything happens easier when you're groovy and copasetic... man. Just be cool. Dig?

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