Are you one of those people who strongly disapproves of your cat waking you up at night? You might even lock your cat out of the bedroom. You believe that domestic cats are entirely nocturnal and therefore their body clock drives them to be active at night and passive and sleepy during the day when you are active. Human and cat are completely out of sync. Domestic cats are not really nocturnal although it will vary between individual cats. They can be active during the day or night but they tend to focus their activities normally at dawn and dusk as you probably know by now. My cat is particularly active at night and therefore I am out of sync with him but I totally accept it. That’s my solution but it won’t be acceptable to most.
If you don’t accept this out of sync state of affairs, Jackson Galaxy says you should get your cat onto the same rhythm that you are on. Personally, I’m not sure about this because a domestic cat’s natural rhythms are hardwired into their DNA and are inherited from their wildcat ancestors. I am not sure that you can train those out with a simple procedure but here goes:
Tire her out before your bedtime
Jackson Galaxy says that the first step is to stop free-feeding. You probably know what free-feeding means but for the sake of clarity it means leaving food in the bowl all day and night so your cat chooses when to eat rather than putting down a set amount of food at set times. Jackson says that you should feed in conjunction with play and the intent is to get your cat tired when you are tired. So, if you go to bed at about 11 PM you should feed your cat’s last meal at around 9:30 PM. Importantly, just before this last meal you should engage in “hunt, catch, kill” (HCK). What he means, as I understand it, is that you play with your cat in which he hunts, catches prey and kills it. In other words, he is being very active.
You should do this until you “bring your cat to the boil”. Once again, in other words, you get him to the point where he is maxed out in terms of playing and activity. In this way he becomes tired. If he has a second wind you should play some more. The objective is to get him completely worn out. He will then eat, groom and sleep at which point you can go to sleep as well. The overview is to keep your cat active when the family is active.
Ignore her advances at night
In conjunction with this basic model, you should completely ignore your cat if and when he or she jumps onto your bed at 3 AM in the morning to wake you up. He says that this is the tough part but in capital letters he emphasises that you must ignore her completely. He stresses that this means that you don’t get up and you don’t feed her or interact with her in any way. You don’t even say her name but you play dead. He understands that this goes against a cat lover’s natural instincts because we treat cats as members of the family and as children. You instinctively respond to a child’s requests.
But if you do respond he says that this is a payoff for the cat. The cat learns that if they jump on your bed at 3 AM in the morning to wake you up and you wake up and respond to her request it works and therefore your cat has trained you. But if there’s no response from you for 10 days to 2 weeks she will learn and she will stop.
Human fits in!
Like I said, I don’t mind being woken up by my cat and to be honest I have adjusted my rhythm to somewhat overlap with his natural rhythms. I wake up at about 4 AM in the morning and therefore I am in sync with my cat at that time. During the middle of the day from about 10 AM to about 3 PM my cat is normally snoozing and sleeping because this is the middle of the night for him. I am active then but it doesn’t matter because he’s asleep.
Who consistently plays with their cat?
I think the weakness of the Jackson method is that few cat owners actually play with their cat. I think that if you did a survey a tiny percentage would agree that they consistently play with their cat. And you’ll have to play a hell of a lot to get her tired enough to sleep when you sleep. Ignoring nighttime advances will certainly help, but that’s hard as he says. If you try this, please tell me how you got along in a comment!
PAGES ON CRESPUSCULAR ACTIVITY: