Cats are crepuscular creatures, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, cats hunt for food at these times, and then spend the bulk of the day and night enjoying the food, sleeping, and hiding from predators. While the average American house cat doesn't have to hunt for his breakfast, he maintains his ancient, inborn love of dawn and dusk. And of course, he figures when he's active, you should be, too.
Cats are not 100% driven by their instincts, however. The environment also influences a cat's behavior. Many cats wake up early because they're habituated that way. They've been getting up at the crack of dawn so long, they might as well be hearing a tiny bugler play the Reveille in their ears when they see the sun's first rays.
Or … you might be inadvertently rewarding this undesirable behavior. Uh-oh. If you offer food, affection, playtime, or attention, then your cat is getting exactly what she wants. The next time she wants that thing, she knows just how to get it from you.
Your cat could be waking you up for any number of reasons, but it's probably one of these:
Because he's bored. Cats weren't meant to spend their days lounging around the house, eating and sleeping like debauched members of some ancient nobility. They were meant to stalk, capture, and kill their prey all while avoiding becoming prey to another predator. The modern domesticated cat, therefore, can start to feel time hanging heavy on his hands if he doesn't have something to do. Waking up his human is an interesting and rewarding activity for him.
Because he's hungry. If a cat gets used to eating at a certain hour, he'll expect the food to appear at the same time every day. He's in a routine, and he sees no reason to interrupt a good thing. Cats are creatures of habit, and they are excellent at training their humans to accommodate those habits. Get out of bed to feed him once, and your cat will expect a snack every time the bell tolls midnight.
Certified Feline Behavior and Training Professional Dr. Marci Koski of Feline Behavior Solutions says, “Cats...know how to get your attention and then once you do the thing that they want you to do, they’re like, ‘Yes!’”
Because he wants to cuddle. Sometimes cats wake up their humans because they're cold and they'd like to snuggle. If you have a hairless breed or live in an especially frigid part of the country, this might your cat's concern. Alternatively, your cat could be feeling stress and want reassurance from you. Or if he's an older cat, he may be living with feline dementia, and the closeness helps him feel safe.
Contrary to popular opinion, you can train a cat. It's not always easy, but the following four tips should help get you the desired results.
Part of a happy, healthy relationship with your cat is making sure you both get adequate rest, exercise, attention, and nutrition. Keeping your cat from waking you up is one way to help you both stay in tip-top shape. 🐈