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Cat-Related Sleep Deprivation

By Dr. Julio Correa, Extension Animal Scientist & Associate Professor

A yowling cat would keep anyone up at nightSleep deprivation is the condition of not getting enough sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25% of Americans occasionally report not getting enough sleep. Too little sleep can adversely affect the brain and cognitive function, hence, negatively impacting performance and potentially jeopardizing lives.

Numerous studies indicate that sleep deprivation is most dangerous on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 annual crashes are the direct result of drowsy driving. Annual averages of about 40,000 nonfatal injuries and 1,550 fatalities result from these crashes. Other life-threatening conditions linked to inadequate sleep include weakened immune system, high blood pressure, heart attack, obesity, and diabetes.

Sleep deprivation can be caused by the stresses of daily life, an ongoing sleep disorder, or by another medical condition that disrupts sleep. However, a person can be actively deprived of sleep by an individual or animal such as a nocturnally active indoor cat.

Although indoor cats (Felis catus) are more active during dawn and dusk (crepuscular behavior), the timing of their activity varies. Therefore, it is not surprising to hear from people who have experienced being awakened in the middle of the night by their pet cat’s antics. If your cat constantly climbs into the bed and wakes you up at night seeking to play, have a snack, cuddle, or just to be petted, here are some ways to get a good night’s sleep and still remain best friends with your beloved pet cat:

  • Schedule an interactive play session of at least 15 minutes right before you go to bed. Use objects such as mouse-like toys, small balls, and other small objects that move rapidly and urge the cat to chase.
  • Give your cat a snack or food treat right before you go to bed. This will help your cat to calm down and go to sleep.
  • Give your cat his very own comfortable and cozy bed. You can buy small cat beds at local retail or pet stores, or you can make your own cat bed at home with items you may already have on hand.
  • Avoid talking to the cat or making eye contact. These actions will only encourage your attention-seeking pet.
  • If the cat persists in trying to wake you, firmly say “No!” Then turn around, and, if necessary, cover your head with a blanket. This phase will require a great deal of patience and utter consistency. Even a stubborn cat will eventually give up and either go to sleep or find some other activity to do.

Do not give up on the midnight annoyances of your cat. With patience and firmness, you can teach your pet cat proper bedtime manners.


American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008). Sleep deprivation. Fact sheet.

Case, L.P. (2003). The cat: Its behavior, Nutrition and health. Hoboken , NJ: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, March 1). Sleep and sleep disorders.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2012, February 22). What are sleep deprivation and deficiency? National Institutes of Health.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2013). Research on drowsy driving. NHTSA.