Every morning, my cat wakes me around six o’clock in the morning. He’s like an alarm clock! This is great on weekdays when I need to go to work. But even on the weekends when I can (and want) to sleep in, he jumps on my bed, climbs on my chest, and meows in my face. You might think that he is doing this for food, so let me be clear right now—that is not the case. He only eats dry food and it is in a self-feeder, so he can get food any time he wants. He seriously just wants me to get up and pet him and start our day. Sometimes I'll pick him up and put him out of the bedroom and close the door—but then he stays right by the outside of my door meowing and scratching. He won’t give up until I can’t take it anymore and let him back in. But then if I try and get back to sleep, he’ll start meowing in my face again so ultimately I give up and get up. Is there any way I can get him to let me sleep? This has been going on for three years!
Sleepless in San Clemente
I’ll bet a lot of cat owners are reading this and laughing because they are very familiar with what you are talking about. I use the word “cat owner” loosely because in reality, anyone who lives with a feline family member knows that cats are ultimately in charge of everything, and would no doubt be highly offended at the mere idea of being “owned” by humans.
Clearly, your cat has trained YOU very well. For three years, he has commanded your attention at the crack of dawn simply with a meow. That’s quite impressive. Well, it’s time for some tough love and it’s going to require some willpower and consistency on your part.
Your first tool is knowledge. Cats need to sleep a minimum of 16 hours a day. With that in mind, plan on waking up your kitty when you see him snoozing in the middle of the day—especially on weekends. Don’t be mean about it. Just demand his attention in the same way he demands your attention! Pet him. Talk to him. Brush his coat. Trim his nails. Get some cat toys and encourage him to play. Interrupt his naps whenever you see him dozing. By doing this on a regular basis, you will be able to change his sleep cycle so that he sleeps at night and well into the morning, or at least until you want to wake up.
This isn’t as easy to do on weekdays when you must go to work. But you can keep him active when you return home—just make sure he doesn't steal any shuteye before you decide it’s bedtime.
Your next tool is willpower. If your cat wakes you up and you shut him out of your room, you have to let him meow and rattle your door until he gives up. By giving in, you are sending the message that meowing and banging on your door will result in you getting out of bed. Your kitty needs to experience no success in this endeavor. It may take a number of days to accomplish this goal; but remember, you have given him three years worth of positive reinforcement for this undesirable behavior. So be patient and consistent and whatever you do, don’t give in. You may want to purchase some soft, comfy earplugs to help you through this period of training.
Eventually, your cat will learn that if he meows and wakes you up in the morning, he is going to get evicted; but if he remains curled up with you in bed, he’ll get to stay with you. Really, this all boils down to the fact that he loves you. He doesn't understand your sleeping habits and just wants to start his day with you. So let him know that you love him too, but he needs to learn that you DON'T love his current behavior. If you follow this plan, you’ll be able to synchronize your sleeping patterns, he’ll be a happy kitty, and you’ll be a rested human. Good luck!