Why won’t my cat sleep? Three reasons why they can't nod off

Why won’t my cat sleep?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why won't my cat sleep? It's a question you've probably pondered when it’s time for you to climb into bed, and all your kitty seems to want to do is prevent you from getting the shuteye you long for. While it may feel like your furkid is trying to come between you and a good night’s rest, it’s likely that their night-time need for attention is down to unmet needs or genetics.

If you’ve invested in the best cat bed, and still find that your furbaby won’t go to sleep when you want them to, it could be that some of their basic needs aren’t being met. Scratching, meowing, and running around the house is your cat’s way of letting you know that they need something they’re not getting. Thankfully, learning what your kitty wants from you isn’t as hard as you might think, and giving it to them is even easier.

While cats may have a different sleep-wake to other animals that makes them more prone to wanting to hunt and be active at night, there are things you can do to help bring their sleep schedule more into line with yours. Let’s put the question ‘why won’t my cat sleep’ to bed once and for all by figuring out what might be keeping your feline friend up so late and what you can do to get them snoozing through the night. 

They haven’t had enough social stimulation 

Why won’t my cat sleep?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Just like us humans, cats have a range of social needs, and they rely on us to meet them. If you’re away from home a lot during the day or are simply busy, you may notice that your cat meows or scratches a lot to try and get your attention when you are around. So when you're asking, 'Why won't my cat sleep?', here's your first clue.

According to pet coach, Jodi Ziskin (opens in new tab), cats have a great need to exert energy. “When they’re not provided with proper stimulation, such as vertical structures to climb and jump on, and places to stretch their muscles and scratch, they can become anxious, reactive, and even aggressive toward their people or other pets in the home.”

To ensure your kitty gets all the stimulation and enrichment they need, Dr. Sabrina Castro (opens in new tab), a Los Angeles-based vet, recommends that pet parents give their kitty’s plenty of outlets for their hunting instincts. Invest in some of the best cat toys and a good cat tree that your furkid can climb and perch on. Puzzle feeders that disperse treats can also be a great option and a decent cat scratching post scattered with catnip will help keep those claws away from your furniture. 

Making sure your cat gets plenty of stimulation and enrichment during the day will help them feel ready for sleep in the evenings. Spend plenty of time with your kitty when you can, bonding through grooming and play, and when you’re out of the house there are some fantastic videos for cats that can help keep them occupied and entertained. 

They’re hungry or need the toilet

Why won’t my cat sleep?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you ever found yourself with a rumbling tummy and case of the midnight munchies that won’t go away until you feed that monster? Or waking up in the middle of the night desperate for the toilet, but hoping if you squeeze your eyes shut that feeling will magically disappear, and save you from having to leave the warmth of your bed? It turns out our furkids experience the same problems.

Cat’s often wake in the night wanting to feed as this fits with their natural evening hunting instincts. Older cats or those with a urinary tract infection can also have bladder control issues that have them crying out for the toilet. The good news is, both of these issues can be easily solved.

Tap into your kitty’s natural dawn and dusk hunting rhythm by timing their mealtimes to sync with their stomachs. Digestion makes cats sleepy, so serving them their evening meal late will help them nod off at the same time as you. Opt to dish them up a serving of the best cat food 1-2 hours before you want to turn in for the night, and you’ll find that your sleep schedules soon share a common rhythm. 

If you haven’t already invested in a self-cleaning cat litter box, we highly recommend it. Not only does it make your life easier by taking away the unpleasant job of having to deal with your cat’s mess every day, but it gives them access to the toilet when they need it. 'Why won't my cat sleep?' will hopefully be a phase you no longer utter.

They’re feeling unwell or anxious

Why won’t my cat sleep?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your kitty’s evening behavior is out of character or you notice anything unusual, it’s important to have them checked over by a veterinarian to make sure their restlessness and lack of sleep isn’t a result of illness or an underlying health condition. Refer to this article if you need an answer to the question "is my cat sick?" It’s not unusual for senior cats to suffer from feline cognitive dysfunction, which can cause disorientation that results in excessive meowing.

Changes to your kitty’s environment can also trigger a stress response that makes sleeping more difficult. If you’ve recently moved, welcomed a new addition to the family, suffered a bereavement, or made changes to your home, monitor your furkid for any signs of distress. Cats are extremely sensitive, so even seemingly small changes can have a big effect on their wellbeing. 

If you sense that your cat’s evening outbursts and lack of sleepiness may be related to stress or anxiety, we highly recommend trying a product like the RelaxoPet Pro that uses high-frequency sound to help stimulate deep relaxation and calm. 

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.