Why won’t my cat sleep? Three reasons why they're keeping you up at night

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

If you’re one of the many pet owners asking; ‘why won’t my cat sleep?’ we have all the answers you need. On the surface, it might just seem that your cat is trying to interrupt your sleep regime, however, it could be down to unmet needs or genetics. 

In a bid to try and entice your furry friend to sleep, you might have invested in many of the best cat toys or one of the best cat beds. While these tricks might work for some, they might not work for others. In fact, some cats may continue to stay up, scratch, meow and run around your house long after dark. You might think they’re being naughty, but it could be that they are trying to tell you something. 

It’s true, all cats have a different sleep schedule from other animals as they are genetically more prone to hunting and being active at night. However, you can help to bring their sleep-wake routine more in line with yours, to ensure you both get a good night’s sleep. 

To discover the many reasons why your cat won’t nod off, let’s figure out just why your kitty might be up late and how you can help them sleep through the night. 

1. 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, 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, a Los Angeles-based vet, recommends that pet parents give their kitty plenty of outlets for their hunting instincts. Puzzle feeders that disperse treats can 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. 

2. 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 a 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 one to two 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.

3. 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. 

Do cats get cold? Figure out how to keep your kitty warm throughout the winter months.  This expert’s guide might also be useful: Why does my cat get aggressive at night?  

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.