Maybe you went through a long day at work. You just drifted off to sleep when you feel tiny paws tapping your face. You open your eyes to see a fuzzy face looming over you. Your kitten’s whiskers spread wide, and a cheery “mew” invites you to wake up and play. Cute, right? For the first couple of nights. After a week, though? Humans need their sleep — and so do kittens. Good thing you can teach your cat to sleep through the night.
Establishing a kitten sleep schedule
As you’re dragging through your day on a caffeine infusion, getting your cat to sleep through the night may sound impossible. A little work on your part, though, and you’ll see both of you waking up refreshed and ready to face the day.
Cats and kittens sleep an average of 18-20 hours. If you set up a proper structure, you’ll find eight of those hours coinciding with your sleep time. You do so by developing a “kitten sleep schedule.”
You have a routine every day. It keeps you on track, allowing your body to move from activity to relaxation. You can do the same for your cat, naturally encouraging your cat to sleep through the night.
Important tips to keep in mind when setting up that kitten sleep schedule include:
- Stick to the schedule: Whether it means setting out food, scooping the litterbox, or breaking out the toys, aim for the same times every day. Your cat will learn when to expect each “task” on the schedule — including bedtime.
- Add playtime before bedtime: Have you ever done a workout before retiring for the day? Vigorous activity settles the body down. The same theory works in cats and kittens. The more vigorous the play, the more likely your cat is to sleep through the night.
- Keep dinner late: Full tummies equate to sleepy kittens. If you push the evening meal closer to bedtime, your cat’s more likely to stretch out and call it a night.
Creating the perfect kitten den
We love having our cats snuggle in bed with us. A breathy little purr lowers our blood pressure and eases us on our way to dreamland. But until your kitten has the sleep routine down, you’re better off setting up a cozy nest all their own. It’ll discourage the temptation to wake you for a play session.
The more comfortable your cat’s retreat, the more likely they are to sleep through the night. Find a bed with high sides to simulate a secure den. If you have your kitten’s “baby blanket” from the shelter or rescue, tuck it inside for a familiar scent. Otherwise, the fuzziest cushion you have will simulate the environment of “mom” for your little feline. Add in a couple of (quiet) toys on the off chance your kitten’s sleep schedule includes a midnight play session. If there’s a source of entertainment, your cat will be less likely to wake you. (But skip any toys with bells or squeaks — unless you want an early wake-up call).
Next, add some accessories that every cat might need during the night. Kittens have tiny bladders, so the litterbox needs to stay a short jaunt away. You don’t want the box on top of their bed; the smell will deter them from their sleeping spot. You also don’t want them to undertake an excursion. The longer the journey, the more awake they’re going to become. Try to split the difference.
A handy scratching post will earn you points toward Pet Parent of the Year. Cats and kittens feel a need to stretch and scratch as soon as they wake. If they have a scratching post (or cardboard scratcher) handy, they won’t feel inclined to wake you.
Battling the stubborn kitten
Working toward that kitten sleep schedule does take time. Meanwhile, you’re losing sleep while your furry darling chews on your toes every night. You may have to face the reality of closing a door while your feline adapts to the new plan. This is where you test your willpower. The temptation to open the door at the first sad meow is often overwhelming.
The worst thing you can do when teaching a cat to sleep through the night is to get up and respond. You have to ignore that sad chorus (sounds impossible, but it gets easier). Sometimes you have to resort to placing a vacuum cleaner outside your door as a cat-deterrent.
If you’d rather encourage your cat to stay asleep through the night, make that kitten-sleeping space as inviting as possible:
- Play feline-friendly music
- Set up a night light (cats can see in low lighting, but a soft glow encourages sleep)
- Consider finding your kitten a companion
Sleepy kitten, quiet kitten
No one wants to lose weeks of sleep entertaining their cat. If you’re willing to institute a routine, you can get a kitten sleep schedule implemented in your house. Varying the toys you use keeps your cat from growing bored during playtime. And making that bed as appealing as possible encourages your kitten to burrow in and sleep through the night. With patience, you’ll regain your rest.
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