Skip to main content

Does your cat wake you up to be petted? It’s probably your fault

We’ve all been there: You’re blissfully asleep, in the middle of a great dream, when all of a sudden you’re awakened by persistent meowing. You think that certainly something has to be terribly wrong, but when you open your eyes, your cat is there, purring, happy that you’re now awake to pat him and pay attention to him. It’s frustrating, and if your cat makes a habit of it, you’ll have a hard time getting enough sleep. But getting mad at your cat isn’t the answer, either. If you’re wondering “why does my cat wake me up to be petted,” chances are there’s a logical answer. The good news is that there are also multiple ways you can solve this problem so that you and your cat can sleep through the night again.

Grey cat lying on a bed with a white comforter

Why does my cat want to be petted in the middle of the night?

According to WebMD, a cat that wakes you up in the middle of the night is just listening to its internal clock. Cats often adapt to your activity schedule, but your cat’s ancestors are nighttime hunters. Your cat may be more active at night simply because it’s a natural response.

Other factors can contribute to how active your cat wants to be at night. If you’re gone all day and the house is quiet, your cat probably spends the day sleeping. This means she’s well-rested when you get home and doesn’t need to sleep through the night. Instead, since you’re home, she might seek out your attention and try to get you to pat her — even if you happen to be asleep.

Why does my cat wake me up to cuddle?

WebMD explains that your cat might wake you up because he’s bored and looking for attention and affection. Meowing and pawing at you might get you up and out of bed, meaning something exciting might happen. Your cat knows that if he wakes you up he’ll get some sort of social interaction, even if you’re mad at him and that interaction is a negative one. Plus, if you get up and feed your cat in an attempt to keep him occupied so you can sleep, then your cat gets plenty of perks out of the situation.

Grey and white cat lying on the floor, playing with a wand mouse toy

How to keep your cat from waking you up

How you respond to your cat trying to wake you up can make the situation better or worse. Unfortunately, some of your first instincts are probably the wrong ways to handle the problem. If you get up, give your cat attention, and give her food, then she’s just learned that waking you up means that great things happen and her night becomes a lot more interesting.

Instead, focus on why your cat’s waking you up. Chances are he’s craving social interaction, playtime, and food. You can offer all of these activities during the day to help keep your cat satisfied so that he’s more likely to sleep through the night.

To accomplish this, create a routine for your cat or kitten. That routine needs to consist of hunting, eating, grooming, and sleeping. You can help your cat hunt by playing with toys such as wand toys so your cat has the satisfaction of capturing her prey. After playtime is over, give your cat a bit of food. Your cat will typically groom herself after eating, which helps her to relax. Then, with her belly full and her energy used up, she’ll be ready to sleep.

You can implement this routine at bedtime to help your cat settle down for the night. Don’t forget that incorporating several play sessions during the day can also help your cat use that energy in a positive way.

While the above routine works for many cats, you can use other strategies to encourage your cat to sleep too. Consider using room-darkening shades, since even a little bit of light coming in through the windows can prompt your cat to become active. If you think that your cat’s waking you up is driven by hunger, consider using an automatic feeder to give your cat small meals both during the day and throughout the night. If your cat continues trying to wake you up, you might need to think about closing him out of your room at night. If you do this, wearing earplugs or running a fan or sound machine can help to block out any sounds of his meowing.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Everything you need to know about the adorable snowshoe cat
Never heard of the snowshoe cat breed? You're not alone, but they're worth learning more about
Cat with white paws standing up

We don’t typically think of cats as breeds. With canine companions, there is a ton of information on different breeds, including common physical and social traits.

However, felines also have separate breeds beyond just commonly known ones, like Maine Coons and Siamese cats. One you may not have heard of is the snowshoe cat. There’s likely a reason you’ve never heard of this cat, because the breed is rare.

Read more
Polydactyl cats: Everything you should know about these unusual pets
Get the facts on polydactyl cats, a condition that's not as rare as you think
Maine Coon cat

Polydactyl cats: The term sounds exotic — almost like it should be used to describe an amphibian. The unusual term is fitting for something of an odd condition.

A polydactyl cat has a congenital physical anomaly. In layperson’s terms, this means that a cat is born with the condition. They can’t suddenly develop the condition.

Read more
This video shows another side to the war in Ukraine: All the cats
These cats are working alongside their humans in service to their country
Kitten peeks out of a military helmet

Pets might not be our first thought when we think about armed conflict, but they're a surprising part of it. In the current war in Ukraine, many refugees fleeing the country are bringing beloved pets with them and, luckily, neighboring countries have been able to take some of them in. Despite nearly impossible circumstances, animals are being saved and even brought to the US and going to loving families. Some, however, are living directly on the front lines with soldiers, including the adorable cats featured in this video.

In it, you see cats of all shapes and sizes hanging out with their buddies dressed in fatigues and often ready for action. The kitties climb up their people or ride along in satchels or assist the war effort by becoming lookouts (or at least pretending to). While they may not be a lot of help in that arena, they can provide friendship and become true assets to their units (some trained military dogs deploy with troops around the world to help with things like finding land mines and search and rescue). Interestingly, animals have always been essential to war, not just as the cavalry but in a companionship role as well.

Read more