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The clock strikes midnight and, like clockwork, the cat leaps from their cozy spot on the couch, crashes into their water bowl, sprints to the opposite side of the house, and leaves their pet parent wondering: “Why does my cat get hyper at night?”
It’s a question many pet parents have asked before, and Fuzzy has answers. (And solutions, too!)
First off, a note for first-time pet parents: Don’t worry. A cat's wild behavior after dark is simply a way of burning off excess energy accumulated during the day, and it’s unlikely to be a sign of any health issues or impending nervous breakdowns.
Contrary to popular belief, cats are not genetically predisposed to these bizarre nocturnal activities. Cats are not nocturnal but crepuscular, which means they're actually most active at dawn and dusk. This is due to the cat’s evolutionary past as a hunter in the desert.
As the desert can be an unforgiving place for daytime activity, cats hunted primarily at dusk and dawn, when temperatures were cooler. Their eyesight even evolved to make them more effective low-light predators. Even though domestic cats no longer have to hunt for their meals, this predatory behavior has stuck with them and explains why they instinctively save their energy for the twilight hours.
Cats have been known to sleep up to 18 hours a day. Yes, that’s twice the amount the most well-rested human adults get — and many cats snooze even longer.
Cats naturally sleep so much during the day because, historically, they had to conserve their strength for hunting. But when that’s not part of the schedule, they have to find other outlets for their stored energy. If they’re not provided with attractive alternatives, they may start bouncing off the walls.
If a cat is hyper, it can also mean there’s a lack of stimulation in the cat’s routine. Boredom is another key reason that indoor cats sleep so much, and too much sleep during the day is one surefire way to make a cat hyper at night. Look for these signs of cat boredom:
Starting fights with other pets
Disinterest in usual activities (including eating)
As for kittens? Kittens have energy. Scratch that: Kittens have a lot of energy. Just like children, kittens explore the world around them as they grow, and their curiosity knows no bounds. But unlike children, they have claws and, by 7 weeks old, have fully developed the righting reflex that helps them land on their feet when they fall, making them a tad more adventurous. It’s totally normal for a kitten to have bursts of hyperactivity throughout the day, especially after meals.
Think about it: If a cat's pet parent is gone for 8 hours in a day, they've likely been sleeping nearly that entire time. Cats adjust their schedules so that they’re alert when their parents are most likely to interact with them. After spending a long day alone, a cat will inevitably be excited by their pet parent's return home and want to play.
All is not lost! There are options for pet parents hoping to change their cat’s behavior.
Increasing interaction during the day ensures that a cat will be tuckered out by bedtime and less inclined to participate in nocturnal activities. For mental stimulation, provide cats with the following:
Food puzzles. Solving food puzzles encourages cats to use their brains and provides them with a tasty reward, too.
Window seats. Even simply placing a cat’s favorite perch near a window can make a difference. Cats love a good view of the world outside, and tracking birds and squirrels (even just with their eyes) will provide a healthy dose of mental stimulation.
For physical stimulation, try these tactics:
Playtime, of course! Access to cat toys is one effective way to remedy a lack of stimulation. To really spark a cat’s interest in new (or old) toys, try a spritz of catnip.
Cat trees. Taller cat trees allow cats to climb, which not only uses a great deal of energy but also offers the reward of a high resting place. Most cats enjoy higher perches because they’re safer, calmer, and warmer.
Scratching posts. Even the cheapest cardboard scratcher can provide a cat with endless entertainment and help keep their claws a manageable length.
Not really a night person? Not loving the lullaby of a cat thundering across the house and slamming into the bedroom wall? To curb these nighttime antics, pet parents need to shift their cat’s sleep cycle to better match their own.
Cats love routine, so they will appreciate a good schedule. What they don’t love is change, so when implementing a new routine it’s best to take things slowly. To change a cat’s sleep schedule, pet parents can try feeding the cat their evening meal a little earlier every day until it's served at the desired time. Eating a big meal close to bedtime can make a cat too hyper at night.
Although cats appear to be sleeping most of the day, they actually have a much lighter and shorter sleep cycle than humans. They spend many of their resting hours alert and prepared to react quickly to any changes in their environment, so they won't mind if pet parents wake them up to play more often during the day.
For pet parents wondering how to calm a hyper cat at night, an appropriate amount of playtime will help a cat expend its excess energy. Pet parents should provide treats and praise after a good play session.
Pet parents can also teach their cats that bedtime is quiet time by keeping the bedroom a dimly lit and tranquil zone for pets, snuggles, and sleep.
Remember never to scold a cat for being hyperactive — cats respond to positive reinforcement, not punishment. If a cat is acting out in the middle of the night, it’s best to ignore their behavior. It can also be wise to keep the cat toys in a cupboard or drawer so that they’re not so tempted to play during the wee hours.
There are several helpful products that can calm a hyper cat. Some stress- and anxiety-reducing options for cats include relaxing herbal sprays, pheromone diffusers, hemp toys, and natural supplements. Armed with these products and tips, pet parents can finally stop asking themselves: “Why is my cat so hyper at night?”
At least, most of the time. For those other times, pet parents can always chat with a Fuzzy vet for peace of mind (and for personalized approaches to make peaceful nights).