Help, My Kitten Won't Sleep Through the Night!

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My kitten is three months old and she wakes at 4AM and eats my hair, hits me in the face, and scratches and nibbles my face and hands. I try to ignore her but she just carries on. I have started taking her to the living room and shutting the door which she seems fine with, no scratching or meowing. My question is, is it okay to shut her in the living room when I go to bed or will she be on her own too long? Any other suggest welcome!
— Lisa C.

Lisa, most cats engage in this sort of behavior, but its especially prevalent in kittens. In most cases, they simply have a hyper kinetic rhythm and need contact like they'd have with their mom or siblings just before dawn. The easiest method of dealing with this is to adopt a second kitten. Two kittens are actually easier to care for than one, but there are also expenses to consider. Honestly, two kittens are much better for their own health and mental well being long term if you can afford it.

You're doing the right thing in ignoring Maisie. If you get up or interact with her in any way, she's training you, not the other way around. We encourage you to stick it out even though that can be difficult. If you need a break, we understand. Yes, she'll be fine in the other room alone, but she'll bond more closely to you if she's allowed to sleep with you. If you choose to put her out of the bedroom at night, it's imperative that she has her pick of warm comfy places to sleep. This is also where that second kitten can come in handy.

You see, the bed is the scent center of the household to cats. It's the one place that smells most like you. Maisie will feel very comfortable there. Excluding her from the bedroom at night can send a message that she isn't a part of the family. Of course, a lot depends on the individual cat. Some cats need more contact than others. Some will prefer to sleep in other rooms or near windows during summer months, but dive right back into the bed at the first hint of a chilly evening.

You can help to minimize the early morning “wake up and play with me” behavior by creating a nighttime routine for Maisie. A cat's natural rhythm in life is hunt-eat-sleep. You can use this to get her to sleep when you're ready. 30-60 minutes before bedtime, give Maisie an intense play session. Really work her out and get her running around the room for at least 20-30 minutes. Then feed her a big meal - as much as she can eat. When she's done, tell her it's time for bed and go through your evening routine. By the time you develop this into a daily routine, you should see Maisie begin to anticipate what will happen next. She may even prompt you to do what she expects. When she gets in bed to sleep, she should fall asleep after the play and feeding. That doesn't insure she'll sleep through the night, but it's a good start. Also remember to put away all of Maisie's toys before bedtime.

If you can afford it, you can also get her her own bed or blanket. The softer the better. You want something that feels like Maisie's mother's belly. She may find comfort in kneading her paws against it and give you a break. She may not use it at first, but don't get discouraged. Give her some time to be curious about it. Cats love to make choices and most rotate their sleeping locations frequently.

Of course, she's a kitten so she's going to wake you up during the night sometimes. Even adults do this sometimes, but you can minimize the behavior by following the steps I've outlined. Good luck!