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Imagine how radiant and excited you would be every morning. If you could just squeeze out those precious seconds of pure bliss that marks the end of a good night’s rest.
That would be epic, right?
Unfortunately, for many pet owners, this has become as unrealistic as winning the lottery. Simply because their cat or dog has turned into the breathing and licking equivalent of an iPhone alarm without a “snooze” button.
Well, don’t despair.
Having a blissful sleep is still possible. And in today’s article, I will show you how you can stop your pet from waking you in the middle of the night.
What could be the problem?
I recommend taking your pet to the veterinarian whenever a new behavior that seems out of the ordinary crops up. Your dog or cat might have a legitimate reason for waking you up in the middle of the night.
A pet that has urinary tract infection, is on medications, was recently neutered or spayed, has diarrhea, is lethargic, or just plain sick can have its system throw off.
This could be the reason why your pet needs to go out minutes or hours before the time you normally wake.
Older dogs and cats can suffer a gradual decline in mental ability or the human equivalent of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some noticeable symptoms of this decline are an increase in nighttime activity, yowling or barking, and disorientation.
If your pet is a senior citizen and this seems to be the case, discuss your options with your vet. There are medications that can slow the process and your vet might be able to prescribe one.
Needs to eliminate.
Very young pets, especially those under five months of age, and those well advanced in age can get the urgent need to eliminate in the middle of the night.
Irrespective of age, your cat or dog can wake up in the middle of the night to eliminate. Especially, if it had eaten or drank too much, too late, or ate the wrong thing.
As frustrating and exhausting as it might be, you should actually be happy your pet is letting you know.
I mean, I’d rather my pet woke me at 3 am to eliminate, instead of being greeted at 7:30 am by a cleaning task.
Not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation.
If your pet isn’t getting enough exercise and mental stimulation appropriate for its age and breed, it can’t help but wake you up in the middle of the night. Don’t blame your pet, blame it on excess energy and boredom. If you spent all day staring outside the window, sleeping, and eating, you’d wake up at night too.
It’s okay to attend to your pet’s urgent needs irrespective of what time it is. However, your dog might consistently wake you in the middle of the night, if he or she has separation anxiety.
And, unless you deal with the separation anxiety, it will only get worse from here. Especially if you’ve been nothing but a very understanding and cuddly owner, that’s ever ready to talk.
There’s a disturbance.
It could be that your pet’s sleep is disturbed by some sort of noise, and he’s trying to alert you. Maybe a neighbor just started a new shift and the sound of their car is making your dog bark all night.
A previously well-behaved kitten or puppy might start waking you at night when it is 3.5-6 months of age due to the discomfort it feels from the emerging permanent teeth.
Now you have an idea of why your pet might be waking you. Here’s what you can do to help both of you sleep through the night.
What you can do to stop your pet from waking you.
Close the drapes and remove all distractions.
Like most animals, dogs and cats, heavily rely on the cycles of nature to help keep their schedule in sync. Meaning that they’ll rise when the sun does – the opposite is true for some animals.
If there’s nothing to wake your pet or keep it entertained, it is less likely to wake you. So install room-darkening drapes and remove all toys from their room. Play some soft classical music or turn on a white noise machine to drown out any outside noise. Reducing their distractions can buy you a few extra minutes of sweet sleep.
Provide loads of exercise and mental stimulation.
When your pet goes to sleep with excess energy, it is only natural that it wakes you in the middle of the night, ready to start the day. The way to fix this problem is by wearing them out before bedtime. Take your dog on a long walk or play for at least thirty minutes with cats and dogs before feeding them.
To prevent stomach problems, however, ensure that your pet has rested for at least 30 minutes before feeding it.
This only works when done a few hours before bedtime. That’s because if you try to wear them out in the morning, your pet will likely sleep and recover strength during the rest of the day. And you’ll have to exercise your pet a second time in the evening for the desired result.
But, let’s be sincere with ourselves for a bit. A lot of pet owners just don’t have the strength for that.
Heck, you might even be one of them.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend like it’s an easy thing to deal with an energetic pet after a long, exhausting day at work. No, it is HARD!
There’s good news if you belong in this category, and your body would rather sleep in than play with the pet. You can send your pet to a daycare. You’d definitely find one for cats or dogs.
“but… aren’t cat nocturnal creatures, how do you stop that?”
Yes, they are! However, nocturnal activity is a good indication that your cat isn’t getting enough mental and physical activity during the day. Trust me, if you spent 10 hours of the day sleeping, you’d be up all night walking around, chatting on social media, or binging on YouTube or Netflix!
So, what can you do?
Invest in toys that keep your pet from sleeping all day. Cat trees and condo where a cat can jump, climb and scratch. An automatic cat laser toy that’ll give them something to chase, or cat shelves.
If all of these aren’t enough, you can invite a sitter to come over and keep the cat entertained while you’re away.
Adjust their feeding schedule.
Does your pet wake you at 3 am begging for food? Then consider adjusting its feeding schedule or ration.
It’ll be difficult, almost impossible, for your pet to go back to sleep when it is hungry. To avoid being woken at night because of food, split its current ration into smaller bits.
If you were feeding your pet twice in the day, administer smaller meals throughout the day. And, then offer the last meal about 30-90 minutes before bedtime. This small change might be enough to reduce his/her midnight craving for food.
However, if this doesn’t work as expected, and your pet is still waking you in the night for food then consider a late-night mechanical feeder. After some days, your pet will learn that the mechanical feeder holds the solution to its problem – not you!
Watch how much they drink.
Young animals have small bladder capacity and at the same time poor control of the bladder. If your kitten or puppy wakes you at night because it needs to pee, then consider limiting its water intake after 7 pm.
Do you do this by restricting access to water?
This is one error too many owners make when attempting to control the frequency of nighttime elimination or mistakes. However, it is counterintuitive since all it does is teach your pet to drink as much as possible when it can get some to drink.
What you need to do is monitor your pet’s water intake throughout the day or 4-5 hours before bedtime. If it drinks a lot, then it has to pee a lot. After all, what goes in must surely come out –else there’s a problem. So reduce how much water your pet drinks towards evening.
Make a last-minute bathroom break.
If your pet wakes you late at night, anxious for you to let it relieve itself outside, then be proud of yourself for having a well-trained dog or cat. Your pet could have opted to do its thing there on the floor and let you handle it by morning.
To reduce the possibility of your pet waking you in the middle of the night to relieve itself, make one last bathroom break before hitting the sheets.
If you combine this and the previous step above (watching how much your pet drinks), your dog or cat might be able to make it through the night without needing to wake you. However, consider your pet’s age. The older your pet gets, the less bladder control it has, so it needs to eliminate more often than before. This is normal!
Make your pet’s sleeping space comfortable.
If you’re not a fan of letting your pet sleep in your bed with you, but your dog has separation anxiety, the best you can do is help it deal with the separation anxiety. The next best thing is to make its sleeping space very comfortable.
However, if your dog or cat is tired of sleeping on the bed and just wants to go out of the room. Consider leaving your bedroom door open. Some pets, especially cats, are built to roam around their domicile. And will stop at nothing to do so – even if it means stepping on your head!
Lock them out of the room.
“Yeah, right. Sounds easy for you to say!”
I admit this doesn’t work in all cases. However, if you have allergies, you just have to do it because letting your pet into your room can aggravate your health.
If your pet keeps coming into your room to wake you in the middle of the night, it’s because you’ve given it access to the room. So lock your door. And if you have to, invest in a quality anti-scratch pad to protect the other side of the door from your pet’s fury.
Don’t budge when your pet tries to wake you!!!
Another easier-said-than-done tip, hmmmn!
Here’s the gist. Once you’ve ruled out medical issues, the pet is getting enough exercise, it had enough to eat the previous night, it doesn’t need to pee, and there’s no distraction.
It’s time to stand your ground!
Decide when you’d like to get up from bed, say 7 am, and get out no sooner than that. Your pet will whine, yowl, bark, meow, or scratch to get your attention. Unless it’s an emergency, don’t give in.
This works well if your alarm is loud, and you come out of the room when it goes off. It’ll let your pet know that wake-up time is when the alarm goes off. For best results, do not entertain or feed the pet until 20-30 minutes later.
If you wake when your pet starts acting up, then proceed to feed and entertain the pet, it starts to think that you like being woken in the middle of the night. Remember, any behavior that is rewarded, in this case with food or entertainment, gets reinforced and is hard to change.
Consider natural remedies or prescriptions.
There are lots of natural remedies that can help your pet relax at night and let you rest too. However, you need to consult your vet for further information.
Although many of these steps seem pretty basic, lots of pet owners downplay their importance. For instance, moderating your pet’s water intake hours before bedtime to prevent late-night bathroom breaks.
You’ll have to experiment a bit to see which combination of approaches stops your pet from waking you in the middle of the night.
While this will definitely take time, with persistence, you can teach your pet to respect your final minutes of pleasurable sleep, so mornings can be enjoyable for everyone.