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My cat keeps meowing at night. I have tried ignoring her, not letting her sleep all day, providing enough food and water, making sure her litter box has been cleaned before going to bed, playing with her all day, and everything I could find for five days straight. I'm in terrible shape, and at night she still does this:

Digs in her litter box for 10 minutes, meows and jumps on me every two hours evenly and randomly spaced throughout the night (not related to the litter box) so I get as little sleep as possible

To clarify, she does these things:

  • Somehow teleports a toy from a hidden box on top of a shelf and goes crazy with it (though most likely it is a missed toy in a corner)
  • Goes to the restroom and uses it as an excuse to dig for 10 minutes until I am awake from my precious deep sleep
  • Meows randomly at the times of my deep sleep (I have a sleep measuring watch and during deep sleep I wake up)
  • Walks on me till I wake up

What I have tried:

  • 100% Ignoring her (though even if I don't move she still knows I am awake)
  • Playing and not letting her sleep during the day
  • Giving more of her favorite food on the rare days when she doesn't meow

Clarifying my question: How do I make my cat's body clock reset?

She is still young and healthy, two years old, and I adopted her when she was one year old.

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    She may be constipated or have a urinary infection and it hurts to go potty takevhervtovthe vet
    – user22159
    Aug 15 at 22:01
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    Purrhaps your cat is bored? Or, you need to take her to vet. Best solution
    – Hani Gotc
    Aug 16 at 15:52
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    Rather than assuming she is healthy, it is best to rule out any possible diseases. If she indeed is healthy, then tiring her during the day might help her sleep through the night.
    – C.Koca
    Aug 16 at 17:32
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    You don't mention anywhere when you last took her to the vet; when was the last visit? Did you ask the vet to check for any potential litterbox issues?
    – Allison C
    Aug 16 at 19:07
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    Reset a cat's body clock so she's active in the day? I'm not sure that's possible. While cats aren't technically nocturnal, they're mostly active during dusk and dawn (most older cats tend to sleep much of the remaining time, day or night). If it's light outside till late, like in the middle of summer, dusk is very late as well. While some cats change their rhythm to match that of their owner, it's simply not a given that it's feasible.
    – Mast
    Aug 16 at 19:47
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Note: health concerns should not be dismissed out of hand. Since some other existing answers focus on possible urinary tract infections and other health issues, and since you have mentioned that you already visited the vet, I will attempt an answer focused on changing a cat's behaviour.

As far as I can tell, you are doing what is needed. From what I can recall from the literature and from my own personal experience, it takes at best 10-14 days of continuous behaviour (from you) for a cat to form a good habit or break a bad one. After that period, the cat should start adopting the behaviour you seek, or stop doing what is bothering you.

In your case, that means that you should ignore your cat at night for at least 10 straight nights, possibly up to 14. You should not acknowledge your cat's behaviour, you should not even acknowledge her existence at night. Act as if she simply does not exist. If she wakes you up, do not scream at her, do not complain, try to not make a sound or eye contact. Even bad attention is attention and would promote the continuation of her behaviour. If this is not something related to her health, your cat might be acting up simply because she feels like she's lacking attention.

To counter this feeling, be sure to dedicate time to play with your cats, to pet her if she enjoys it, and to generally give her attention. This "cat time" should be during periods of the day when your cat is active and ideally would be the same time every day. This will help create a good habit as the bad one is discontinued. Do not simply play with your cat every time she asks for it, that would be sending the signal that she will get attention whenever she asks for it. Lastly, try feeding her before bed: this will start a cycle of eat-clean-rest and she should go to sleep soon after. Also, you might try feeding her not immediately after waking up. That way she will not associate waking you up with food. Having meals at fixed times during the day can help regulate a cat's day and give them an internal schedule.

It might feel like 14 days is a lot and if your cat keeps this up every night you will certainly be tired by the time she changes her conduct. This could affect your mood and, if it does, will make it harder for you to maintain a "no-attention" habit at night. If you are able to keep it up though, and if this is not linked to something else that recently changed in your cat's life, you should be in the clear afterward and able to enjoy a good night's sleep.

Note that your cat might try to repeat this behaviour in the future, from time to time. If nothing else has changed, simply continue ignoring your cat and it will go away very quickly.

See this Jackson Galaxy video on the subject.

Good luck!

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    This is a great answer! The only thing I'll note is that the OP never actually stated anything about visiting the vet, only their own assertion that, to their untrained eyes, the cat appears healthy. Assuming an actual vet visit would confirm that, your advice is terrific.
    – Allison C
    Aug 17 at 13:34
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    Thanks! Op did mention visiting the vet in a comment. I assumed OP's comment But for the last few weeks, it has gotten more annoying. BTW the vet is very expensive(and the last trip was useless) and im trying to save! was about this issue but you're right that the last vet visit could have been before the current behavioural change.
    – Technoh
    Aug 17 at 20:00
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    @Technoh one should point out that vet is very expensive is no argument at all... would the OP stop eating if food was "very expensive"?
    – Haukinger
    Aug 18 at 6:49
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    It might feel like 14 days is a lot and if your cat keeps this up every night you will certainly be tired by the time she changes her conduct. Parents of young children have entered the chat
    – WoJ
    Aug 18 at 8:07
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    @Leo Locking your cat in during the night might work but she will quickly learn to see your "before bed" ritual as the moment to run and hide. You might have issues with catching her and that could in turn create or trigger a whole set of problems. She might become more stressed in the hours preceding your bedtime as she might resent being locked up. Please remember that your cat is not doing this to spite you, there's no ill will attached to her behaviour. However, having gone through it myself, I perfectly understand that what she is doing can be quite frustrating.
    – Technoh
    Aug 18 at 17:58
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Your cat may be doing exactly what you are doing now: crying for help.

I assume that she only started this behavior about a week ago and didn't do anything like that before. The fact that she jumps on you and meows is a clear indication that she wants to draw your attention to somethin--most likely the litter box.

Why? The litter box is clean. There should be no reason for you to notice it. But the litter box isn't only the place where feces lie around, it's also the place for urinating and defecating. Your cat may want to draw your attention to the act of urinating / defecating itself, probably because it causes her discomfort or pain. She may be constipated, have a urinary tract infection (UTI) or even urinary stones.

Get her checked by a vet and report as best as possible how much she pees and poops throughout the day. You should see the wet spots in the litter if she pees. Try to remember if she ate some object that may constipate her, like hair ties, a toy that disappeared or anything else. The vet may require some blood tests to check for a UTI and an x-ray to check for constipation.

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    i just want to add,kidney stones or kidney infection is the most intense pain anybody can experience for animals and people. Aug 16 at 5:07
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    Almost 20 years ago I had a cat (adopted at the age of 2 years) that suffered from persistent urinary track infections. It turned out the real cause were kidney stones. Poor thing was meowing almost non-stop for hours. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, I got him on special diet and medication - and the constant meowing stopped, along with UTIs, almost overnight.
    – Aleks G
    Aug 16 at 16:30
  • She doesnt meow for 2 hours after going to the restroom, she just meows with a little i-pooped-so-am-i-a-good-cat meow and not with a i-am-in-pain meow. She just meows randomly in the night for a total of around 2 hours.
    – Leo
    Aug 16 at 17:17
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    @Leo you still need to take her to the vet. She may be in pain described to me as “worse than labour”. It’s not right to allow that potential suffering.
    – Tim
    Aug 16 at 22:19
  • She only meows in the night, not in the day
    – Leo
    Aug 17 at 22:09
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I will have to make this answer a bit general.

If a cat changes behaviour like your cat has done, the first thing to do is to consult your vet.

A cat will normally spend as little time as possible in the litterbox; toileting is a vulnerable situation for a cat where it can be attacked if it lives in the wild.

A cat using the litterbox for an extended time might signal pain pooping or peeing. Urinary tract infection might be one cause for this, and is not unusual in female cats. This condition might lead to kidney infection if untreated, so seek veterinary help at once if your cat has litterbox problems.

A cat with a urinary tract infection will tend to pee very little but frequently so look for small deposits of urine in the litterbox. It is normal for a cat to pee 2-4 times a day and to poop once or twice a day (depending on the type of food you give).

A cat will be most active at dusk and dawn as this is when they hunt/play, but cats can often adapt to your daily routine and be more active when you are around them.

Again, if your cat changes behaviour, like being more vocal, or starts hiding from you for unknown reasons you should contact your vet. Changes in eating/drinking or changes in use of the litterbox might be a sign your cat has medical problems.

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  • She doesnt meow for 2 hours after going to the restroom, she just meows with a little i-pooped-so-am-i-a-good-cat meow and not with a i-am-in-pain meow. She just meows randomly in the night for a total of around 2 hours.
    – Leo
    Aug 16 at 17:18
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    @Leo even if the meowing is not connected to the litterbox: hard changes in behavior are almost always a sign of changes in the health. You need to let your cat be checked by a vet! Aug 16 at 17:40
  • She was meowing around from the time we took her.
    – Leo
    Aug 16 at 17:41
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    @Leo: Consider shopping around for other vets. You might find one that's less expensive, or at least more useful. Aug 16 at 18:17
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    @Leo you should search for a few key words on top of our pages and see if you can find some of the Q&As useful in your situation.and please take a look at the related Q&As too we have a lot of useful information here on our site. Aug 17 at 4:01
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Real urinary tract infections are actually rare in young female cats. Other problems with the urinary tract are more common and often caused by the formation of crystals/stones in the urinary tract. This can cause meowing out of pain. However, if she has no problems after using the litter box during daytime, an urinary tract issue doesn't seem likely.

You specifically mentioned she wakes you when you're in a specific sleep phase (deep sleep). This reminded me of something I read a while ago; people reporting that their cats would wake them when they had episodes of sleep apnea. Of course, I have no idea if you have (a family history) of sleep apnea. Besides that, apneas (short periods of not breathing during sleep) mostly occur during the lighter phases of sleep and REM sleep.

Something that does happen more often during deep sleep is snoring (unrelated to sleep apnea). Do you have any idea if you do this? If so, maybe your cat "thinks" you're awake because you make sound but doesn't understand why you don't move/respond. Maybe you could try recording sound at night.

If all this doesn't apply, is it an option to move the litter box to a place further from your bedroom so you don't hear it? Don't move the box too often however; cats don't appreciate that.

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Maybe you will try to wrap her in a blanket, put her on the bed and hug so that it takes minutes for her to flee and by repeating this process several times you make her understand the futileness of being loud at night. Also, we can try different interactions with the cat at night in order to investigate the reasons for this behavior and possible solutions. You can wake up, turn on the light and see what does exactly she want from you? To play with her, to feed her, to watch her digging? Maybe it will be enough to play with her for five minutes. Maybe to offer her to sleep close to you helps.

Just in case: Did the place of the litterbox change recently? Did something happen with her usual places for sleeping? And if you didn't allow her to sleep during the daytime and she doesn't sleep at night then when she is sleeping?

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    Negative feedback might not work as you think it would. I did that to my cat each time he scratched the door to get out, hoping he would stop scratching. But he learnt very well that if he scratches the door, some forceful cuddles are coming and to avoid it as soon as he scratches he runs under the bed.
    – C.Koca
    Aug 16 at 23:43
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    The questions you ask are good ones. But their place would be comments under the original question :) Please place them there, when you have enough reputation points to comment! @leila could there be something done by a moderator? Aug 17 at 6:04
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If the cat is completely healthy and this sudden behaviour change does not have any physiological reason, there are two ways to force a cat to adapt to your cycle:

  • Experimenting with the feeding times
  • Tiring the cat

Cats tend to be more relaxed after they are fed. I noticed that the cats I look after exhibit some grooming behaviour and then more onto sleeping. For my current cat, the sleeping time and feeding time is separated by 1:30 to 2:00 hours. You have to observe the cat more to understand her behaviour after feeding.

Tiring the cat is also essential. It is not just not letting the cat sleep, you have to physically tire her. The best way to tire a cat is playing jumping games. Cat body, like most of the other felines, is evolved to perform several consecutive high agility high power moves after which they get exhausted. Since your cat is a very young adult, she would probably appreciate these jumping games, unlike adult and senior cats which usually develop arthritis and prefer more horizontal games.

For the sake of my peace of mind, I have to disclaim that any sudden behaviour change points to some trauma, either physiological or psychological. If this were a child, no doctor would try to alter the child's sleep cycle after such a dramatic change. If you are absolutely sure that she is physiologically fine, consider the possibility of an abuse.

I hope this helps.

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First, check that the cat has no medical problems (see other answers). If not, then ...

Maybe the place you live is very small. But surely there must be a bathroom (or some other room, besides the one where you sleep) that has a door. Lock the cat in there with food, water, a litter box, and a comfy place to sit/sleep. And get some ear-plugs.

This might seem cold and heartless, but lack of sleep will hurt your work, your relationships, and ultimately your health. Take care of yourself, first.

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  • That is what I did!
    – Leo
    Aug 21 at 21:52
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If it is really just a bad behavior and all health issues are ruled away:

Wet the cat's tail with tap water when she starts meowing or running at night.

She will be busy for a while (30-60 min) grooming its tail and somewhat tired afterwards.

This is not a punishment, but a good method to get the cat busy with some silent, time-consuming activity that doesn't need your attention.

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  • This is pretty good actually (assuming there are no health problems). Our cat got into a habit of wanting treats in the middle of the night, usually at like 330-ish every morning. I put a spray bottle next to the bed so whenever she started jumping on us, I'd give her a couple of squirts and she'd go away. After a couple of nights, it stopped. From then, even just hearing the spray bottle would make her stop doing whatever it was. It only takes a couple of seconds so you can get right back to sleep.
    – coblr
    Aug 18 at 0:47

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