You’re asking the right person. I currently have four Maine Coons and two of them are kittens. Fred and Oscar are very naughty.
It’s not just the fact that they both wake me up early, it’s how they wake me up that’s probably the most disturbing.
You see, one of my kittens, and I haven’t worked out which one yet, likes to wake me up by biting my toes.
It’s a bit of a shock to be woken up in this way, I can tell you. One minute you’re fast asleep, the next you have your big toe encased in a fang sandwich.
So, let me help you get to the bottom of this problem, and let’s together uncover why your kitten might be waking you up early each morning, and what you can do about it.
Your kitten might be waking you up at an early hour because it is hungry, bored, or both of these things. It might wake you up earlier on some days than others. You might class it as the middle of the night but your kitten is awake and raring to go.
There are things you can do to address this though – do not despair!
How kittens perceive time
Not like us. Please don’t believe any source outside of a scientific paper that suggests kittens know the difference between five minutes and an hour. The truth is that no-one really knows how a kitten perceives the movement of time.
There have been papers written that attempt to find a link between an animal and its perception of life as based on its pace of life (source here).
This might explain why a fly has the weird ability to avoid a rolled-up newspaper every time we go for it! It really doesn’t explain how the feline may perceive time though!
Harry, our Maine Coon who sadly passed away earlier in the year at the age of 15, used to greet me as I came back from work. He’d jump up onto the window sill as I was approaching.
Did that mean he could tell when it was 1800? Or did he just hear my car approaching – or was it purely coincidence?
A cat will know when it’s night-time as it’s darker than day-time and their brains have been programmed to hunt during this time. They don’t think, ‘ooh, it’s 10pm, let’s go outside and have some fun!’.
So, and here’s my point – when they wake you up in the middle of the night, or more likely early in the morning, it isn’t because they know it’s morning and it’s time to get up.
They are waking you up for a reason, which is what we’re going to talk about next.
What a kitten wants when it wakes you up
Your kitten wakes you up for a reason. Actually, they probably don’t even know you’re asleep, or let’s put it another way – if they do know that you’re asleep, they don’t care!
Your kitten will wake you up for one of these three reasons:
Your kitten is hungry
Kittens can consume a surprising amount of food and there are many that say you should ‘free feed’ your kittens, which means there should be food down constantly for them to eat when required.
This isn’t the article to get into that subject but it might be something that can help you out here.
If you’re only putting food down during set times, they may not eat that much of it (or if you have more than one, the other might have more of it) before you take the food up again.
Therefore, it’s possible that they could go to bed hungry.
After a few hours, they’ll need to resort to seeking out the source of their food. Which, of course, is most likely you.
Your kitten will associate you with providing them with food and they don’t care where you are or what you’re doing.
Even if it’s 0400 and you’re in bed, they may tap you on the nose with their paw to remind you they still exist and need feeding. Do something about it!
Your kitten is bored
As you have a kitten (or kittens) you already know that they like to play a lot. Do you really think that they care what time it is when they want to play? Kittens will find any reason to play and will play with any thing.
Although a kitten can sleep for a lot of the day, when they’re awake they’re not typically still.
So, if they’ve spent most of the day asleep then at some point during the night, they’re going to be awake and they’re not going to be still.
What I find happens with ours is that they’ll be having a little snooze on the bed when eventually one of them will wake up. Now, as per the above, the first thing that they think about is play.
It’s about this time where one of my toes moves about a millimeter under the covers. This is enough for the rather sensitive eyes of your kitten to detect the movement and launch an attack.
The solution to this is simple, stay absolutely still for the next five hours.
Your kitten wants to use a litter tray
You may be surprised by this but we’ve noticed that our kittens (and actually the cats also) won’t want to use a litter tray unless it is spotless.
It usually is, but with four cats there’s always a chance that someone can do a cheeky toilet without us knowing. Alternatively, they may of course do one during the night after we’ve gone to bed.
For us, what this means is that our kittens won’t want to use the litter tray until it’s been cleaned. Not something I’m always that enthusiastic to do at 3am.
However, if you don’t clean it and therefore leave it dirty – then you may find that the person they associate with this job will be pestered.
Again, it doesn’t matter what time of the day it is – that’s irrelevant to your kitten!
Should you shut your kittens out of your bedroom?
Whether you should shut your kittens out of the bedroom is up to you of course but it’s not something we’ve ever chosen to do.
Our opinion is that we’ve brought these little life-forms into our home, why would we then only give them access to part of it? Doesn’t seem fair to me.
I think if you’re going to shut them out of the bedroom then it would probably be best to contain them in a single room, rather than give them free roam of your home apart from your bedroom?
Why do this? Well, your kitten won’t know the reason for some big thing blocking their way into where their owners are.
So, they’ll meow and scratch at the door until someone lets them in. If it irritates you then even better, you may let them in sooner.
So, in my opinion – no, you should not shut your kittens out of your bedroom!
What to do when a kitten wakes you up too early
Well, you’re here to get my opinion, so here it is. You might not like it but, at the end of the day you chose to have kittens and that includes everything that comes with it. Which, in this case, means some broken sleep!
When a kitten wakes you up early, find out why. It will be because of one of the reasons above and will most likely be because they’re hungry or they’re bored.
If your kitten is hungry, well this is an easy one. Don’t ignore them, it won’t work and they’ll just become stressed. Go downstairs, or wherever you need to go and give them a top-up.
Perhaps consider feeding them a little more just before bed or free-feed and leave some dry-food down for them over night.
Now, if they want to play – I’m not going to sit here and say you should get up and start playing with them. I certainly wouldn’t in the middle of the night!
If you’re sure they’re not hungry and are obviously in a playful mood then it’s quite safe to just ignore them. Eventually, they’ll either get bored and go to sleep or you’ll get tired and fall back to sleep.
How to train a kitten not to wake you up too early
Good luck with that. Remember, you bought a cat, not a dog! Although you won’t be able to train them, as such, over time they will get used to the routine.
So, ensure they get lots of play during the day and wear them out a bit before bed time. Ensure they have lots of food and the litter tray is nice and clean.
It won’t happen overnight, but eventually, you’ll be woken less and less often. Then, you’ll miss it and talk about those funny old days when your little kittens used to wake you up at night!
Conclusion – why does my kitten wake me up at night?
Well, hopefully that’s cleared things up for you. Your kitten is waking you up most likely because they are hungry or bored.
Consider free-feeding them or keeping some dry food out later for them. Give them lots of play during the day and especially around thirty minutes before you want to go to bed.
Also, keep your toes tucked under the duvet…