Click, click, click goes your dog. Lick, lick, lick goes your cat. If everyone in this house doesn’t hurry up and get to sleep, in the morning you’re going to feel sick, sick, sick.
Not getting enough sleep is rarely a problem for our furry friends. Cats typically spend more than 18 hours a day nodding off. “Sleeping is a real strength with these pets,” says Edgar A. Lucas, Ph.D., director of All Saints Episcopal Hospital and Sleep Disorders Center in Fort Worth, Texas.
Sometimes, however, cats don’t get enough Zzzs to please. When your pet’s restless nights are keeping you awake, here are some tips that can help.
Make a nice bed. How would you like to sleep on the floor every night? A hard floor makes for restless sleep. “If you’ve ever gone camping and slept on the cold, hard ground, you know how hard it is to sleep when you’re uncomfortable,” says William D. Fortney, D.V.M., assistant professor of small animal medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Manhattan, Kansas.
He recommends providing your pet with a soft, comfortable bed of her own.
Plan for bathroom breaks. “Very young pets and older pets are more likely to have trouble getting through the night without needing to go out, so be especially aware of their needs,” says Barbara Simpson, D.V.M., Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and adjunct assistant professor at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh.
Always let your pooch out before you bed down for the night, she advises. And make sure the litter box is where they can get to it.
Tucker her out. Pets that are restless at night may need more exercise during the day, says Karen Overall, V.M.D., a lecturer specializing in behavioral medicine in the Department of Clinical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia.
“If you really exercise your kitty or dog during the day, she should settle right down at night,” she says.
Rub away aches. Older pets occasionally have pain from arthritis that keeps them up at night, says Raymond Deiter, V.M.D., a veterinarian in private practice in Sausalito, California, who specializes in acupuncture. “Do anything you can to relieve the pain, and the animal might sleep better,” he says.
Massaging the sore area will help your pet relax, he says. In addition, massage improves circulation to the area, which can help speed healing and relieve the pain.
Don’t try with OTC. Don’t give cats medication without first checking with your vet, because drugs (and doses) that are safe for dogs can be dangerous for cats.
Give her a room of her own. Some cats are simply night owls, and no matter what you do they’ll always stay up burning the midnight oil. To keep your cat occupied, give her plenty of toys and a place to play — preferably one that’s far enough away from the bedroom that she won’t keep you up as well.
“It’s a simple solution, but it makes everyone happy,” says Dr. Simpson.
Blow her away. Some kittens are early risers. They figure if they’re ready to get up and play, so are you — and they’re all too happy to give you a reminder.
To discourage your early bird from getting you up before you’re ready, try arming yourself with a blow dryer the night before, suggests Dr. Simpson. “The moment she pounces on you, give her a quick little blast,” she says. “It will startle her away but won’t hurt her. She probably won’t feel like coming back for more.”
Share the care. Some pets get resentful — and wakeful — when their owners’ new friends come over and spend the night. “The animal could be uncomfortable with the new person to the point where she just can’t sleep,” says Dr. Deiter.
He recommends that you and your friend take turns feeding and playing with your pet. Once everyone’s happy and secure again, the sleeping will probably improve.
Soothe with soft music. “Playing a relaxing radio station or tape with the volume low could be of some comfort,” Dr. Fortney says.