Cat in bed: cuddle factor or sleep disorder?

There are numerous articles in (online) magazines that deal with the question of whether your cat should sleep in the bed or whether your bedroom should remain closed to her. Most of these articles focus on the advantages and disadvantages from a human point of view, such as the health risks when your mini tiger stomps on your pillow with not-so-clean paws. The effects on our sleep and well-being have even been scientifically examined. All in all, legitimate considerations when deciding whether to let your cat snuggle with you at night. In my work as a behavioral consultant, I repeatedly deal with these arguments and often mediate between our human needs and those of our mini-tigers. Because while our reasons for or against the cat in bed are obvious to us, our feline family member has only limited possibilities to make his needs clear to us – and these are usually rather unpleasant through nightly meow concerts or feline embellishments of the furniture with courageous scratch marks. Why are your and your cat’s interests so far apart when it comes to sleeping (together) at night?

The rhythm of the cat

Cats are particularly active in the twilight – as perfectly equipped hunters with eyes that amplify residual light via a reflective layer (the so-called tapetum lucidum) and whiskers that they use to sense the scuttling of their small prey. Their prey, mice and other small rodents, insects & co. are also out and about in the “off-peak times” of the day, and so the biorhythm of the cat becomes particularly active when we humans end the day comfortably on the couch after a long day at work and finally want to go to bed. Ideally, we sleep through eight hours there so that we can start the next day refreshed and fit. So while we have a relatively long sleep interval ahead of us when it gets dark, our cats sleep a total of around 12 to 16 hours a day more than we do. However, they divide this into many shorter time units from which they always wake up, get up, hunt something if necessary, eat a small meal, and just do their “cat thing” before relaxing – maybe again in bed next to us – curl up and enjoy a power nap before the cycle starts all over again. So from the cat’s point of view, it is completely illogical (and incredibly boring) if we sleep for such a terribly long time at a time.

Why does the cat come to my bed at night?

It’s no wonder that she’s always looking for her own creative, sometimes loud, activity at night. As an indoor cat , she had probably waited for us all day before (after all, we worked) and the extensive play unit with us after coming home is “recharged” in her battery after a short time. She gets a certain compensation from the possibility of cuddling with us, or at least with us when we have been sleeping in bed idly for so long. She can maintain the social contact with us that is important to her. Shy velvet paws are also the least afraid during the night in front of us giants, because we not only look smaller under the covers but also do not (cannot) focus on the cat during sleep and thus become all the less threatening.

What happens if I exclude my cat?

If we close the bedroom door again, not only does the possibility of cuddling together disappear but the cat’s territory is reduced by another room – which can make up a not inconsiderable proportion of the total area for indoor cats. No, it’s even worse, because, as is well known, the most exciting things from a cat’s point of view always happen behind closed doors. This is an unwritten law and all the more tragic on the otherwise quiet night. What a fate of boredom your cat has to endure! Heart-rending meows and emphatic scratching at the door are all too understandable attempts at break-in to get to the bottom of this – legitimate – need.

Frustration and hunger

As if that weren’t enough, another frustration factor usually occurs in the early hours of the morning – hunger! In the best case, fed before going to bed, your cat will be hungry again after a few hours. Your body is “built” for many small meals and in our household, it is not uncommon for it to adapt to an unnaturally long break between two snacks – especially between the evening feeding and breakfast. Ten to twelve hours are not uncommon – four to six hours would be ideal for the hungry mini tiger. So boredom and the lack of a social partner are now accompanied by hunger, which will make your cat run out of nerves between 2:30 and 4:00 at the latest – and that’s all too understandable since our pets are dependent on our care. Too many pent-up needs – now great frustration is spreading.

Stress for the cat

So while we’re sound asleep in our bed or fretted by the disturbances of the feline terrorist, the cat is experiencing real stress. Bored, sometimes hungry, and hearing the human social partner behind a door unreachable… No wonder there are often arguments in a group of cats at night, especially when the house blessing there has already gotten a little lopsided.

How do I get the cat out of my bed?

If you decide that your cat should still spend the night without you, pay great attention to the best possible all-around care in the hours without you – which also applies to the times when you work or are otherwise away. Feeding games on activity boards, feeding parcours or licking mats satisfy hunger and provide activity and exercise. Additional automatic feeders can be programmed in such a way that there are no long periods of hunger. An intensive physical play unit shortly before going to bed allows your cat to finally go into the night relaxed. Against the feeling of being alone, your shirt worn during the day can give you some comfort with its “fresh” scent – in your cat’s favorite place at night. If your health is justifiable, an extensive cuddle in bed in the morning before getting up is a nice compensation and can be a wonderful ritual to start the day. A bedspread, which you pull over the bed beforehand and remove again in the evening, helps against hair in your bed.

What do you think?

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