My cat is keeping me up at night. How can I train her to let me sleep?
Feline behaviorist Pam Johnson-Bennett says:
Reset her internal clock. In the wild, cats hunt between dusk and dawn because that's when prey comes out. Even though your indoor cat doesn't have to depend on hunting mice, her body starts gearing up for the activity. She waits as long as she can through the night, but then she can't stand it any longer and goes to the only source of activity she knows: you.
Training is easy because you'll be following what is natural to a cat's internal clock: hunt, feast and sleep. Here's how it works: Right before you go to bed, engage in an interactive play session, using a fishing-pole toy. Make the game as true to a hunt as possible. Let her have plenty of captures, let her stalk and pounce. Don't just make it a cardiovascular road race; move the toy as much like prey as possible. That not only allows your cat to have physical activity, it provides mental satisfaction as well. After about 15 or 20 minutes, gradually wind the game down. Think of a cool-down after an exercise. The "mouse" should begin to die. This will help relax your cat, and she'll feel like the mighty hunter. When the game ends, feed your cat. If you normally feed her on a schedule, say, twice a day, divide her food into three portions so that you can offer the last ration right before bed. If you leave food out all of the time, take it up early in the evening and then replace it right before bed. The hunt and then the feast. Your cat will be more likely to then sleep through the night.
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