If you’ve ever lived with a kitten, the expression “Midnight Kitten Zoomies” probably needs no explanation! Our feline friends are by nature nocturnal, and since kittens have boundless bucketfuls of youthful energy, nighttime is playtime for our kitten friends. For the humans sharing the household – and sleeping spaces – with one or more party-all-night-long kitten rockstars, getting a good night’s sleep can be quite a challenge the first year. A kitten without another kitten to play with often will add a Midnight Meow Mix soundtrack to the festivities too, trying to entice you (and your neighbors) to join the party in the living room… or on top of your head! Good news: it doesn’t have to be that way if you’re prepared and educated about how to channel the after-hours fun. Having fostered hundreds of kittens and helped hundreds of adopters handle the Midnight Kitten Zoomies, I’ve learned a few helpful tips that I’ve shared below. Ready? 3-2-1… Go!
1. I Could Dance All Night
Adult cats sleep 13 to 18 hours a day, say scientific studies (and many cat owners might say that’s a conservative range). But kittens, just like human kids, make the most of their awake time. Especially if you work during the day, and since it is often warmer during the day, kittens will naturally spend that time sleeping. So the first step in adjusting their sleeping times to yours is to try to keep them active and awake as much as possible during the day.
Figure out the day time times when your kitten is awake and moderately active, and try to turn those times into super active play sessions for as long as she will play, or until one of you is worn out! You can also try waking up kittens and encouraging them to play in the day. You will have to be CONSISTENT and PERSISTENT to reset their internal clock. It usually takes about 2 weeks of these new playtimes (at the same times every day) to become a routine.
If you can’t get your kitten playing during the day (say you work long hours), as soon as the sun goes down or you get home from work, try then. You may need start with your super marathon play sessions being just before you go to bed and first thing when you get up, and gradually make the night one earlier and earlier, until you have enough time to add in another one just before bed. Stop playing about 20 minutes before you actually go to bed, to let your kitten to wind down.
Interactive toys that are great for these play sessions are toys on the end of string on a pole, balls you throw, a laser toy (if you have stairs, run them up and down the stairs chasing the laser!), and wind up toys. Interactive = you are making the toy move, not just the cat.
2. Party of Two
Possibly the easiest fix to being able to sleep undisturbed through the Midnight Kitten Zoomies is adopt two same age and similar energy-level kittens and, if possible, shut them out of your bedroom when you want to sleep. Make sure you’ve totally kitten proofed your home, including all cords & wires in chew proof covers or unplugged, and anything they can knock over or off of shelves put away or attached to shelves/floors with adhesive, just like you’d do for an earthquake.
3. Party In a Box
Bucketfuls of energy need bucketfuls of toys! Have a toy box of quiet kitten toys that only gets put out right before you go to bed. Try soft fabric cat toys that glow in the dark, small kitten-proof stuffed animals (no small parts they can chew off), a wall-mounted Cat Dancer toy attached to the farthest wall, and hidey toys-in-hole-punched wooden or fabric boxes. If you can, get enough supplies so you can rotate toys so there are different ones out each night of the week. That way kittens will see the toys as “new” each night, and new is always more fun!
My favorite night time toy is a carboard box fort. My foster kittens quickly learned that right after I brushed my teeth, the fort was going to come out! Each night they would line up in front of the closet with the fort inside, waiting for me to take it out. Kittens are smart! I would put it in a new location each night (new location = new excitement), and you can cut new holes and doors out of it and turn it on its side or its top, or drape it with a pillow case to add a tent to the fort. Each time you change it, you make it new and super fun again.
But what if…
What if you’ve tried all the above including the daytime play sessions for two weeks, you can’t get your kitten a playmate, and/or you live in a studio apartment so earplugs won’t work as your kitten’s Midnight Zoomies include routing the race track across your face? Get a squirt bottle filled with water that makes a mist (not a stream so you don’t soak your bed or your kitten), or a can of compressed air like is used to clean computer keyboards, and lie in wait. When your kitten leaps on the bed, be ready with the sprayer or can in hand, to give a blast in their direction. Like I said, kittens are generally pretty smart, and will avoid that “scary” wet/hissing part of the racetrack after a few blasts. You can use this technique if they are meowing outside your bedroom door, or throwing themselves against the door too…. quickly open the door, give a blast, and shut it. But please be fair, and only use this technique after you’ve tried all the above steps in #s three and one above too.
(We would be remiss if we didn’t link to the most popular cat video on YouTube ever, Simon, with his version of the Midnight Kitten Pounce-ies.)
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