For some cat moms, it can seem like confining a cat is the only way to get a good night’s sleep. No matter how calm they are during the day, your kitty is a pro at making noise and keeping you up as soon as you try to get some well-deserved shut eye.
My cat meows at night when I go to bed, and sometimes it feels like the next day just can’t come quickly enough. But is it cruel to lock your cat in a room overnight? Is it more humane to let them roam free as they do during the day? Or can confinement help keep your pet safe while you’re not around to help?
In this article, I will try to answer these questions for you. I also uncover all the fundamental dos and don’ts of confining a cat to a room at night so that the experience is as pleasant for your kitty as possible. This way, maybe both of you will get a good night’s sleep for a change!
Is Confining a Cat to One Room at Night Cruel?
While it is not recommended to confine your cat to a room for long periods, the level of cruelty and distress your feline feels depends on their temperament and the type of room they are stuck in, among other factors. However, if the room is not properly prepared and the situation doesn’t require your kitty to be isolated, it is much kinder to allow your cat to roam free.
Locking up your kitty overnight can cause your cat a lot of unnecessary trauma, leading to harmful behaviors and potentially life-threatening consequences. A more thorough explanation of the dangers of leaving your cat alone overnight can be found below.
Innate Need for Freedom
Even when having the freedom to roam your house, some cats cry like a baby at night. Sometimes when my cat wants to sleep with me, she meows and scratches at my door for hours. She only stops when I eventually give in and let her inside. This vocalizing may become even worse if you decide to confine your kitty.
Cats value their freedom very highly, and so suddenly limiting your kitty to one room would probably cause them extreme distress. They’ll scratch at the door and yowl to let you know they’re trapped and need freeing. It’s likely your kitty will also try to escape if trapped for an extended period, which can cause damage to both your home and your cat.
A small room can be a very high-stress environment for your cat, especially when confined there for extended periods. Like it does with us, ongoing stress will negatively affect your kitty and result in a variety of problems.
Firstly, a high-stress environment can worsen existing health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, or infections. This will reduce your cat’s quality of life and may even reduce their life span if the disease can no longer be treated.
Being locked in a room can also cause your kitty to become withdrawn and depressed due to separation anxiety. Although cats often come across as aloof, long periods without their owners can cause severe anxiety. Some traumatized cat symptoms to look out for include:
- Cat suddenly pooping outside of the litter box
- Cat suddenly so aggressive
- Cat avoiding human contact
- Cat showing unexplained weight loss
- Cat suddenly peeing everywhere
- Cat sleeping all day and not eating
Lack of Resources
Like us, cats require access to certain things to feel safe and comfortable that wouldn’t all be found in one room unless it was prepared correctly. These things range from basic necessities, such as food, water, and a litter tray, to more entertainment-based items, such as toys or a cat tree.
Imagine if you were stuck in a room for hours on end with no source of nourishment, nothing to do, and nowhere to go to the toilet. It sounds like hell, doesn’t it? Well, this is precisely how your feline would feel l. It would be unnecessarily distressing for them to experience such conditions every night.
Even if you take every precaution to make your cat comfortable, they still shouldn’t be confined for long periods as their resources may run out. Releasing your feline from their confinement should be the first thing you do every day.
Are There Valid Reasons for Keeping a Cat in One Room at Night?
Although I’ve just gone through various reasons why you shouldn’t keep your cat in one room at night, there are some situations in which confinement can benefit your cat. However, you must set up the room properly, so your feline has everything they need.
Read on to discover some scenarios in which confinement may be necessary.
Recovering from Illnesses
Has your cat recently undergone surgery or been seriously ill? If so, keeping your cat in one room at night may help prevent any injury that will slow their recovery. A singular room will provide a limited amount of space where your kitty can move around and play, making it much more likely they’ll get the rest they need.
You may wonder if you can keep your cat in your room overnight to keep a closer eye on them. This is fine and may be more beneficial to your cat, as your presence will likely comfort them. However, consider how your cat’s presence might disturb your slumber before agreeing to this setup.
Protecting from Contagious Disease
If your kitty is currently suffering from a contagious disease, it’s probably best to contain them in one room while you wait for them to make a full recovery. Isolating your cat from the rest of the house can prevent any disease or infection from being passed along to other pets you may have at home.
Confinement can also make it much easier to find your cat when you need to take them to the vet. I’ve been late to multiple vet appointments because my kitty has decided to play hide and seek. Keeping them in one room limits the hiding places available.
Giving a Rehomed Cat Adjustment Time
When you adopt a cat, it will take them some time to adjust to their new home. While they’re going through this adjustment period, the best practice is to confine them to a quiet room that contains all of the resources they need.
Although your kitty’s new environment will cause them some stress, being kept in a small room will not add to this discomfort. In fact, the room you keep them in will prevent any other pets you may have from overwhelming your cat, and it will soon become your feline’s safe zone when exploring the rest of the house.
Senior Cats or Young Kittens
Temporarily confining your cat at night can also be beneficial, depending on age. As your cat ages, they will become disoriented more often and may suffer from mobility issues. Keeping your feline in one space will limit the roaming they can do and reduce their chances of getting hurt. If you provide everything your older kitty needs, the room may even give your cat a sense of security.
And what about the other end of the spectrum? Where should kittens sleep at night? Limiting a young cat’s roaming when unsupervised is vital in ensuring their safety. Kittens can get into trouble if you’re not there to stop them! They may injure themselves, chew on cables, or damage furniture. Keeping your kitty confined to one room can therefore be helpful to you and your pet.
Leaving Your Cat Home Alone
Sometimes, pet parents must be away from home overnight, and keeping our cats confined to one room can improve our peace of mind. If your kitty can’t access most of the house, there are less likely to be any damages when you get home. It also means that outdoor cats can’t bring in any “gifts” for you and leave them in unwanted places.
If you know you’re going to be away from home and you’re planning to confine your feline, train your kitty so that they become used to the idea. This will limit the anxiety and boredom they will feel by being locked in a small space.
How to Confine Your Cat to a Room at Night?
If you need to confine your cat at night, ensure you do it correctly to limit the stress they’ll experience. Ideally, you should only isolate your kitty for 8-10 hours, but at most, confinement should last 24 hours. Hopefully, this will prevent harmful behaviors and health problems arising from isolation.
Some of the most important dos and don’ts are as follows:
1. DO provide your cat with the resources they need
When setting up the room your kitty will be kept in, provide any resources you think they may need during the night. The most important are fresh food and water, a clean litter box, and a comfy place to sleep. Throwing in a different toy each night and setting up a cat tree will also help provide a stimulating environment for your kitty while they can’t roam the house.
Giving your cat access to these basic needs will help reduce any boredom or distress caused by the isolation and may help your feline feel safer. In general, it will make their confinement a much more pleasant experience.
2. DO monitor the temperature of the room
As the weather changes throughout the year, the temperature of your kitty’s room will fluctuate. Therefore, ensuring the room doesn’t become too hot or too cold is essential in ensuring your feline’s comfort. Ideally, the temperature should be kept between 75 and 78°F at all times.
If your home has a good ventilation system, then this likely won’t be a problem for you as air will be able to move around the house. However, having air conditioning on during the summer or a heater on during the winter is a good idea as a general rule of thumb.
3. DO use a pheromone diffuser
When cats feel overly stressed, pheromones can help reduce their anxiety by mimicking the pheromones felines produce. It should also stop any unwanted spraying behavior. One of the most effective ways of distributing pheromones is using a diffuser. This should be plugged in at least a day before your cat is confined to give enough time for the scent to spread.
If you can’t afford a pheromone diffuser or need a quick solution before one arrives, you can also use your scent to calm your kitty. Even placing some used clothing in the same room can reduce your feline’s anxiety. However, be aware that this only works if your cat has lived with you for a while and finds your smell comforting.
4. DO keep an eye on your cat
Even when kept in one room, cats can cause a lot of mischief! Keeping an eye on your pet overnight can help your peace of mind. The easiest way of doing this would be to have your cat sleep in the same room as you. Then your kitty would likely be comforted by your presence, and you would soon wake up if anything were amiss.
Another option is to install a pet camera in whatever room you’re going to keep your cat in. This way, you can check on your feline friend from the comfort of your bed. Some cameras also let you speak to your cat or remotely administer treats to them via an app.
5. DON’T confine your cat with no warning
Before confining your kitty to one room for a whole night, get them used to being in the room and slowly build up the amount of time they’re locked inside. Start by setting up the room during the day and letting your cat explore. Then, slowly start feeding and playing with your kitty in the room. They will soon begin to spend more time there voluntarily.
Once you’re sure your feline is comfortable with the room, try locking them in for increasing periods. You should start at just a few seconds and slowly work up to a whole night’s confinement. The most important thing is to ensure your kitty feels comfortable at every stage, so they don’t start associating the room with a negative experience.
6. DON’T lock them in as a form of punishment
You should only lock your cat in a room when they are already calm and settled. Suppose you confine your cat as a way of punishing unwanted behaviors. In that case, they will start associating the room with trauma and therefore feel extreme stress and anxiety whenever they go inside.
7. DON’T leave the windows open
Your cat can probably give most magicians a run for their money when it comes to escaping from impossible places. To reduce the chances of a midnight stroll, it’s important to close windows and block off any other potential escape routes when shutting your furry friend in for the night. This should also limit the chances of your cat missing for 24 hours or more due to roaming too far after an escape.
Over the first few nights of confinement, this is especially important, as this is when your kitty is most likely to try for an escape. Remember that cats can see in the dark, so any means of escape will still be visible to your feline at night, even if it isn’t for you.
8. DON’T keep your cat in an unsafe room
Finally, you should never lock your cat in a room that could be unsafe for them. For example, locking a cat in the bathroom at night could prove dangerous if you leave a medicine cabinet unlocked and they manage to get inside.
To fully cat-proof your room, move any objects that could be pushed off surfaces, remove or lock away any harmful substances, and put away any sharp objects (e.g., knives). The last thing you want is for your feline to seriously injure themselves.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
So, is confining a cat to a room at night a good idea? In the right situation and under the right conditions, the answer to this question is yes! Nighttime confinement can actually be beneficial for your cat, such as when they’re recovering from an illness or need to adjust to a new home.
Confining your feline the correct way should also limit behaviors that can result from stress. For example, it may stop your cat from peeing on clothes because of high anxiety levels. Spraying and excessive scratching at the door can also be put to bed – pardon the pun!
The problems arise when you repeatedly confine your cat in a room with no resources for an extended period. This is traumatizing for your kitty and can lead to harmful behaviors. If in doubt, it is probably best to let your furry friend roam free as this is the state in which they are happiest.