We write a lot about the zoomies in cats here at Love of Paws, and that’s because it’s one of the most troubling aspects of cat ownership. Not getting enough sleep, or a disrupted sleep as a result of your cat going crazy all night can really turn a loving cat parent into a demonic, ruthless king of the household. And we’ve all been there, it’s normal. Sleep deprivation can drive someone nuts.
Now, when a human is unable to fall asleep at night, we turn to natural remedies first. Counting sheep seems easy, but sometimes it doesn’t cut it. That’s when we turn to something like melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone, to help us sleep. But what about cats? Can I give my cat melatonin to get them to sleep?
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a natural chemical that our brains produce to help with sleep. Since it’s natural, it’s generally considered safe, at least in small doses and with occasional usage. In your cat's body it works the same. Melatonin is secreted from the pineal gland to help promote sleep when it gets dark and manage stress levels.
Is Melatonin Safe For Cats?
Melatonin is a natural chemical produced in your cats brain, so of course it’s safe to administer to them, at least on occasion. Be careful to ensure that you are using melatonin for cats, as some human melatonin may contain additional supplements not recommended for cats, or have higher doses that can be alarming in smaller animals such as cats.
Benefits of Melatonin in Cats
Outside of calming them down on particularly active nights, melatonin is a great way to help regulate their sleep schedules. Yes, cats sleep most of their lives and probably don't need a sleep aid, but there’s lots of times this sleep gets disrupted and melatonin can be an effective way to get their sleep patterns back in place.
Cat owners rejoice, ,melatonin is also known to help calm cats down! If your cat is facing more stressful situations, melatonin can be a great way keep your cat calm and soothe them so they can obtain the maximum benefits of a good sleep.
Melatonin for cats has also been shown to aid in treatment of epilepsy, hair loss, digestive issues, regulating sleep patterns, and even may help to suppress heat cycles in females.
Side Effects of Melatonin in Cats
Let’s start with this, don’t give melatonin to kittens - we know they probably need it most, but it’s too early for them to be introduced to melatonin. Wait for them to be at least one year old before considering melatonin.
Some common side effects from melatonin include itchiness, stomach issues, constant drowsiness, and appetite changes. As with most things, be sure to carefully monitor your cat, as you know them best.
Administering Cats Melatonin
Like most things, cats are going to give you a hard time if you try to give them something. Melatonin is commonly available in pill form as well as liquid, but for cats we always recommend liquid, as it’s very hard to get them to eat something they aren’t familiar with.
With liquid form, you need to be sure to use the syringe provided and continue administering the same dosage when needed. This will allow them to adjust to the amount of melatonin ingested and better regulate their intake so there are no unforeseen outcomes.
How Much Melatonin Should I Give My Cat?
I’m sure you could guess this, but a proper melatonin dosage depends on a lot of factors. For one, the strength of the melatonin being administered could differ based on products and brands. The age and health of your cat will also be important factors to consider, but the most important will be your cats weight.
In general, a cat should be receiving between 1 and 5 mg of melatonin. You can give it up to 3 times a day, but we strongly would recommend using it occasionally and not frequently. It’s also best to start with a smaller amount and work your way up to a higher dosage if the smaller amount doesn’t have the desired effect.
How Long Does Melatonin Take To Kick In With Cats?
We would recommend administering the melatonin around 30 minutes before sleep, as melatonin will generally take between 30 minutes to one hour for the effects to kick in. 30 minutes before bed is also a great time to feed your cats, so it times out perfectly.
Alternatives to Melatonin
While melatonin supplements a great short term solution to cats running around all night, it’s not great for repeated and long term usage and should be avoided if being used with other medications. This means you need a few more tools in your arsenal to deal with their nighttime restlessness.
We recommend helping your cats to sleep by keeping them active in the daytime. Ensure they have a cat tree and toys to stay active, and if you can afford it, an exercise wheel is a great way to really drain their energy. Another great way to ensure your cat stays busy is to get them a feline friend, which can also help with separation anxiety, another common cause of sleep cycle disorders in cats.
If your cat is scratching your door all night, meowing, or just running around causing mayhem in your house, melatonin is a safe and secure way to ensure they calm down and get some sleep. Don’t get them too adjusted to it though, as it can disrupt their sleep schedule and has some relatively bad side effects. Overall, melatonin is a safe solution to use with your cats on occasion, but should not be considered as a daily medication.