It's nighttime and you're snuggled into bed when WHAM! Your cat jumps onto you, attacking your feet, bumping your head with theirs, and batting your face with their paws (and claws).
Why? They were just sleeping on the bathroom mat and suddenly, not only are they full of energy, but they decided to attack right when you are winding down. There are a few reasons that your cat might decide that now is the perfect time practice their attack skills on you.
In the wild, cats are mostly nocturnal hunters, hunting rodents and other prey at night. Even if they have no prey, your cat is still training. We're sure you've witnessed your cat knock things off your table tops, run sideways and pounce on absolutely nothing, right? Some call it the midnight crazies, but in fact, it's nighttime training. Especially if your cat is left alone most of the day, they will be brimming with energy at night and ready to hunt for anything that might move...including you.
You might be drifting off to sleep, but that doesn't mean you aren't moving. If your foot twitches under the covers, you shift in bed, or your eyes move during your REM sleep cycle, your cat will see this movement as disconnected from you (especially when hidden under the covers). And any small movement to a cat is instinctually a movement of prey. It could also seem like a fun game to them, Either way, since your cat is already in nocturnal night mode, they are ready to attack, and you might, unfortunately, be on the receiving end of that attack.
If your cat is left on their own all day, they might assume that the only time the two of you can be together is at night. So they will sleep all day in order to be ready to play with you all night. If you cannot be home during the day to help your cat burn off some energy, try to take an hour before bed to play with your cat and give them a snack. This will help your cat get a little worn out and sleepy so that when you tuck yourself in, they will also be tired.
Especially if you are not giving your cat attention frequently during the day, your cat might be batting at you for you to pay attention. This is noticeable when they jump on your lap when you are on the phone or working on the computer. Your cat sees you at home but focusing on anything but them and they plan to change that. Just make sure you're careful not to reward this behavior. If your cat feels that they can get attention by waking you up, they will continue to do so.
Controlling your actions
If you cat knows that they can control your actions by attacking you when you get into bed, they will continue. For example, many people will get up and feed their cat in order to get them to stop jumping on them, or will snuggle their cat to calm them down. In that moment, your cat has learned at this time, when you are sleepy and in bed, you will do exactly what they want. As difficult as it is, this is why it is so important to ignore them, or keep them out of your bedroom if this becomes a habit.
Sometimes, aggression can be a sign of pain in cats, signifying arthritis, dental pain, or other diseases. This is especially true if their nighttime attacking is a new behavior. When cats are in pain or anxious, they instinctively try to protect themselves, which can result in your cat being actively aggressive. If this behavior is new or is accompanied by other symptoms, be sure to check in with your veterinarian to make sure that your cat is healthy.