Are Cats Nocturnal?

Picture of a cat at night for blog asking are cats nocturnal


Are Cats Truly Nocturnal?

Cats are mentioned as nocturnal so often that many people take it for granted that their tiny panther is a creature of the night. On top of that, some felines seem to confirm that, by waking you up at 3 AM, and demanding food, attention, or both.

And possibly nibbling on your toes or meowing loudly at you until they get what they want.

 But are cats really nocturnal? No, not exactly.


Wait, What Does ‘Really Nocturnal’ Even Mean?

 The animal is filled with creatures that do prefer the cover of darkness. As Hills Pet, points out animals such as owls and racoons, for example, hunt better at night. Diurnal animals – think squirrels, hawks, or humans – are active during the day. And cats, the mysterious and clever beings they are, take the best from both worlds: they’re crepuscular, and that means that they’re most active at dusk and dawn.


But What’s the Advantage of Being Crepuscular?

Think about hawks. They’re big enough to be a very real threat to cats, and their eyesight is great – during the day. However, they don’t see so well at dusk, and it’s much easier for cats and similar small predators to avoid them.

 In other words, cats can easily spot their prey – or predators who are after them – during the twilight hours, and can hide from those who see them as tasty. It is these times that the Paws organization says are the best for cats to hunt common prey animals such as small rodents and birds. 

And if your cat is demanding food at 5 or 6 AM, now you know why. It’s their normal hunting time.


So Why Is My Cat Active at Night?

All right, wild little kitties are most active at dusk and dawn, and your domesticated kitty can demand food very, very early in the morning, so why does your feline overlord insist on waking you up at 3 AM? Isn’t that too early?

Now that kind of behavior greatly depends on humans. Even though cats are often presented as solitary creatures (about as often as they’re presented as nocturnal), they’re actually social. Yes, they appreciate being left alone when they feel like being alone, but they also love company and social interactions when they’re in the mood for it. And if it’s just your kitty and you, and you happen to work all day and don’t really have much energy to play with your cat in the evening… Well, your feline darling was bored and sleeping all day, and a brief interaction with you in the evening is nowhere near enough.

Expect to be woken by a demanding cat who needs to be petted more, and is full of unspent energy.

Aren’t you delighted?

It's also important to remember that, as you well know, cats are very strong willed and individualistic companions. Both domestic and stray cats can alter their habits to be more or less nocturnal or diurnal, depending on their current lifestyle. This is good because it helps cats get in a rhythm with their human companions.


Great, So How Do I Convince My Cat to Sleep During the Night?

If your furry friend decides your stomach is the best spot from which to launch an attack on their stuffed banana toy in the middle of the night, you can change those habits.

One is to ignore that behavior, if you can. Some attention, even throwing your slipper at the cat, is a lot more rewarding and encouraging than no attention, so if you can ignore your cat’s meows and jumps for long enough, they might give up. Another thing would be to lock them up in a different room.

And if that doesn’t sound very nice (because it’s not a nice thing to do to the poor little kitty who needs you), you’ll be delighted to hear that there are more likable methods: feed your cat (and plenty!) just before bed and let her full belly put her to sleep, and play with her (a lot!) in the evening, therefore letting her spend the pent-up energy.

Your kitty will love you for it. And you’ll be able to sleep, possibly with a purring, adoring cat right next to you.