A cat stalking its prey at night. Are cats nocturnal?

Are Cats Nocturnal?

Cat owners can attest that their pets aren’t typically active during the day. Felines average around 15 hours of shut-eye each day, most of it occurring during the daylight hours. Your cat’s probably not bored stiff or suffering from narcolepsy. More likely, they’re just acting in accordance with their natural instincts. Dozing during the day and causing a ruckus at night is perfectly normal behavior for wild cats and domestic pets alike.

Are Cats Nocturnal?

No. While cats may seem to have a total disregard for traditional sleep schedules, that doesn’t mean they’re nocturnal. Nocturnal animals like bats and owls sleep during the day and are active during the night. Diurnal creatures – like humans – do the opposite. Cats fit into a third group. They’re crepuscular, meaning they’re most active at dawn and dusk. Wild dogs are crepuscular hunters too, so are foxes, deer, bears, and countless birds and insects.

Why Are Cats Crepuscular?

Though generation upon generation of breeding has made domestic cats quite different than their untamed ancestors, pets still retain many of their natural instincts. In the wild, cats are accustomed to resting during the day and hunting at dawn and dusk. It’s also during these cooler, darker hours that their usual prey is most active. Wild cats can expect to find plenty of rodents and other small animals out and about during their preferred hunting hours. Your cat doesn’t need to hunt and scavenge for sustenance, but old habits die hard.

Managing Nighttime Activity

Your cat’s crepuscular activity can take a toll on your own sleep. Frenetic random activity periods (colloquially known as “zoomies”) often prove especially irksome for sleepy cat owners. Manage your cat’s nighttime activity with these tips.

Do: Provide Exercise and Stimulation

You can’t eliminate your cat’s natural tendency to hunt and play during low-light hours, but you can help them get rid of excess energy by playing with them throughout the day. If you won’t be around to offer in-person stimulation because of work or other obligations, consider purchasing some toys that’ll keep cats mentally and physically engaged in your absence.

Don’t: Reward Bad Behavior

Plenty of cat owners inadvertently reinforce their pets’ bad behavior by offering too much attention. Chasing a cat throughout the house or offering treats to calm them may teach them that bad behavior gets your attention. In the future, these lessons may inspire them to continue vocalizing or running around the house at inappropriate hours.

Do: Adjust Your Cat’s Surroundings

Even if you can’t keep cats quiet and sedate during the night, you can take precautions to help keep them safe during their nighttime adventures. Look around for potential hazards like rugs or clutter that could cause your cat to injure themselves while running, jumping, and climbing throughout the house.

Don’t: Scold or Punish

Shouting at your pet or offering other forms of negative reinforcement won’t discourage unwanted behaviors. It’s more likely to do just the opposite, inspiring cats to disrupt your peace and quiet with even more gusto.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much?

A sleepy cat isn’t typically cause for concern. Sudden changes in sleep patterns, however, may indicate an underlying health condition that requires your vet’s care. Give them a call if your cat has unexpectedly become sleepier or more restless, especially if this coincides with other behavioral changes.