Does your kitty stay active at night and sleep all day? Alternatively, is it the other way around? Moreover, it makes you wonder, are cats nocturnal or diurnal?
Many people believe that cats are nocturnal for so many reasons. One of which is the fact that they are frequently seen roaming across the street at night.
Another reason why some people think felines are nocturnal creatures is that of their shiny eyes that seem to glow in the dark. Some people assume that felines have night vision that many nocturnal animals possess.
However, how true is this?
While some pet owners attest that their feline companions are most active at night, there are also those who say otherwise.
Some domesticated cats can be seen active during daytime as they enthusiastically play with their owners.
So, what's the truth about our feline friends? Are cats nocturnal or diurnal?
First, let’s try to understand what ‘nocturnal’ and ‘diurnal’ really mean?
The term ‘nocturnal' comes from the Latin word ‘nocturnalis' which means ‘nightly.'
Nocturnal creatures are those that mostly sleep during the day and become active when the sun goes down.
Typical examples of nocturnal animals include bats, owls, hedgehogs, aardvarks and foxes. Since they typically come out when it's dark outside, we rarely see them during the daytime.
Their senses have adapted to the dark to avoid predators that are lurking around in broad daylight. Other nocturnal predators such as the fox usually come out at night to hunt for prey.
On the other hand, the term ‘diurnal' comes from the Latin word ‘diurnalis' which means ‘daily.' So, diurnal creatures are those that are active in the daytime and sleep at night.
The human is the best example of diurnal creatures.
However, you'll be surprised to learn that the majority of mammalian species are nocturnal.
Only 20% of mammal species are diurnal which includes us, humans. Moreover, there are nearly 70% of our species that are nocturnal.
What about the remaining 10%?
The remaining portion of mammal species is split between crepuscular and cathemeral.
It is important to point out that biological clock doesn’t only involve nocturnal and diurnal activities. The activity levels of organisms are governed by the circadian rhythms which also include crepuscular and cathemeral.
Crepuscular animals are those that are active during twilight, particularly the periods of dawn and dusk. Examples of crepuscular mammals include jaguars, bobcats, rabbits, stray dogs, rats, mice, guinea pigs, moose, deer, possums, and bears.
Furthermore, many kinds of birds and insects are crepuscular.
Cathemeral refers to animals that have random or sporadic intervals during the day or night. These animals switch up their patterns of activity depending on the access to food, the risk of predation and temperature.
In general, some animals that are cathemeral include coyotes, wolverines, mountain goats and frogs.
Now that you know that nocturnal and diurnal are not the only pattern of circadian rhythm, we go back to our initial question.
Are cats nocturnal or diurnal? Alternatively, are they crepuscular or cathemeral?
Nope, we’re not trying to confuse you with more options. The truth is, cats are not considered nocturnal or diurnal.
Cats are considered as crepuscular animals as they tend to be more active around dawn and dusk.
Moreover, there's a good reason behind this.
Have you noticed that their favorite preys, rodents, and birds, are both crepuscular animals?
Animals have the fantastic ability to adapt themselves to certain conditions in which food is acquired. Moreover, felines are no exemption to that. Despite being known as creatures of habit, they can efficiently adjust their activity patterns for the sake of survival.
However, so much has changed since domestication.
Domestic kitties are now being raised in an environment where they don't have to hunt for their food. Instead, they try to live harmoniously with their owners by adapting to human's circadian rhythm.
With that being said, there's no definite answer when it comes to a cat's behavior.
Moreover, felines are unique in their ways. Some kitties may prefer to be active during the day while others choose to stay awake at night or dawn.
Cats Have Different Circadian Rhythms
Are cats nocturnal or diurnal? Alternatively, are they crepuscular animals?
Cats are believed to be the latter because twilight is the time when their prey is available. However, several factors such as domestication have modified their usual pattern of activity.
Surprisingly, cats are versatile animals that can adapt to any environment and situation. Domestic kitties can adjust to their owner's schedule too.
To put it just, different cats have different activity patterns depending on the accessibility of foods and the environment they're currently in.
Your particular kitty may either be nocturnal, diurnal or crepuscular.
However, why do cats have different circadian rhythm? Here are some essential details about feline's general activity patterns:
Before domestication, cats were initially wild desert animals that are required to hunt their food for survival.
Some wild cats such as lions, tigers, and lynx are known to be nocturnal hunters because their preys are much more vulnerable at night.
Additionally, feline eyes are efficiently adjustable for both high and low light levels. This means that their sense of vision is as sharp at night as it is during the daytime.
So, if you find your kitty trying to stay awake at night, there's only one explanation to that. The chances are good that your feline buddy is trying to act like a wildcat.
Don’t be alarmed by these instances. Even though they’re domesticated, their wild side will come out from time to time.
However, it becomes troublesome when they get used to being awake at night. They tend to seek your attention when they get bored. If they do that in the middle of the night, that's terrible news for you.
However, the good news is, their ‘nightly' behavior can be modified with your help.
Unlike household cats, feral cats are known to be pure nocturnal. The main reason why they hide during the day and come out at night is due to their hostility towards humans.
As much as possible, they will try to avoid getting in contact with humans. Moreover, the only chance they can hunt for food without being seen by humans is when everyone is asleep.
Feral cats roaming around the city in the dead of night gave people the notion that felines are generally nocturnal animals.
However, that's not always the case for all felines.
We started this article by asking the question, are cats nocturnal or diurnal? However, it turns out that feline behavior doesn't only fall under these two patterns.
The truth of the matter is, most felines are considered crepuscular that usually peak during twilight time. The dark ambiance of sundown and the first appearance of light in the sky before sunrise can entice any feline.
Moreover, birds and rodents usually come out during dusk and dawn making it a perfect opportunity to hunt for food.
Most crepuscular felines are stray cats and household kitties that are allowed to roam outdoors.
These types of kitties usually sleep late at night, wake up at dawn, then fall asleep again sometime during the day.
Domestic indoor cats
Surprisingly, felines can adjust their activity level to tailor their specific needs. Although felines are thought to be mostly crepuscular and nocturnal, many household cats can also adapt to become diurnal.
Staying awake during daytime allows them to have more interaction with their owners. As they slowly adjust to personal lifestyle, they also make a shift to their schedule.
Let's face it; nocturnal pets can be annoying at times especially if they keep you awake at night. Some crepuscular kitties can get up as early as 2 AM.
Moreover, this is NOT the time when you want to be disturbed from a deep sleep.
If you’re having problems with your pet’s circadian rhythm, don’t fret because there are ways to manage their activity patterns.
Getting a good night sleep while keeping an indoor feline pet is now possible as long as you learn the ropes.
When Are Cats Most Active?
Are cats nocturnal or diurnal?
One thing is for sure, their level of activity significantly determines their behaviors.
Cats love to sleep and snooze that some people depict them as the laziest pet in the household. They generally sleep 16 hours a day. Some older cats even sleep up to 20 hours a day.
Typically, felines are most active when it's time to hunt for their food. Moreover, they usually go back into snoozing after they've satisfied their hunger.
Felines have different levels of activity depending on their lifestyle. Household cats spend most of their time sleeping and snoozing because they don’t have to hunt for food anymore.
This habit has made domestic kitties lazier than their feral counterparts.
Unlike household kitties, feral and stray cats are required to hunt for their food on their own.
While domestic kitties only spend 3% of their day being active, feral cats have to pay 14% of their day hunting for food.
However, their activity and sleeping pattern may change from time to time. Habits can vary as a result of some factors that may influence their circadian rhythm.
The sudden shift in their sleeping patterns should be considered a serious concern. If your kitty suddenly becomes restless at night, try to find the reason why.
Although food is the most probable explanation, you also need to look for the potential existence of an illness.
Your furry friend might also be suffering from pain and distress caused by a disease that may disrupt its sleeping pattern.
Do Cats Have Night Vision?
Are cats nocturnal or diurnal?
Many people believe that felines are nocturnal animals because of their perception that these species have night vision.
That shiny pair of eyes that glows in the dark, the theory about a cat's night vision is indeed a mystery.
However, do cats have night vision just like most nocturnal animals?
The answer is ‘no.' Cats do not have night vision, and their eyes cannot work in total darkness. However, their eyes contain eight times more rod cells than human eyes.
That means that they can see eight times better in the dark than us humans.
However, why do their eyes glow in the dark?
Feline eyes have a layer in their retinas called tapetum lucidum. This layer acts as a biologic reflector that reflects visible light through the retina which explains the glowing eyes.
Furthermore, this layer provides light-sensitive cells that stimulate photon-photoreceptor to enhance visual sensitivity at low light levels.
Humans don’t have this layer in their retinas which makes their vision less efficient in the dark.
However, tapetum lucidum can only work when there is visible light. Without light, a feline’s eyes won’t be able to see anything.
How to Get Cats to Sleep at Night
Having a feline pet that is nocturnal or crepuscular could test your patience. It would be a bit frustrating if your feline pet keeps you up all night.
Is there a possible way to change the circadian rhythm of a nocturnal or a crepuscular pet?
Here’s the good news. There are several methods to get your kitty to sleep at night and stop it from disturbing your sleep.
Consider the following pointers to encourage your furry buddy to turn diurnal just like you:
Do not let your cat into your bedroom
Some pet owners prefer to make their kitties in their bedroom and even sleep with them. Moreover, that could only be possible with a diurnal pet.
For nocturnal kitties, giving them access into your bedroom may not be a good idea.
Unless you don’t mind them jumping on your head or pouncing on your feet while you’re sleeping.
If not, then do not leave your bedroom door open at night.
Leave the blinds or curtains open in the living room.
Why do nocturnal animals stay active at night? The answer is simple. They prefer to hunt prey when it’s dark outside.
Household kitties may not need to hunt for food anymore, but their hunting instincts will come out occasionally.
It may not necessarily mean they are hungry, but their desire to roam outside usually kicks in at night.
So, giving them just a glimpse of the outdoors can gratify their longing for ‘night hunting.' Leave the curtains open in the living room or any room that is accessible to your kitty where it can see outside.
However, make sure to lock the windows securely to prevent your kitty from escaping.
Do not feed your pet late at night
You need to instill into your pet’s mind that nighttime is the time to sleep and NOT the time to eat.
Most kitties persistently meow at night to ask for food. If you frequently give in to its demands, you're just encouraging it to wake you up for food every night.
You can avoid this by feeding a good-sized serving of its dinner right before you hit the bed. Late meal will keep your pet full throughout the night; hence it will stop from bothering you for food.
If your kitty still meows for food at night, ignore it. Doing so will gradually teach your pet that eating during nighttime is terrible.
Ignore your kitty when it cries out for attention at night
Food may not be the only reason why your feline pet may be bothering you at night. Another reason is that it wants to play with you.
Of course, nocturnal animals tend to be more active at night. Moreover, when they find you peacefully sleeping during those times, they won't have it.
Keeping them out of your bedroom is one way to stop them from disturbing your sleep. Expect them to yowl and cry right outside your bedroom door, but don’t fall for it.
Remember that you’re training your pet to sleep more at night. Stick to it no matter how they try to beg for your attention.
Play with your pet during the day
The only way to get them to sleep more at night is to keep them busy during the day.
Play with them during the day and let them enjoy the outdoors with your supervision.
If you need to leave the house during the day, don’t forget to leave your pet with enough toys. These can keep your furball entertained and occupied while inside the house.
Animals are just like us; they also sleep better at night when they're exhausted and tired. Now, here's the trick.
Play with your kitty (and make sure it’s a dynamic activity) for an hour before giving its dinner.
The exhaustion, together with a full tummy, is the perfect formula to get a good night sleep.
Are cats nocturnal or diurnal? Their wild ancestors are mostly nocturnal, but that doesn't mean that cats are the same.
Most domestic kitties are displaying crepuscular behaviors because their favorite preys are active at dawn and dusk.
However, lifestyle and environment can play significant roles in the shift of their circadian rhythm.
Fortunately, felines can quickly adapt to their environment and any given situations.
Nocturnal and crepuscular kitties still have a great chance of becoming diurnal. Remember all the pointers that we've given you, and you'll see your furry friend get more sleep at night.
Training your kitty to become diurnal will entail a lot of patience and determination on your part. Don’t expect your pet to succumb to your methods right away.
However, no matter the result is, never hit or yell at your kitty as a way of punishment. If you can't get your furball to sleep at night, the only thing that you can do is to ignore it.
Not getting enough sleep due to their constant meowing or persistent demands is part of taking care of a pet.
Moreover, remember, the success of your method is greatly influenced by your attitude and determination.
If you successfully managed your kitty's behavior, you'll be sure to have a harmonious relationship for years to come.