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All cat owners have experienced these situations: a cat that is meowing at 6:00 a.m., or starts to get restless at nightfall.
We can then ask ourselves the question: are cats creatures of the night, like bats? In other words, are cats nocturnal?
Well, not quite.
Cats are not nocturnal creatures. Cats are crepuscular, meaning that the periods when they are most active are dusk and dawn.
Let’s now take a closer look at why cats are so active when it’s dark outside and why for us humans this is a sign that we will soon have to go to bed…
The Cat’s Sleep Cycle
The cat spends about 16 hours a day sleeping, which constitutes on average two thirds of its time!
Although it is often described as a nocturnal animal, this definition is not accurate since the cat actually has a “polyphasic” lifestyle, meaning that it alternates between sleeping and waking phases throughout the day.
One study has even shown that 65% of domestic cats will often change their circadian rhythm to match that of their owners and become active when they are at home. This is proof of the cat’s great adaptability to its environment.
Nevertheless, it presents peaks of activity corresponding to the most favourable moments for hunting small animals in the wild, at dusk and dawn.
Sleep is essential for cats and especially for kittens, because it is during this period that their body produces growth hormones.
If the kitten can sleep many hours in a row, the adult cat will sleep for 13 to 16 hours in several times a day, interspersed with periods of activity such as playing, going out and eating meals.
Why Are Cats So Active at Night?
In other words, after so many hours of sleep, the cat is in great shape at nightfall!
These are behaviors that allow him to satisfy certain natural needs such as hunting or mating.
The Cat’s Ancestors Lived at Night
The cat’s ancestors were desert creatures and it was probably easier for them to become active when the heat of the sun faded.
Need we remind you that cats are great hunters? Since their prey, like rodents, starts to go out at night, this is a particularly good time for hunting.
In addition, cats have no difficulty finding themselves in the dark thanks to their high-performance binocular vision, which helps them to easily grasp their prey.
Their night vision is also excellent to detect horizontal movements especially. Take the test at home! Move a toy from left to right and watch your cat follow it with ease. Do the same test, but move the object up and down and you will see your cat lose sight of the object fairly quickly.
In the dark, their eyes continue to reflect light, which is why they seem to glow even when it is very dark.
In addition to his hunting activities, the cat also prefers to mate at night. During this time, the cat is calm and is not disturbed by the surrounding noise.
Felines also prefer to mate away from prying eyes and do not like to be observed.
Be careful, even if your cat likes to go for walks at night, he should not be installed outside at the end of the day. He might not be able to stand wind, snow or rain.
It is preferable to create a cat flap on the front door so that he can enter and leave when he wants to.
The Night Agitation of the Cat
Lack of daily activity can result in night-time bustle very quickly becoming a nuisance. For example, cats bite or scratch their master’s hands in bed, come to play with their toes and pretend to attack the feet at the slightest movement of sleeping people.
Other cats become real wonders in the art of making noise: scratching at doors, meowing at the top of their lungs, dropping objects, scratching themselves on noisy substrates.
Why do they do it? To make us react of course!
Indeed, owners are the only sources of action and interest for a cat who stays alone all day long in an apartment or a house where nothing happens.
And the least of the owners’ reactions (a slipper that flies, a reprimand, the person who gets up to chase the cat in the apartment, or better: a food distribution! etc.) is a source of activity and occupation.
Whether the person reacts pleasantly or unpleasantly, there is something going on in the apartment, and that is the main thing.
The cat adopts this behavior at undue hours that are generally related to sunrise or sunset (always in line with the cat’s natural rhythm): around 4-5 A.M. in the summer, around 6-7 A.M. in the winter.
And the cat is tenacious: the merry-go-round can last several hours, until physical and moral exhaustion.
Do Cats Usually Sleep at Night?
While household cats typically sleep between 16 and 20 hours a day, their nighttime sleep is generally not constant.
This often means that they may experience alternating episodes of sleep and wakefulness during the night.
This night schedule, however, is not permanent for all domestic cats.
For instance, cats often go to bed with their human around 10:30 P.M. and remain in the same location on the bed until about 4 or 5 A.M.
This is a typical scenario for cat parents. The cat spends the whole day sleeping and then seems to take in an extra reservoir of energy in the late evening, when he begins to run on your pieces of furniture, in the lobby, or even on your feet while you’re in bed!
Most kitty owners would like to find out how to have their cat sleep at night, because a kitten banging on the walls for several hours and then yowling for extra attention or food at 2 A.M. is not the manner in which the majority of us would like to pass our sleeping hours!
How Do I Get my Cat to Let Me Sleep at Night?
Keep the Cat Busy During the Day
For example, you can offer your cat a playmate, especially when he is still small or young.
This is almost a guarantee of peace and quiet (unless the two cats are chasing each other around the house and it wakes you up…).
Other solutions are to make the house more interactive during the day, by setting up games that are fun to play on their own.
For example, a home-made mobile placed in the axis of a half-open window or a draught so that it moves by itself (it can be a feather at the end of a string).
You can also put ping pong balls in a bowl, so that as soon as the cat touches them, they will continue to move for a while.
Hiding kibbles in different places in the house also stimulates the cat in its search for food.
In any case, it is necessary to use your cat’s imagination and think about renewing the systems often to keep them attractive and effective.
Nothing has yet proven the usefulness of leaving the TV or radio on, but it is certain that this is not an activity in itself for the cat.
In any case, it is advisable to play with the cat as much as possible during periods of presence. Several times 10 to 15 minutes spread out in the morning or in the evening.
Ignore your Cat at Night
At the same time, so that the cat is not rewarded in its nocturnal behavior, you will never respond to its restlessness (and especially not once in a while, this would mean for the cat that he must redouble his efforts to obtain satisfaction).
That means among other things that you must not get up, must not speak to the cat, and not look at him. You must not move even an inch!
To obtain the extinction of the annoying behavior, it is necessary to hold on for at least 10 to 15 days.
The agitation will intensify during a time, then normally abruptly stop if you hold on.
Chase your Cat Out of the Bedroom
If your cat sleeps in your room at night, it’s time to change your habits.
Initially he will give you a hard time. It is likely that he will start meowing and scratching at the door.
It is important to resist his demands and you will need patience.
If you have the possibility, lock your cat in another room with his bed, toys and litter box.
You can also try remote correction. When your cat starts meowing, spray him with a water spray.
Another option is to activate a sound device, such as a vacuum cleaner, with a remote switch. Your cat will be surprised and will run away.
The only important thing is that he must not be aware that you are the source of the device.
Establish a Bedtime Routine
Cats are animals that love their little habits and rituals. Setting up a fixed, scheduled sequence of activities before bedtime can help signal to your little companion that it’s time to calm down.
For example, as blogger Andee Bingham tells us, every night after she grooms, she offers her cats a treat.
Nowadays, as soon as she goes into the bathroom and starts brushing her teeth, cats wait for the treat, which is the signal that the night is beginning for their mistress.
The treat is not mandatory: it could be a sentence always said in the same pleasant tone, or a cuddle in bed.
Feed Kitty Before Bedtime
Have you ever wanted to take a nap after a big meal? This also exists in our four-legged friends whose digestion requires a lot of energy!
The evening meal can also be considered as a treat or a reward to ritualize bedtime.
I tried this trick at home, after more than a year of waking up more and more early in the morning because of my cat.
She used to have her box in the morning as soon as I woke up. Result? She came to harass me earlier and earlier in bed!
Then one day, I decided to give her her box in the evening. Now, she harasses me from 6 P.M., but I can sleep in again in the morning!
The Secret Weapon Against Nocturnal Cat Meowing
The little extra trick is the Eyenimal Miaow Control torch that emits ultrasounds that are inaudible to us, but unpleasant (and safe) for kitty.
The ultrasounds are accompanied by a flashing light for added deterrence.
As a last resort, this gadget will help you find peace and a restful sleep.
Are Cats Nocturnal? The Final Word
And you, what are the little tricks you’ve found to make sure that kitty stays nice and cuddly during the night? I can’t wait to hear them!