Are Cats Nocturnal? Here’s What You Need To Know

Getting a new cat, especially your first one, can be an exciting experience. If you’re not very familiar with the animals, however, then you might be surprised at how much effort it takes to look after them.

While cats can often need little care, they might need somewhat more than you might have thought. We’ve noticed that their sleeping habits drive much of this. We’ve all been jealous of our pet’s ability to sleep most of the day and for much of the night.

If you’re like us, then there’s a large chance that your cat has a seemingly endless supply of energy when we’re trying to sleep. While this may not be a problem if your pet is running around the neighborhood during the night, it can be if they’re in the house.

Cats love to have our attention, which means that they’ll look for it constantly, even when we’re trying to drift off. Much of this is seen through scratching on the bedroom door, running around the house, meowing, and much more.

Each of these can become quite irritating, especially if we haven’t gotten much sleep. This has led to many people wondering if cats are nocturnal and if there’s anything that can be done to get them to sleep more at night.

But, are cats nocturnal? Or do they show more crepuscular behavior? Before we answer, it’s best to look at what the differences between these are.

Difference Between Nocturnal & Diurnal

Many of us would have heard the word ‘nocturnal’ before and know that it refers to something that prefers nighttime activity. The opposite of this would be diurnal, which is used for species and animals that prefer daytime activity, such as most people.

What many people may not be aware of is that there’s a third category known as crepuscular animals. This refers to species that are more active during the dawn and dusk hours. There are a considerable number of species which behave this way, such as rabbits and even lions, among others.

This will naturally lead many people to ask are cats crepuscular creatures? The answer to this is slightly more complicated than you might expect, as it’s more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Put simply, many non-house cats are nocturnal, while the majority of house cats are crepuscular.

Many pet owners will see this for themselves, as they’ll see their furry friends moving around during the day while also doing so at night. As a result, it should be said that cats aren’t truly nocturnal creatures, they are falling into the crepuscular category, which puts them in the same position as many of their larger feline counterparts.

Truly nocturnal animals do all of their work during the night, while diurnal creatures will do this during the day. Crepuscular ones, on the other hand, take advantage of the dusk and dawn hours to capitalize on what they see as the best of both worlds.

So, are cats nocturnal creatures? Slightly, although to varying degrees depending on their breed.

Why Are They Crepuscular?

crepuscular cat

While many people may not have expected this answer when they asked are cat nocturnal, it is something that should be looked at further. This is because the category can often make the animal more interesting. Knowing why cats are crepuscular can also help many pet owners figure out what they can do to get their furry friend calm down during the night.

Evolution played a significant role in making cats crepuscular, with their eyes being an obvious example of the results. Many experts believe that animals who fall into this category operate at dusk and dawn because it offers the optimal amount of light for them.

There are a few reasons why this is the case, with the first being that birds and eagles have less vision during these hours. For felines, however, there’s still a large amount of visibility on the ground, which is helped through their eyes evolving for centuries.

As a result, it offers decreased odds of being caught or eaten by an eagle or other bird while allowing many of these felines to hunt efficiently. Wild cats and other felines, such as lions, need to hunt for their prey and have done for much of history. This has meant that they’ve adapted extensively to these hours to do so.

While house cats shouldn’t need to hunt for food, they’ll still have an instinct to do so anyway. This is why many pet owners may have been surprised by a cat dropping off a dead mouse or another animal. The instinct to hunt may not be overcome, although they may not do so often.

The majority of domesticated cats are related to the African Wildcat, which is believed to be one of the first domesticated pets in the world. These types of cats were known to be somewhat nocturnal or crepuscular, with this gene being passed on to the breeds and species that we see today.

This doesn’t mean that cats don’t have any nocturnal qualities. As they’ll sleep at almost any point, the animals are known to be somewhat active during the day and night, although they lean heavily toward nighttime activity.

Being active much more during the night has meant that a cat’s eyes have adapted to take advantage of this. As a result of this, many people may have noticed that their eyes have something of shine or shimmer when caught in the moonlight.

There’s an easy explanation for this, as cat’s eyes have an extra layer of tissue under their retina. In the night, this helps to reflect the moonlight, which can then help them see much better than other creatures.

This is a trait that’s primarily seen in nocturnal animals, although it can be seen in some crepuscular creatures too.

How Much Do Cats Sleep?

Many people will ask ‘do kittens sleep through the night,’ especially if they’ve just gotten the pet. The answer to this can depend on the age of the kitten itself, although we’ve noticed that the vast majority shouldn’t sleep for the whole night through.

Instead, they’ll sleep for most of the night while regularly waking to move around. Much of this is driven by how much sleep they need in their first few weeks, although you should start noticing that they’ll get less of this as they get older.

Similar to their fully-grown counterparts, kittens don’t sleep continuously during either the day or night. Over time, this will eventually balance out so that they’re getting the average amount of sleep for a cat. Many people will wonder how much of it that our feline friends should get during a day.

The majority of cats will typically sleep for between 16 and 20 hours daily, with this being spread out across the full 24 hours. In comparison to people, they will only rest for short amounts of time before being awake again and repeating the cycle.

When the cat sleeps can change from one to another, although they should keep to typical crepuscular behaviors.

Tips For Getting Your Cat To Sleep More

Because cats have more nocturnal leanings, they may end up making quite a large amount of noise during the night. By doing so, they can often make it difficult for owners to sleep. There are a variety of things that you’ll be able to do to encourage your cat to sleep more during the night.

We should first note that many of these will be most effective if you start doing them as early as possible in a cat’s life. Doing so ensures that nighttime sleeping becomes a long-term habit for them. Also of note is that it can be much harder to get older cats to break habits and teach them new ones.

One of the first things you should do is not to let them into your bedroom. While many cats will cuddle up with their owners and sleep, these are few and far between. In the majority of cases, the pets will see this as an invitation to play.

Sometimes, the cats may even sleep for a while before getting bored and wanting some attention. This will naturally hurt your sleep pattern, which is the primary reason why many people have recommended against it. While many pet owners may not want to hear this, it’s something that should be done.

You could open the curtains or blinds in another room so that your cat can see outside. While this may not make a huge difference, it is something that may keep them occupied for a short time. Doing so means that they may be more likely to sit and look outside the window.

This naturally means that there’ll be less running around, which should mean less noise during the night.

One of the biggest issues that many cat owners may have is their pet meowing during the night. In some cases, this is to get your attention so that you will play with them, although it typically means that they’re looking for food.

If this is the case, then you should avoid getting up and feeding them during the night. Instead, you should give them a good meal before you head to bed, which should then do them during the night.

Taking this approach also means that they get into the habit of rationing out their nighttime food throughout the night. As such, they should meow for this reason less and less as time wears on. Alongside this, they’ll start to realize when feeding times are, which can also be helpful.

If your cat is meowing for your attention and isn’t looking for food, then you’ll need to ignore them, which also ties in with keeping your bedroom door closed. Should they scratch or paw at the door, you should ignore them.

If you were to let them in, especially constantly, then they’ll learn that this is the right behavior to get your attention and continue in the future. If they realize that this isn’t going to work, then they’ll find something else to entertain themselves.

We should point out that this may take a significant amount of time. If your cats are anything like ours, however, then this will pay off in the long-term and help you get a good night’s sleep.

You should also play with your cat during the day to help wear down their energy levels. You shouldn’t have to put in as much effort as you might think, however, as you’ll be able to get a variety of cat toys to do so. We’ve tried laser cat toys in the past, which have been effective at getting them to running around and use up their energy.

To see the best results of this, you should play with them in the evening as you get closer to bedtime. Doing so will help make sure that they go to sleep at about the same time as you, and they shouldn’t wake up for a while.


Being woken up by your cat doesn’t have to be too much of an issue once you follow each of the above tips. While you mightn’t end up needing to use all of them, trying a few will have a noticeable effect.

It’s worth noting that you should start this as early as possible, preferably when they’re still a kitten. This should help to embed the habit of the cats being somewhat closer to your sleep schedule as possible.

While they’ll still be awake during the night and sleep during the day a lot, they shouldn’t bother you as much as a cat who hasn’t been trained or looked after this way. We should mention that this can be a time-consuming process, especially if you’re starting it with an older cat.

The effort should be worth it, especially long-term, as you’ll be much more likely to get a good night’s sleep that isn’t interrupted by your cat. Some cats will be more receptive to this than others, so how long it takes to train them in this way will vary.

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