Are Cats Nocturnal or Diurnal?

Before we can decide if a cat is nocturnal or diurnal, we should learn what these terms mean. First, these are terms that are used to describe the period of the day in which an animal is active. The daily patterns of these animals are established through circadian rhythms. It is patterns that are built into their body chemistry. The circadian rhythms follow 24 hour periods and are patterns of physical changes, mental characteristics, and behavior exhibited by most life forms.


Are Cats Nocturnal?

This animal is only active at night and generally, these animals have a sense of vision that is specially developed to help them see in the dark. Many also have an exceptional hearing as well.


These animals are active during the day and are not adapted to being active at night.

Nocturnal or diurnal

Considering the behavior of cats and when they sleep, most would assume that cats are nocturnal. The truth is they can be both, nocturnal and diurnal. Cat’s eyes are designed to give them good vision in both low and high light. This means that they have no problem seeing during the night or day but it seems that most cats tend to be more nocturnal. Cats seem to prefer to sleep during the day and be more active at night. For some cats, it is not uncommon for them to sleep for hours during the day. On average, a cat will sleep from sixteen to twenty plus hours a day, especially senior cats.

Are Cats Nocturnal?

They are bred to be domestic pets but by nature, they are predators so they have that natural instinct to sleep during the day and hunt at night. For many cat owners, this can be a problem when their cat is active at night and they want to sleep.

One type of cat that is mostly nocturnal is the feral cats. The main reason that they prefer to be more active at night is because of their hostility towards humans. They will try to avoid humans as much as possible. Generally, the only real chance to hunt for food without being seen by a person is when we all sleep. This is why many people think that all cats are nocturnal because feral cats are only seen out at night.

Most will adjust their activity level to their specific needs. Many domesticated cats will adapt to becoming diurnal. They do this to give them more time to interact with their owner.

Adapting to their owner’s lifestyle

Do Indoor/Outdoor Cats Have Different Sleep Rhythms?

If your cat is up at night, disrupting your sleep, there are ways in which you can help your cat adjust and change its sleeping patterns to diurnal. You do have to have patience when you are trying to train your cat to sleep at night. You cannot expect results immediately. Never hit or yell at your cat for punishment.

  • Try to keep your cat awake during the day by playing with them. If they are kept entertained during the day they will be tired and want to sleep at night
  • Use a bit of catnip a few hours before it is time to go to bed will help. It will make your cat active and after they have had their fun running around the house, they will pass out later.
  • If you are not home during the day make sure that you keep a lot of cat toys around so they can entertain themselves. Try to change out their toys every once in a while so they do not get bored.
  • If they like to wake you up during the night, you can try to close the bedroom door but some will meow until you open the door and let them in.
  • Leave the curtains or blinds open in the living room or in a room where they can see outside. When you do this, it gratifies their desire for ‘night hunting’.

Every cat situation is different but one of the main reasons they often wake their owner in the middle of the night is that they are hungry. If you can feed them their biggest meal right before bedtime it might help. During the day you can feed your cat smaller meals.

Interesting facts

Crepuscular Cats! | Conscious Companion

  • On average, a feral cat will spend 14% of its day hunting for food while domesticated cats spend 3% of their day being active.
  • Cats do not have night vision and cannot work in total darkness
  • A cat’s eyes contain eight times more rod cells than our eyes so this means that a cat can see eight times better in the dark
  • Their eyes appear to ‘glow’ because they have a layer called tapetum lucidum in their retinas that acts as a biologic reflector. It reflects the visible light through the retina so that is why their eyes appear to glow.

In conclusion

Although it has been determined those in the wild, including feral cats, are mostly nocturnal that is not true for all cats. Domesticated cats can be nocturnal or diurnal but there are some that feel they display more of a crepuscular behavior, which means that they are active during the twilight hours at dusk and dawn. If you watch your cat’s behavior some start to be more active in the wee hours of the morning. The reason is that this is the time that they start to become hungry and want their breakfast.

Whether a cat is nocturnal, diurnal, or a combination of both, depends on your cat. If you keep your cat’s activity during the day, they should sleep at night but if they are bored during the day they will sleep. This is much like a human, as many times if you are bored you sleep. A cat is a very independent creature and they will be active when they feel like it and sleep when they want to.

If your cat likes to be active at night you can attempt to make then diurnal but it will take time, determination, and patience.

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