Are Cats Nocturnal?

Experts haven’t really reached a definitely conclusion when it comes to the waking hours of cats. Are cats nocturnal? Are they crepuscular, meaning they’re most active at dawn or dusk? No matter which way you look at it though, domestic cats tend to have sleeping hours that differ greatly from those of their owners. This unfortunately can be a massive pain when you’re trying to get some shuteye and your four-legged pal is jumping on your chest.

Can You Change Your Cat’s Sleep Schedule?

Luckily research suggests it is possible to get your cat to stop waking you up at awful hours. A study yielded results suggesting that the hours cats are given opportunities to exercise can help regulate their sleep schedule. In the study, ten cats were split into two separate groups. The first group lived in small houses with their owners. They were only able to access large yards for an hour in the morning. Group B lived in larger houses with their owners. They were provided access to large yards throughout the day and were left outside from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. Ultimately, it was the cats in Group A who developed a circadian rhythm most similar to that of their owners.

How to Change Your Cat’s Waking Hours

So what does this study tell us? It tells us that how you treat your cat during their waking hours will help inform when they sleep. You might be tempted to let your cat go outside when they’re bothering you at night, but that might just encourage them to keep staying up while you’re trying to sleep. This just reinforces nocturnal habits.

You need to discourage waking hours at night time. Here’s how to do just that:

  • Tire your cat out during the day. Play with them and exercise them as much as possible. Try to keep them awake during the day instead of letting them take overly long naps during light hours.
  • Feed your cat immediately before bedtime and make it their largest meal of the day. This will keep them from wanting food in the middle of the night.
  • Don’t react if your cat suddenly starts trying to engage with you at night. Don’t yell at them or toss a cat toy at them. Your kitty will see this behavior as play and that only encourages them to keep waking you up. You need to ignore them instead. If they keep trying to play, confine them to a different room and ignore them completely.

If you continue to struggle to change your cat’s sleep schedule, talk to your vet. Strange waking hours could also be a sign of an underlying health issue.