Are Cats Nocturnal? Feline Sleep Habits

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The short answer is no.

Want to know the long answer? Then, we have to start with disambiguation. Here are three terms you should be familiar with to understand why your cat is not a nocturnal animal, yet it loves to run around the house at 4 in the morning (sounds familiar, right?).

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Nocturnal – these are animals that are active during the night, during the entire night. They sleep during the day and they are awake at night. Some examples are owls, bats, and skunks.

Nocturnal animals have adapted to this schedule for a variety of reasons. The most common one is weather conditions – considering that many nocturnal animals live in the desert, they are active at night to avoid the heat during the day. Another common reason is to avoid diurnal predators.

Diurnal – these animals are the exact opposite of nocturnal ones, which means that they are active during the day and sleep during the night. As you well know, humans are diurnal animals, as well as most primates, most mammals, and the majority of reptiles and birds.

The most common reason for this adaptation is being active when there is light outside. This is important for the metabolism, but also because these animals can’t see in the dark. They need the light to see their surroundings.

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Crepuscular – these animals are most active at dusk and at dawn. They are neither diurnal or nocturnal because they sleep both during the day and during the night, but just enough to ensure that they are well-rested at dawn and at dusk. These are cooler times of the day, which also offer safety.

The half-light of dusk and dawn is a great time to avoid both diurnal and nocturnal predators, but also a good time to find food because there is enough light to see. Some examples of crepuscular animals are deer, porcupines, black-tailed jackrabbits, and cats.

So, no, cats are not nocturnal animals because they do sleep at night, they also sleep during the day, and they reach their peak points of activity at dusk – that’s the energy sprint in the evening when cats love to run around the house – and, unfortunately, at dawn, when they decide to get out their toys and run around some more.

Cats are not active all throughout the night, which means that they are not nocturnal. They are crepuscular animals.

Cats are not active all throughout the night, which means that they are not nocturnal. They are crepuscular animals. Click To Tweet

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Want to know WHY your cat loves to run around the house at 4 in the morning? Learn about feline sleep habits and if cats are nocturnal. Plus tips how to keep your cat from waking YOU up in the middle of the night.

Cat Sleeping Habits

Cats sleep 16-20 hours a day, which is double or more than us humans do. As any cat owner knows, cats love to sleep, during the day, when you just have to work around them, but also during the night.

Cats love to curl up in bed with their masters and purr themselves to sleep. It’s a great moment for them, and also for us. But while the night starts out well for most cat owners, it only ends well for some.

Cats sleep 16-20 hours a day, which is double or more than us humans do. Click To Tweet

Why? Because while all cats wake up around 4-5 AM, some want their masters’ company when they do. It’s an innocent act of friendship on their part, and they have the best of intentions, but this might not be enough of a consolation if you can’t sleep properly nights in a row.

So, is it an issue when the cat wakes you up at 4 in the morning to play?
Yes, it certainly is. You have every right to complain, even though you wake up your cat during the day as well. But what can you do to make this problem go away? How can you get your cat to sleep all through the night?

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 Beds that Cats Like: 

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PetFusion Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge

How to Get Your Cat to Stop Waking You Up at 4 AM

The good news is that there are things that you can do to get your cat to stop waking you up, but the bad news is that it takes a bit of time to see the results (for most methods). So, be patient and put these things into action. You will be reaping the results soon enough.

3 Things You Should Do

No. 1 – Close the Bedroom Door

It can be as simple as that. Especially if you don’t sleep with your cat, your problem can go away just by closing the door. If you don’t want your cat to bother you during the night, then don’t give them the chance to do it.

The Downside

Keep in mind that your cat is resourceful, though. It still might come round the bedroom at 4 AM and meow its way in. Especially if the cat is used to that door being open, it will not understand the change and it will want to draw your attention to this disturbance, so it will meow and meow until you wake up. In time, though, it will get used to not going into your bedroom and it will stop.

Why Do Cats Hate Closed Doors IMG_6178

No. 2 – Identify the Noise Makers and Remove Them

Some cats are nice enough to not wake their masters directly. They won’t come next to you and head bump you until you wake up, which is great. They will leave you alone and they will play with their toys all by themselves, which has the potential to be not so great because it still wakes you up.

What you can do about this is to round up all the noise-making cat toys and put them away during the night. Leave some quiet toys (anything made out of cloth, rope, or other soft fabrics and that doesn’t squeak, ring, sing or generate other noises) for the cat to play with so it doesn’t get bored. This works really well if you also close the door.

Leave some quiet toys for the cat to play with so it doesn't get bored. Click To Tweet

No.3 – Make Sure Your Cat Has Food and Water for the Night

A common reason why cats wake up their human parents during the night is to signal that they don’t have (enough) food in their bowls or that the water needs changing.

A simple thing that you can do is to make sure they have both food and water during the night so that they don’t have a reason to wake you up.

The Downside

This might be difficult to do if your cat eats a fixed amount of food every day because the food is likely to be gone by 4 AM.

If you feed dry food, you could try using a food dispenser that gives out food during the night as well, which should keep things quiet until you wake up the next morning.

If you feed wet food, you could put out a few cans before you go to bed at night.  

Cats have a pattern of play/hunt, eat, groom and sleep (and peeing and pooping comes in there some where) – so if you play with your cat before bed, then feed him – he will them groom and sleep while you are sleeping.

Cat eating food

 

4 Things You Shouldn’t Do

Now that we’ve established the 3 things you should do, let’s look into the things you shouldn’t do if you want your cat to stop waking you up at dawn because your behavior can have a huge influence on your cat’s nocturnal behavior as well.

No. 1 – Do Not Punish Your Cat

Even though it can be extremely annoying for you, your cat is not actually doing anything wrong. Being active at dawn is in their nature, so there is no reason to punish the cat. Even if you are bothered by its behavior, yelling or punishing the cat is not the answer.

The solution is to ignore the cat when it wakes you up at 4 in the morning. This will set the proper boundaries and help the cat understand that it shouldn’t keep doing it.

You are diurnal and your cat is crepuscular, you sleep 8 hours a day, your cat sleeps 16 to 20. Scheduling issues are imminent, but with patience from your side, your cat will learn to adapt to your sleeping habits.

No. 2 – Do Not Feed Your Cat When It Wakes You Up

Yes, it’s a good idea to make sure your cat has food during the night, but it is not a good idea to feed your cat when it wakes you up at 4 in the morning. Here’s why – when the cat wakes you up at down to tell you that it wants food and you get up and feed it, what the cat understands is that it did a good thing signaling the lack of food for which it got a reward.

When cats get rewards, they typically come back for more. So, as long as you get out of bed and feed your cat at dawn, it will keep on doing it. This is why you have to be strong and resist the urge to give it what it wants. In time, the cat will understand that waking you up is not the solution to its problem, so it will stop.

As long as you get out of bed and feed your cat at dawn, it will keep on doing it. This is why you have to be strong and resist the urge to give it what it wants. Click To Tweet

No. 3 – Do Not Play With Your Cat When It Wakes You Up

It is extremely adorable when your cat comes to get you to play with it, but not at 4 in the morning. When your cat wakes you up purring and brings its toys to ask you to play with it, it is not fun for you. But you power through, you throw the toy, you pet the cat, maybe even wake up especially early that day.

What your cat understands is that you had a great time, and since it did as well, you should be expecting it to come back the next day, also at 4-5 in the morning. If you want the one-sided cycle of fun to stop, you have to set some boundaries and show your cat that down is not a good time for you.

That means that you have to stay strong and ignore the cat or take it out of the bedroom, no matter how cute it is. In time, it will understand the message and it will leave you alone.

No. 4 – Do Not Ignore Your Cat During the Day

If you want your cat to stop waking you up at down, then make sure you spend enough time with it during the day. It is very important for the cat to have an active life, to be engaged in play, and to spend time with you.

An ideal time for play is actually in the evening, around dusk when the cat has its other energy peak time. In fact, if you turn this into a usual activity, it will become part of the schedule.

An ideal time for play is actually in the evening, around dusk when the cat has its other energy peak time. Click To Tweet

5 Great Cats Toys to Encourage Play:

  1. Cat Play Rug – SnugglyCat The Ripple Rug 
  2. Yeowww! Catnip Banana
  3. Catch the Tail Electronic Cat Toy
  4. Bergan Turboscratcher Cat Toy
  5. Cat Dancer 101 Cat Dancer Cat Toy

Replacing the cat’s need to play at down with playtime that is better suited to your schedule is a very good way to keep it from waking you up. As long as you give your cat the attention it needs, it will be happy to comply with your needs as well.

Naturally, all of these things work best when you enforce (almost) all of them. While turning your cat into a diurnal animal is not an option, changing its behavior to suit both of your and its needs is the best possible course of action.

Now you know the answer to “Are Cats Nocturnal?” and their Feline Sleep Habits. For more reading on sleeping habits.

Does It Matter What Your Cat Is Sleeping On?

What does your cat do during the night? Does it sleep with you? If so, is it still there in the morning? Does your cat wake you up at dawn? If so, how are you handling the situation? Do you agree with our list of solutions? Tell us what worked for you in the comments section below.

 

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Comments (5)

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  1. WOW! LURVE THIS SUPER PAWESOME & FABULOUS POST, Jenny honey! Such a great topic! Wonderful info! TYSVM!!! 🙂 <3

    Miss PSB used to sort of sleep with us but she wouldn't stay still for many hours during the night (jumping off the bed and leaving the bedroom and then meowing and coming back onto the bed and jumping on my hubby, always my hubby and never jumping on me, to wake him up…). After a few years of this behavior (we were hoping she would eventually settle in and just sleep on the bed with us…which never happened) we decided it was best that we shut the bedroom door during our sleep cycles to keep Miss PSB out of the bedroom so we could get some decent rest and sleep. She adapted to that very quickly to our surprise and does just great being on her own during our sleeping hours. She curls up and sleeps in her cat tower and in her cat carrier (which we have out) and on her Runyon pet bed or the couch (all located in our living room). We always make sure she has plenty of fresh water and food and clean litter boxes before going to bed. This system works out great and she is always waiting for us in the hallway outside our bedroom when she hears us waking up. 🙂 <3

    Big hugs & lots of love & purrs!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3 <3 <3

    1. Your husband is a very patient person, isn’t he! My husband would not take years of being awakened by my cat. I am glad, for all of you, that you found a solution that worked.

  2. My Ariel has some problem issues, but awakening me is not one of them. She waits to be invited into my bed at night, and in the winter we cuddle and then she sleeps in the bed all night. She may get up to get a drink or use her litterbox, but she does not disturb me. In the summer, I bring her in bed and cuddle with her, which she tolerates well, but then she leaves. Doesn’t like my extra heat, I guess. So I am very fortunate in regard to sleeping. Don’t ask me about vomiting/furballs, though!

  3. Having two fluffy butts you’d think they’d keep each other company at dawn but my two like the whole household to be up and playing!
    Fortunately we can close the door and they know it’s bedtime for us, but only after changing the door handles to door knobs that they can’t open!

    Because I’m poorly I have a terrible sleep pattern and will often move from the bed to a chair or the sofa. If I leave the door open to the bedroom at this point they don’t bother going in and will just curl up near me wherever I end up and tend not to bother me (it’s like they know I’m in pain).

    If neither me or my partner are up by 8am with the door open then we will be hit with double meows to be let in, it’s not to see us though it’s time for them to jump up the window and watch the birds!
    Then there is a mad half hour of running from window to window chasing each other and creating havoc before curling up on the bed for sleepy time!

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