Cats are always up to something at night. They may be bouncing around the room or pestering you for breakfast a little too early. This has all of us cat owners wondering: are cats nocturnal animals?
It’s a curious and natural thing to wonder, as our cats’ schedules do not seem to ever line up with ours. Let’s discover just what makes our cats stay up when we are sound asleep.
Are Cats Nocturnal?
There is a general assumption that because cats are often up during the night, they’re nocturnal. Cats are actually not nocturnal.
Domesticated cats are crepuscular creatures. Don’t be worried if you’ve never heard this term before – it’s a unique one that I’ll explain in greater detail.
Crepuscular animals are those who are naturally inclined to be active at dusk and dawn. For cats specifically, these are the best times to hunt, something cats got from their ancestors.
Our pretty kitties come from wild cats, more specifically African and European wild cats. Most of these cats lived in desert-like areas where it was typically way too hot to hunt during daylight hours. So, they adapted their hunting schedule to the coolest hours of the day – the early morning and the early evening. Their eye structure has something to do with this, too. Our domesticated feline friends have slits, while most big cats have round pupils. (More on that here!)
So, When Do Cats Sleep Then?
Cats sleep really whenever they want. Because our house cats are domesticated, they often do sleep at night, sometimes in bed with us. But, don’t be surprised if your cat wakes up at the crack of dawn with tons of energy.
What is really fascinating about cats is how they utilize their sleep strategically. We typically have this misconception that cats are lazy and would sleep all day long if they could. Yet, a cat’s sleeping schedule has a purpose, and it’s very different than our human understanding of sleep.
When cats sleep, no matter how cozy they look, they aren’t in a deep, unshakable slumber. Because cats are innately hunters, they’re always attentive and quick to respond to any sound or other stimulus. This goes too even if they’re taking a nap. As you know, this is a little different than us humans, who usually feel very groggy when suddenly disturbed out of a REM cycle.
How Much Do Cats Sleep?
Adult cats sleep for about 15 hours a day. If it’s a kitten, then the average goes up to 20 hours. This may sound like a lot, especially since we humans barely even get 8 hours on a good day.
Cats are very smart about their sleep schedule. These hours of sleep help keep your cat alert and active. Every nap they get in is a way for them to store up energy for their next big ‘hunt.’ By hunt, we mean playing with a toy, observing things out the window, or maybe just driving you crazy.
All of these unique cat behaviors remind us of our cat’s ancient hunter ancestors. These ancestors had to be wise about their energy to ensure that they always had a meal. Although our house cats are pampered and receive food without having to do much, cats still carry on many ancestral traits.
Will Letting My Cat Sleep with Me Disrupt my Sleep Schedule?
Yes and no. It really all depends on your cat. Some cats are always willing to cozy up with their owners at night, while some cats could really care less.
If your cat wants to sleep with you, you should let them. There are many benefits to allowing your cat to sleep with you at night. First, they provide a ton of warmth and love. This is particularly true if you’re that special person for your cat. Some studies even show that sleeping with your cat can ease your psyche and make you feel happier.
Allowing your cat to sleep next to you is also great for protection. As we learned, cats are alert even when sleeping. Your cat may be able to let you know about danger while you’re the most vulnerable.
Of course, cats can also be a little annoying to sleep with too. Since cats are crepuscular, they may wake you up at ungodly hours. If your cat is more on the vocal side, then perhaps cuddling with your cat at night shouldn’t be a regular thing.
Every cat is different, but all cats are not nocturnal. They’re crepuscular animals who are awake when their owners aren’t. Have you noticed your cat up to something at dusk or dawn? We’d love to hear all the funny things your cat is up to at odd hours of the night!