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Why Do Cats Stay Up All Night? Vet-Verified Behavior

Written by: Sarah Psaradelis

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

tabby cat at night

Why Do Cats Stay Up All Night? Vet-Verified Behavior


Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo


Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Cats follow a different sleep cycle than humans and may keep you up at night with their activities. Cats are naturally more active during the early morning and evening because they are crepuscular. That said, you may face the issue of having a cat that is active during the night and keeps you awake, and you may notice a pattern of your cat sleeping more during the day and seeming to become a bundle of energy at bedtime. Let’s explore why a cat might seem to be awake at all hours of the night.

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Cats Are Crepuscular

Cats are crepuscular animals and have the instinct to hunt during the evening and early mornings. This can cause your cat to be more active at night than they are during the daytime. Crepuscular predators will find it better to hunt when the daylight is receding, as they tend to be ambush predators.

Also, a cat’s pupil can dilate to allow more light in, so along with the tapetum lucidum—which works as a mirror to reflect light—the cat can make the most out of minimal light conditions and have better vision. They ambush prey during the early mornings and evenings, when the light conditions are most ideal for them and give them an advantage over their prey.

cat at night
Image Credit By: mariavp, Pixabay

Is It Normal for Cats to Be More Active at Night?

It is normal for your cat to be more active at night and spend more time during the day sleeping and napping in their favorite spots.

Some cats won’t change their natural sleep-wake cycle, especially if their owner is also up late into the night. However, other cats will adopt the same sleep-wake cycle as their owners and may be more active during the day.

If you have adopted a stray or feral cat, their body is more likely to be hardwired to be more active at night, mainly because they have gotten used to the routine of hunting and being more active at dusk and dawn, when there is less public activity.

Why Do Cats Want to Play at Night?

Many cats will wake their owners up during the night by climbing over their bodies, meowing loudly, or running around the house. This behavior is commonly seen in cats that spend most of their time sleeping during the day. Cats have a polyphasic sleeping pattern; this means that they can sleep in intervals of an hour to 2 hours at a time to feel rested, which can occur throughout the day or night for an average of 12 to 18 hours a day.

So, if your cat spends most of their time sleeping through the day, perhaps while you are at work, they will feel rested enough to be active at night and only sleep for an hour or two in between their nightly activities.

tabby cat at night
Image Credit By: Darkmoon_Art, Pixabay

What Do Cats Do at Night?

If your cat is awake during the night, then they are most likely exploring their environment or playing. Cats that have access to the outdoors at night may roam the neighborhood, while indoor cats may try to interact with you or play with toys around the house. Some cats may even keep you awake by walking over you while you sleep!

Cats will also wake up at night in search of food because it is natural for them to eat during the night and late evenings, which is why some cats will meow and paw at their owners who are trying to sleep. This is your cat’s way of asking to be fed, especially if they didn’t have a meal before you went to sleep.

How to Keep Your Cat Entertained While You Sleep

If your cat is keeping you up at night and you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep because of it, then there are some tricks you can use to make your cat more tired during the day, so they are more likely to sleep at night.

Keep in mind that it is normal for your cat to be active during the night, late evenings, and early mornings, so do not punish your cat for their behavior even if you are feeling frustrated and tired.

You can try to change your cat’s daytime schedule so they do not spend as much time sleeping as usual, but know that it may take some time for a proper routine to form. You can feed your cat right before you go to sleep during the late evenings or early in the night, for example, so your cat feels less hungry while you are sleeping.

If you do not want to change your cat’s sleep-wake schedule but your cat is up at night because they are hungry, you can set up an automatic feeder to give your cat a meal while you are asleep.

Offer your cat plenty of toys and activities to do at night in a separate area of the household so they can tire themselves out.

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Owning a cat that is awake during the night can make it difficult for you to get a good night’s rest. However, it is not a concern for cats, which have the instinct to be more active during the twilight hours. Cats do not have to get long hours of uninterrupted sleep and instead, sleep in intervals. This means that they are unlikely to sleep throughout the night because it is not necessary for them.

Featured Image Credit By: Mookmixsth, Shutterstock

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