Are Cats Nocturnal? Learn More About Felines and Their Napping Habits

February 23, 2021 6:31 pm Published by

One of the most common misconceptions about cats in Alexandria, VA is that they’re nocturnal. This is not true—in fact, they are actually considered “crepuscular,” a category that describes animals with peak levels of activity around dawn and dusk.

Most animals that fall into this category evolved in this way to take advantage of times when temperatures were the coolest in desert or arid habitats. This also explains why your cat is most likely to be awake and noisy between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m., and why evenings may tend to be crazy time for your kitties.

Crepuscular vs. nocturnal

Animals that are truly nocturnal like bats, owls, opossums and raccoons are awake at night and sleep all day. They use the darkness to their advantage to hunt for their prey. Diurnal animals, those awake during the day and asleep at night, enjoy the darkness for sleeping and use the light for hunting, gathering and activity.

Crepuscular animals thrive in the in-between times, and are at their best when the daylight and darkness are receding, allowing them to get the best out of both daylight and darkness. At these times, there’s just enough light for them to see, but it’s still dark enough to lower the chances that they themselves will become prey to predators.

Common predators for cats, like hawks, will have decreased vision at twilight and in the early morning, which means they are much less of a risk to crepuscular animals at that time.

Crepuscular animals will be able to thrive in these times thanks to structural differences in their eyes. Cats, for example, have slit-shaped retinas, similar to nocturnal animals, which helps them to see better in the darkness. Vertical slit retinas are most commonly associated with ambush predators. Cats are capable of lying in wait for long periods before they decide to attack their prey. You’ve probably noticed this in your cats while they’re playing with toys, especially in the dusk or dawn hours—they’ll sit and stare at a toy or at a fellow cat, perhaps giving a little wiggle at the hips, before finally deciding to pounce.

In addition, felines and their napping schedules in Alexandria, VA don’t exactly correspond to humans’. If you’ve noticed your cats waking you up in the middle of the night to play or feed, this is common behavior. Cats often wake their owners up at least once a night, because they’re awake and ready to go and they’re frustrated that you don’t follow their schedule!

They also don’t understand the differences in sleeping patterns. For cats, restful sleep is different than for humans. Cats do have REM and non-REM sleep, but no matter what, they’re still always alert. If they wake up, they are instantly aware and capable of taking action, which is an evolutionary trait. Humans? Not so much.

For more information about your cat’s sleeping habits and why they’re most active around dawn and dusk, contact Kingstowne Cat Clinic or visit our cat clinic in Alexandria, VA. We’d be happy to answer your questions!

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