Cats are agile predators and crepuscular by nature. They have superb night vision and a well-developed sense of smell. However, despite being active during the night and having a great night vision cats do not really like total darkness.
Can cats be afraid of the dark?
Yes, cats can be afraid of the dark although not all cats are. The fear can be based on a bad association such as being chased, captured, abused or hurt when dark. A cat may have been attacked by another animal, abused by a human or was thrown out of the house at night. She can also have a physiological problem like night blindness.
Signs that your cat is afraid of the dark
Signs that your cat is afraid of the dark include the following:
1. She is crying when you switch off the lights.
A cat that is afraid of the dark may start stumbling around and crying each time the light goes off. This is unusual since cats are usually active and comfortable in darkness.
2. Her pupils are dilated.
Cats that are scared of the dark tend to have dilated pupils. Pupils become enlarged to gather more light and maximize vision and will appear black.
3. She has an increased heart rate.
Cats have an average heart rate of 120 to 140 beats per minute but when a cat is frightened it could increase up to 180 beats per minute.
4. She has wet paw prints.
Just as humans, cats sweat profusely when scared. They have sweat glands in the paw pads which explains the wet paw prints they leave behind.
Other signs of a scared cat include the following:
- She is running away
- She hiding in a secluded spot at home
- She displays aggressive behavior like hissing, growling, biting, scratching, puffing fur and tail, arching her back and flattening ears
- She freezes in place
- She refuses to use the litter box
- She undergoes changes in her eating habits
- She is pacing and vocalizes more than usual
Are cats okay in the dark at night?
Some cats are not okay in the dark at night because they associate it with a bad event in their lives such as being abused or attacked by dogs. Despite their superior night vision cats also need some level of light in order to see. They can see in very low light although this varies from one cat to another. Some cats may be suffering from physiological problems with their eyes which leads to poor night vision.
What to do if your cat is afraid of the dark?
To ease your cat’s fear of the dark try to introduce a dim light or night light in the room your cat sleeps in and observe if this helps. If she still feels frightened you can place her bed at the corner of your bedroom so she can sense that you are nearby. You can also let her share the bed with you.
Create spaces where your cat can hide whenever she feels afraid, regardless if it is day or night. You can also place a pheromone diffuser like Feliway to help your cat calm down. If you did these steps but she is still afraid of the darkness, bring her to the vet so he can assess your cat’s health.
Image: istockphoto.com / Vershinin