If you have a typical cat, chances are she is less interested in playing with you in the afternoon, but becomes full of energy from midnight till dawn, keeping you from your well-deserved slumber.
Contrary to how it may seem, your cat is not purposefully keeping you awake all night. And ignoring your toys in the afternoon does not necessarily mean she is not interested. Cats are most active at dawn and dusk because they have evolved to hunt prey at these hours, so being active at twilight and spending the rest of the day sleeping is simply your cat’s natural behavior.
Understanding this trait will help you determine the best time to bond with Fluffy, and how you can keep her from disturbing your sleep.
What time of day are cats most active?
Cats are crepuscular animals – this means they are more active before sunrise and after sunset. The reason for this is that cats, like their wild ancestors, are low-light predators, and although they are now domesticated, their inherited biological rhythms drive them to hunt at twilight.
Your kitty’s eyes are also adapted to see better in the dark. Have you noticed her vertical, slit-shaped pupils? These are characteristic of nocturnal and crepuscular animals and allow their eyes to absorb the maximum amount of light to see better at night. With this ability, they can easily ambush their prey, even in a darkened atmosphere.
The bad news is that this means your cat is likely to wake you in the wee hours with a case of zoomies. She will meow, play hide-and-seek behind your curtains, or aggressively paw at your pillows as you try hard to stay in dreamland. You might even find her stalking and pouncing on your bare toes, which can be rather painful!
What time of day are cats least active?
Most people assume that cats sleep more during the day and leave most of their energy for nighttime activities. In truth, this assumption may not tell the whole story, because cats have different sleep patterns from those of humans. These whiskered predators are naturally adapted to shorter naps, with outbursts of energy in between.
Another interesting thing about our feline friends is that they are always alert, even while asleep. Your cat has the unique ability to transition from deep to instant wakefulness when she senses a threat in her environment. This allows cats to survive in the wild, avoiding ambush by large predators while they slumber.
Knowing their unique sleeping habits, we could also surmise that they are less active during the day because they are wired to rest during the hours that larger predators are active. Thus, it is natural to see your cat laying low during the day-time hours and at night-time. But, once midnight has passed, she will become more alert and ready for a hunting escapade. For indoor kitties without access to these outdoor games, this might entail making zoomies and keeping their humans awake around dawn and dusk.
Why are cats active at three o’clock in the morning?
While some cats tend toward being nocturnal, most are typically crepuscular. This means it is natural for them to be active in the very early hours, which can cause distracted sleep for their owners. If your cat is younger and more active, she might never let you sleep through the night. Instead, she might meow, scratch at the door, knock things off your shelves, or run across your bed while you are sleeping.
Do cats like playing in the afternoon or late at night?
The middle of the afternoon or late at night may not be the best time to play with your cat, because, as discussed, cats are not naturally active during these hours. Being crepuscular, their energy levels peak at dusk and dawn.
Still, it is important to play with your cat every day – she needs regular play not just for exercise, but also to bond with you. Playing with your cat can also be a great stress relief for you, especially after a long day of work.
When should I play with my cat?
If you think your cat doesn’t like playing before dinner or bedtime, try playing with her right after dinner. She might feel a bit sluggish after a meal, but she will likely respond.
To keep an indoor cat happy and entertained, you can play chase, which cats love. The trick is to know your cat’s cue that she wants to be chased: when you see her standing at the other end of the house and looking back at you while taking a few steps away, she is expecting you to chase her. However, if her tail is down, she might not be enjoying the game, and instead of running away from you out of fear.
Another game to play fetches. Yes, cats do enjoy playing fetch, just like their canine friends. You can throw small toys, such as a cat fetch toy that is easy enough to carry in her mouth. Do not forget to reward your cat with treats when she brings the toy back to you.
Lastly, make sure to change your cat’s toy regularly to keep her interested. Cats need variety to avoid boredom, but do not worry – they are not picky when it comes to toys. If they are tired of their feather wands, you can use crumpled paper bags to play with. Just remember to throw the paper bags away after your play session so that they do not become a hazard for Fluffy.
What to do if your cat keeps you up all night
Night crazies are a common behavior in cats and frustrating for most cat parents. If your furry friend is keeping you up all night, here are some ways you can stop her:
- If your cat’s night activities are new, then you need to see your vet first. Cats sometimes change their behavior when they are struggling with an underlying health issue.
- Make sure to engage with your cat at night time – you can play with her after dinner or before bedtime. By doing this, your cat can release her pent-up energy and is less likely to want to play later on.
- Do not let your cat sleep in the bedroom with you. If she keeps meowing and scratching on your bedroom door at night, use cat repellents such as citrus peels or cologne to discourage the behavior. You can also use a pet-safe motion-activated spray deterrent like the PetSafe SSSCAT Spray to keep your curious cat away from your door.
- Keep your cat entertained throughout the day by creating a stimulating environment. Use interactive toys like Pop ‘N Play, Cat Amazing Puzzle Feeder, and SmartyKat Motion Cat Toy to keep her busy.
- Install a cat window perch so your cat can watch the birds and butterflies in your yard.
- If your cat continues to bother you at night, refrain from giving her any attention.
Wrapping it up
Cats are hard-wired to be active during the twilight hours, which often leads to distracted sleep for their owners. If Fluffy thinks three in the morning is the perfect time to play with you, it can be really punishing. But know that your furry friend does not keep you awake on purpose – she is just being her natural feline self.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your cat from disturbing your sleep, all of which are mentioned in this article. Once your cat learns that the early hours are not the right time to play with you, she will likely stop waking you at night.
Image: istockphoto.com / scaliger