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Ever wondered what your cat gets up to at night? Our expert guide tells all.

Concerned about the safety of your cats outside at night? Our video includes useful advice for cats at night and how to ensure they stay safe and secure while you're asleep.

Five important things

  • Cats are generally more active at dawn and dusk
  • Does your cat wake you up early in the morning? This is normal cat behaviour!
  • Cats Protection recommends keeping your cat indoors at night to keep them safe
  • Sadly, road traffic accidents or fatalities involving cats are more likely to happen at night
  • Cats kept indoors can become restless. Playing with them can help to keep them stimulated mentally.

Why is my cat awake at night?

Concerned about your cat's wanderings after dark, or waking you up in the morning? You might be surprised to learn that this is normal cat behaviour.

Cats are naturally more active during dawn and dusk - kittens and young cats in particular. If you look at the behaviour of cats in the wild, such as the African wildcat which shares ancestry with our pet cats, they are crepuscular - meaning they're more active during dawn and dusk. A prime time to hunt for rodents and other small prey, it's no surprise that cats spend most of their time roaming around at night.

Why does my cat wake me up early in the morning?

Most cat owners will be familiar with their cat trying to wake them up in the early hours of the morning - either by miaowing or pawing at their face! While this behaviour can be annoying and endearing in equal measures, this is usually a normal part of being a cat.

While cats have adapted over time to fit in with the waking patterns of humans, many will still be easily woken at the first sight of a sunrise. If you're concerned about the four-legged furry alarm clock in your house, there are a few things you can do

  • Rule out any medical issues. Some medical conditions cause cats to wake up in the night, cry excessively or feel restless and disorientated. Try not to tell your cat off for waking you up at night - they could be trying to tell you that they're unwell
  • Finding out your cat's motivation to wake you up could be helpful. Are they waking because they're hungry? Try feeding them smaller and more regular meals during the day to stave off hunger, or install an automatic feeder to open during the night or early morning
  • Provide your cat with plenty of play during the day to use up their excess energy. A fishing rod toy should do the trick!

Of course, if you're really struggling for sleep, visit your vet to get a referral to a qualified behaviourist to identify the underlying reason for your cat's night-time waking. Visit the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for more advice.

Should I keep my cat in at night?

Cats Protection recommends that you keep your cat in at night to keep them safe. Increased risks during night time include:

  • Road traffic injuries and fatalities

With some studies suggesting that more road traffic injuries happen late at night, it is wise to keep your cat indoors. It isn't just busy roads that cats can be killed and injured on either, but also quiet, country roads that can catch cats off-guard. A light-reflective collar may help them be seen but collars themselves are not without risk. To ensure the collar is properly fitted, two fingers should fit snugly between the collar and the cat's neck. Make sure it has a quick-release fitting to prevent injury.

  • Risk of harm from animals and humans

Cats can be injured through contact with other animals or even by humans, which is more likely to happen at night. Cats are also more inclined to fight during the night time, particularly when stumbling across each other's territories. Avoid injury by keeping your cat safe indoors.

Find out more about keeping your cat safe

Set your cat a curfew

Wondering how to keep your cat in? There are cat flaps available from Sure Petcare that allow you to set a timed curfew for your cat. 

They'll have the opportunity to roam free during the day but you can set a timed curfew of your choice. When it’s time, your cat will no longer be able to exit your home through the cat flap. 

If your cat is already outside, they'll be able to enter but won't be able to leave the house again. An ideal solution for keeping pets in at night, or when traffic gets busy!

How can I keep my cat entertained indoors?

If your cat is used to being active at night, they can easily become restless and stressed when kept indoors. You'll need to provide plenty of things to keep them occupied - from toys or climbing frames to puzzle feeders. Make sure you also provide a clean litter tray and fresh water (kept far apart from each other) to use at night.

As cats are natural hunters, ensuring they have mental stimulation is important in ensuring they don't feel frustrated. You'll find a number of cat toys in pet shops designed for this purpose, or your can choose to make your own. Ping pong balls and empty egg boxes make great play things for energetic kitties.

It's no surprise that cats love to climb and hide inside things too, so providing a place up high as well as climbing frames and boxes are a welcome treat. Make sure your cat has access to a scratching post too, in case they take a liking to your sofa!

Find out more about enrichment toys.

Keeping your cat inside during fireworks season

While keeping your cat in at night is advisable all year round, it becomes more important during fireworks season and Bonfire Night. Cats can become distressed at loud noises and flashes of light and keeping them in when it is dark can help reduce them feeling stressed.

During this time, keep your cat flaps, windows and doors closed and ensure any unsuitable areas are blocked off. 

Find out more about cats and fireworks season

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