We’ve heard it before – “cats are nocturnal; they stay up all night while we sleep” – but how true is it?  While our individual experiences may vary, most indoor cats follow a very specific trend of dawn & dusk activity, rather than strictly at night.


Cats are crepuscular, meaning most active during dawn and dusk.  If you own a cat, you’ve most likely created a term for their morning and nightly “activity” – the crazies, the witching hour, hyperness, play time; the list goes on.

For my own cats, around 5am and 10pm (feeding time) is when they go bonkers.  They’ll chase each other around the house, up and down the stairs, making all sorts of ruckus.  That is, after they’re fed.  Until they get that food in their bellies, they bother us instead of each other!

Once the food is eaten and the energy sufficiently depleted from their little bodies, they come snuggle up on the bed and sleep the majority of the night.  My cats are a prime example of crepuscular animals – not nocturnal.


While it isn’t fair to say all cats are crepuscular, most indoor felines fall under that category.  If you have a cat that likes to hide under the sofa or similar quiet spots of the house while people are up and about, chances are they will stay up at night when the coast is clear.

It’s this “daytime hiding” that makes us think cats are nocturnal, since we only ever see them when they are most comfortable in the darkness.  Cats sleep between 12 and 20 hours every day, and while those times may vary from cat to cat, most sleep is during the daytime.

Younger cats still feel the natural urge to stay up at night, as that’s their prime hunting hour.  This stems back from their roots as desert cats, where the nighttime was cool and ripe with pickings.

As they get older, they’ll adapt to the sleeping patterns of the house, becoming much more crepuscular.  However, nocturnality takes on a whole other implication that just isn’t true with most indoor cats.  For an animal to be considered nocturnal, the vast majority of their activity is done at night.

With the exception of “scaredy cats”, most household felines are in fact active during the day.  While most if their activity is indeed at night, indoor cats can’t be classified as solely nocturnal, but crepuscular.

Outdoor cats might lean more towards nocturnal behaviors, due to their much-needed natural hunting instinct.  If they can’t catch food, they’ll starve, and most small prey scurries about at night.

What about your cats?

My cats certainly fall under the crepuscular category of activity; how about yours?  Do your kitties stay up all day and sleep with you all night, or do they hide until their nighttime mischief can go unnoticed?

Perhaps they’re both, and are active mostly at dawn and dusk.  What kind of “craziness” do they perform during these times?  Leave your answers in the comments below!

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