You may have noticed that your cat typically likes to roam around at night and are wondering if this is normal.
You will be surprised to find that this behaviour is nothing to worry about, as cats are naturally crepuscular creatures, meaning that they are most active at dawn and dusk.
This is when cat’s prey, such as mice, birds, and other small mammals, are most active too, and so it is instinctive for cats to be awake and lively at this time so they have the best chance of catching their next meal.
Domesticated cats may not need to hunt for food, but these instincts still persist, and so many venture out into the night.
Despite this behaviour being normal, you may be interested in finding out what your cat gets up to when it’s dark outside and you’re curled up sound asleep.
As it turns out, cats get up to quite a lot.
1. Hunting Wildlife
Yes, you guessed it – the most probable thing your cat is getting up to at night is hunting wildlife such as mice, birds, and small reptiles, as this is prime time for them to stalk their prey.
In a study carried out by the University of Georgia, 44% of cats spent their night catching prey.
However, only a few were successful, with an average of two catches per week spent roaming outside.
Therefore, if you’re worried about your cats dragging you in a dead mouse, the most you’re likely to deal with is a couple of per week.
Cats also spend the night exploring their surroundings, as they have a much quieter area to navigate around with fewer people, cars, and other animals.
How far they go depends on your cat’s personality.
Cautious and timid cats may only travel as far at 10m from your home, whereas on average, cats roamed anywhere from 40-200m each night.
If you live on a farm, your cat may be exploring even further, travelling as far as 3km to find their next prey to catch.
If you are a curious cat owner that wants to see just how far your cat goes on their next exploration, think about purchasing a cat tracker to see all of their movements while you’re fast asleep.
3. Meeting Other Cats
It probably comes as no surprise that if your cat likes roaming around at night, chances are other cats will be out exploring too.
Therefore, your cat may be encountering others on their nighttime adventures.
Unfortunately, these encounters are not usually friendly, and as cats prowl the streets they will be battling it out with others in a fight to win territory, food, or a mate.
This is especially true in built-up areas and cats’ territories are slowly shrinking as more and more people get cats for pets.
In a cat-crowded place, there are more likely to be fights over resources.
Cats can be quite vicious, so if you know your cat is a roamer, make sure to keep an eye out for any injuries so they can be treated as quickly as possible.
It is not all anger and aggression for cat meetups though, as night is also when cats prefer to find a partner and mate.
Mating can happen at any time throughout the year, but it is likely to happen between March and September in the northern hemisphere, and October to March in the southern hemisphere.
For female cats to breed, they must be in heat and will make a wailing mating call which you may have heard before.
Although males do not go into heat, they may make mating calls if they smell the presence of a female cat in heat and will spend their night searching for this female.
When a male and female cat do mate, the whole process only takes a few minutes.
They are both then free to spend the rest of their night as they wish.
5. Visiting the Sewers
Although slightly disgusting, cats may also spend their evenings taking a trip to the sewers.
Sewers are an ideal place for cats to hide from people, rainy weather, or hot and cold temperatures, so if your cat gets caught out in a storm, this will likely be their shelter.
There are also lots of mice and rats in the sewers, giving cats a perfect place to go and hunt.
The enclosed space also helps cats to feel safe as cats love small spaces, such as hiding in empty boxes or under a piece of furniture; the sewers are no different.
Cats can also cover a lot of ground by using the sewer systems without needing to climb obstacles or cross busy roads.
Sewers do only pose a little risk unless there has been heavy rainfall, but cats can get diseased if they drink water from the sewers or come into contact with other animals that have parasites on their bodies.
6. On Your Roof
You may also find your cat has not ventured very far at all and is actually sat on your rooftop.
Cats instinctively love to climb as it gives them a vantage point where they can see all that is below them.
In the wild, the high position can let them spot prey to hunt while keeping themselves safely out the way from bigger predators.
In a residential area, a roof of a house is about the highest point they can climb to, hence why cats love to climb up here.
Cats may get stuck when coming down, as the journey down is notoriously more difficult than the one up.
However, if left to their own devices, most will be able to make it back down safely without you ever knowing they were even there!
7. Venturing Into Other Houses
You may also find that instead of slinking off into the wild at night, your cat has snuck into your neighbour’s house.
It isn’t necessarily that your cat doesn’t think its home is great, but just that cats are naturally curious creatures and their need to explore entends into other people’s homes.
Nighttime is an ideal time to explore inside peoples homes as whereas some homeowners may greet an uninvited cat into their home for a cuddle with open arms, others would shoo it out fast.
Cats will only be able to get into another home if the homeowner has left the window open, or if they have a cat or dog flap.
If your neighbour reports that they keep finding you cat in their home each morning, it may be worth reassessing if anything is missing from your home that your cat is looking for or anything that is making them feel stressed out.
Should You Keep Your Cat In At Night?
Now you know the secret life of your cat at night, you may be wondering whether you should let them roam around in the dark or keep them safely indoors.
Most cats will go out at night with no issues and return safely by morning.
Bear in mind, you should never leave your cat locked out all night as they should always have a safe shelter that they can return to.
However, there are some reasons you may wish to keep your cat inside.
1. Harm From Other Animals
As we just mentioned, cats do spend their night exploring and will often meet other cats who they compete with for food, mates, and territory.
Cats can bite and scratch at each other, and while the majority are not bad injuries, deeper injuries could form abscesses which ideally need treatment from a vet.
It is not just cats you need to worry about either, as other wild animals such as foxes could also cause harm.
Of course, cats could get injured by another cat or an animal at any time of the day, but these confrontations are most common just before dawn or just after dusk.
By keeping your cat in at night, you could reduce these risks.
2. Traffic Accidents
Road traffic accidents can too occur at any time of the day, and many people assume your cat is more likely to get hit by a vehicle in the day when there is more traffic on the road.
However, 78% of all road traffic accidents involving cats happen at night.
These are also not necessarily on busy roads and often cats on quiet country roads are more likely to catch the driver off guard.
Therefore, some owners prefer to keep their cats in at night to reduce the risk of them having a traffic accident.
How To Keep Your Cat Indoors at Night
If you do decide you would rather not let your cat go outdoors at night, you have to make sure that their indoor needs are met.
This is so that your cat is happy, but also so that your cat does not keep you up at night and cause a disturbance as they have a lot of energy that needs to still be released.
1. Buy Cat Toys
The main reasons cats go outside at night it to hunt and to explore.
Therefore, if you are keeping a cat indoors at night, you must give them physical and mental stimulation that mimics these instinctive behaviours.
Toys are a great solution to give your cat both the exercise they need and to keep them entertained.
There are a range of toys you can buy, from feather wands to balls, mice to flopping fish, and motorised balls to soft toys.
Make sure you play with your cat regularly, or if you don’t have time to, use a motion sensor motorised toy that your cat can play with by itself.
Ideally, they will need to be played with during the evening just before bed so that you can tire your cat out, making sure they’ll stay calm at night.
2. Put Up Shelving & Hiding Places
Cats also love to climb rooftops and hide in sewers at night, so you’ll also need some hidey-holes for your cat to hide in, and something for them to climb.
Putting up some shelving is a great and affordable way to give your cat its favourite high perch without it wanting to climb onto the roofs.
Likewise, whereas you can buy enclosed beds for cats to hide in, or a few empty cardboard boxes will also do the trick.
When first keeping your cat indoors at night, they may be restless, but within a few weeks and with the right indoor entertainment, they should adapt well and not cause too much disruption.
3. Feed Your Cat Before Bed
You should also feed your cat just before bed.
Although most of the hunting behaviour for domesticated cats if for enjoyment rather than food, by feeding your cat before bed can ensure that there is no niggling need to hunt.
Cats also often wake their owners up in the middle of the night or the early hours of the morning as they want more food.
Therefore, by giving your cat a meal right before bed, you’ll be less likely to be disturbed.
How To Set A Cat Curfew
If you don’t want to keep your cat from going outdoors at night completely, you could look at setting a cat curfew.
To do this, you can purchase cat flaps that easily allow you to set a curfew for your cat.
These cat flaps will freely allow your cat to enter and exit your home all day as they wish, after a specific time that you set, they will no longer be able to leave the home.
You don’t need to worry about getting your cat back inside before the curfew, as they will be able to enter the house after curfew, they just cannot leave again.
This is a great way to let your cat have some freedom and channel their hunting instincts at dawn and dusk while keeping them inside late at night to reduce the likelihood of catfights and traffic accidents.
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