Cat During The Night

Why Has My Cat Started Staying Out at Night?

Whether your cat was initially an indoor cat, or a regular adventurer of the unknown, you might be wondering what they’re up to if they start staying out at night.

If you’ve ever said to yourself, “My cat suddenly wants to go out at night and I don’t know why,” chances are you are one of the many, many cat owners wondering the very same thing. First and foremost, cats can sometimes have a very erratic behavior, and they could change and adjust their habits depending on their environment, weather, or situation to be able to adapt, get comfortable, or just plainly survive.

Whatever the reason may be, if your cats decided to start staying out at night, it’s not necessarily something to worry about as it is a common cat behavior. However, we can’t blame you for being curious!

In this article, we will list some of the reasons why cats may prefer to stay out at night, and hopefully by the end, your worries may be alleviated!

Cats are Naturally Nocturnal

Animal eyes in the dark

In nature, cats are nocturnal species that prefer to do their regular activities during the night.

After years and years of evolution and domestication, this could vary between a cat or a breed to another. However, this may be considered their primal instinct to prefer night time over day time, so even with evolution, this is a characteristic that is hidden underneath it all.

Nocturnal animals are very active at night and have evolved a few traits and features that aid their nightly activities. They tend to have bigger eyes with wider retinas, and a heightened sense of hearing.

Due to this, cats have a very reliable night vision that allows them to hunt for food during the night without any hindrance. They prefer to hunt during the night because night time is quiet, and rodents are out doing their own food hunting. Little do they know that they are being hunted as well!

Cats Find Comfort in the Dark

Cat sleeping in the dark

As humans, it is common for us to prefer day time over night time. We feel safer and we perform our daily activities during the day, and prefer to take our restful sleep during the night.

For ancient humans, though, before the advent of solid shelters and laws put in place, they had to take turns in resting and some of them would be up at night. Why? To keep guard against danger and nocturnal predators, like cats!

Like humans finding comfort in the day, cats find comfort in the dark. Their night vision is an advantage as not all species can see in the night. Cats feel like they can see and sense everything and not everything can see or sense them, and this may be considered an unfair advantage. They are predators after all!

Hence, if a creature has an advantage, they are more comfortable existing as they can ensure their survivability. With cats, not only do they like having the upper hand, but they also find comfort in the peacefulness that the night gives.

Unlike dogs, cats are somewhat individualistic animals and may prefer their own company, so night time may seem the most ideal.

Cats May Become Hyperactive under a Full Moon

Cats by moon light

A study entitled Canine and feline emergency room visits and the lunar cycle that was published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association shows that the lunar cycle affects the general behavior of dogs and cats. It may make them hyperactive, agitated, or restless depending on the cycle of the moon, and may result in more emergency room visits after related accidents.

Many studies refute this, however, and most of them say that the lunar cycle is not the direct cause of cats’ frisky behaviors. But the many anecdotes and some statistics found online that show cats acting weird or erratic during a full moon are undeniable.

This may very well need more study and exploration to prove scientifically, but if you believe the moon has a direct effect on animals, humans and cats alike, for religious or whatever reasons, you are free to do so!

Cats Love to Explore Their Territory

Cat exploring in dark

Cats are night adventurers who are also very territorial creatures. They like to get to know the area and environment that they live in, and they deem the night time perfect for scouting purposes.

If you live in a nice neighborhood with somewhat busy car and foot traffic during the day, then your cat may not feel that comfortable doing its scouting when the sun is up. It’s busy, and cars and people may get in their way. Night time allows freedom and peace for them as they roam around as much as they like.

They like investigating which areas are perfect for hiding, or for hunting rodents too. They keep a mind-map and remember notable nooks and crannies in the neighborhood or wilderness, and maybe check as well if there is a predator nearby.

Once a cat has a good or rough idea about their territory, they like to keep and maintain it. This is why you normally hear cats fighting during the night! They either fight over territory or food.

Moreover, cats are not prisoners. Although some cats are deemed indoor cats, if they suddenly want to go exploring, you might want to take them out and introduce them to the outside world. It’s not very good to hold back what your pet wants to do as this may cause unnecessary anxiety for them. They should be able to freely roam around and not feel like they are being held hostage.

Cats May Have a Problematic Relationship with Another Pet

Cat swatting dog

If you have more than one pet, you should probably evaluate the relationship your cat has with the rest of your pets. They may not have a very good relationship and they probably don’t get along very well.

If that is the case, your cat may want to distance themselves from your other pets especially if they don’t vibe.

Like mentioned above, cats are very individualistic in nature and would prefer their own company than other animals, and this is exacerbated by bad relationships with other house pets. Everyone needs space and time for themselves, even cats!

If this is the case for you, and you don’t want to keep your cats outside at night for safety reasons, you may want to give them their own space at home away from other pets and make them feel secure. Yet again, sometimes the only place where they find comfort and security is outside!

Cats May Be Seeking New Mates

Two cats mating

Depending on which hemisphere you are in, it is probably the breeding season. Cats may prowl the night looking for potential mates, and may show obvious signs that they are in heat. This is especially uncomfortable for female cats, so you may want to look for ways to help them through this cycle.

For male cats, however, they would show signs that they are in heat, such as restlessness, getting in fights with other male cats, tails constantly moving from side to side, and wanting to be out of the house to look for a new mate.

Keeping them inside the house during this process will make it painful for you too as the owner, as they will continuously yowl and show odd behaviors around the house unless you let them out.

May Be a Sign of a Health Condition

Cat at vet

This may be one rare reason why your cats would prefer to be out at night: your cat may have a health condition that makes them hyperactive, even more than “common hyperactivity”.

Certain conditions include pain, chronic illness, hyperthyroidism, anxiety, and dementia, which causes sleeplessness, neediness, and poor memory. It’s always best to get your cat checked by a vet if they start showing odd symptoms and behaviors.

Keep your Cats Safe!

While it is very common for cats to roam around all night to their hearts’ desire, as owners, it is our responsibility to ensure their safety.

They may be predators and can very well protect themselves from their own predators, but they cannot protect themselves from man-made dangers such as traffic.

If you live in a busy neighborhood that doesn’t sleep, it is within your discretion to prioritize their safety over comfort.

Here are some guidelines by Cats Protection UK that you can refer to if you are in doubt or unsure on what to do about your cat.