Do Cats Like The Dark? Should I Keep a Light On at Night?

As crepuscular beings, felines are more active during dawn and dusk. But do cats like the dark in the first place?

Cat owners know how their sweet kitties can turn into formidable hunters come nighttime. Proof of this is endless zoomies at 2 am and a paw slap just as when you’re in the middle of a dream.

do cats like the dark

While cats are active during dark hours, some owners are still wondering if they should leave a light on for their pets.

Below, I talked about this topic to help pet owners who are wondering whether they have to give their felines extra attention at night.

Do cats like staying in dark places?

In general, cats like being in the dark since it’s innate in their genes. It’s because the darkness of the surroundings allows them to hunt better since the prey won’t see their presence easily.

However, there’s so much misconception surrounding a feline’s ability to see in the dark. Below are some of the points you should know:

Do cats like staying in dark places

Cats can’t see in pitch dark

One long-standing myth about cats is that they can see in very dark places. The truth is that felines don’t have visual abilities in the pitch dark.

Like any mammals, cats need a certain amount of light to actually see their surroundings. The difference with humans is that felines can dilate their pupils more.

To be specific, a cat’s pupil can dilate by as much as 300 times whereas, with humans, it’s only 15 times. Since cats can expand their pupils more, they can capture even the slightest amount of light present.

This small amount of light is enough for a cat to see its surroundings. So while it appears dark and non-visible to humans, felines can still see, thanks to their unique visual abilities.

However, this ability to see in the dark comes at a price. The more a cat’s pupil dilates, the lesser visual quality it will have.

Overall, the notion that cats have night vision is partially untrue. While they can see in the dark, they aren’t capable of visually perceiving their surroundings in the pitch dark.

Cats rely on multiple senses to navigate in the dark

Aside from dilating their pupils to see in low-light conditions, felines also use their other senses to navigate in the dark.

For one, cats have a strong sense of smell. They can sniff almost anything even if their vision isn’t clear.

This allows them to detect prey like rodents, birds, and other critters. Your cat can also smell your presence, especially if you’re using aromatic products.

Take note that cats have 14 times more scent receptors than humans. This is why they can sniff their way through dark places.

Aside from their sense of smell, cats are also equipped with powerful hearing. They can hear frequencies that aren’t audible to the human ear.

In the dark, cats can hear the slightest rustling, crackling, or ruffling. It’s the same ability that contributes to a cat’s predatory skills.

Lastly, felines can use their sense of touch to walk around dark areas. Their whiskers are like radar systems that tell them whether they are about to bump into a surface. 

If you combine all of these senses, you won’t wonder how a cat can manage to roam around your house at night.

Cats are not really nocturnal 

It’s important to note that cats are not nocturnal, which is a widespread misconception ever since. Instead, they are crepuscular creatures.

Crepuscular beings are active during twilight. This means that cats love darkness with small hints of light, which is just the right setting to pursue prey.

On the other hand, nocturnal beings are active in the dark or at nighttime. While some cats may exhibit such characteristics, their original behavior in the wild is that of being crepuscular.

Should you leave a light on for your cat at night?

Should you leave a light on for your cat at night

Overall, it’s not necessary to leave a light on for your cat in the middle of the night. Felines are naturally used to navigating in low-light conditions.

In fact, keeping your house dark at night can help kittens and adult cats alike to fall asleep. This will help the kitty adjust to your schedule if paired with physical activities during the daytime.

However, this may not apply in the domesticated setting all the time. Since felines have adapted to human living, they may not tolerate darkness as much as they do in the wild.

For example, cats with anxiety or who have associated darkness with a negative experience may benefit from having a small light on at night.

You don’t have to keep your room lighting on, but consider using a small lamp that will provide low amounts of light to your cat. This is to mimic dawn and dusk instead of leaving the poor kitty in the pitch dark.

A small lamp can help kittens find their way to the litter box. If you have a kitten, this lighting can help you see through the floor and prevent stepping on the tiny feline. Please read more: Why Does My Cat Sleep In The Litter Box

To do this, you can leave a table lamp on in your living room. Keep the light low and just enough to illuminate the surroundings a little bit.

Is it okay to leave cats in the dark?

Is it okay to leave cats in the dark

Leaving a cat in complete darkness isn’t a good idea. In the morning, consider leaving your blinds open to let your kitty see some light.

Also, if you have multiple cats at home, leaving them in complete darkness can become disastrous. Dusk and dawn are when cats become active as predators, therefore more likely to engage in catfights.

What do cats do at night?

At night, cats usually have intensified activity levels. They may run around the house, pounce on their sleeping owners, and topple things all over.

Still, a feline’s behavior at night highly depends on its owners’ habits. If their owners keep them active during the day, cats can sleep at night.

If you want to minimize your pet’s manic nocturnal behavior, you should help it adapt to your routines. Give it more playtime during the daytime and consider using artificial pheromones at night to keep the kitty calm.



Do cats like the dark? Technically, they don’t like the dark, but felines are equipped to navigate around it.

In the wild, cats become predators once dawn and dusk arrive. In a domesticated setting, this still rings true, though some felines may start to pick up on their owner’s routines.

But if you’re worried about your anxious pet, you can use a small lamp to keep the room slightly lit. Aside from lighting, you should also use other methods to help calm your cat.

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