Are Cats Nocturnal or Diurnal? Their Sleep Behavior Explained

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: April 24, 2023
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If you are a cat owner, then you probably know what it’s like to be woken up at 4 AM by excessive meowing or an occasional paw in your face. Or maybe your cat wants to play right when you are about to go to sleep. It might have you wondering, “Are cats nocturnal or diurnal?” Discover the answer now, including everything there is to know about their sleep behavior.

Crepuscular Vs. Nocturnal Vs. Diurnal

The image is a photograph taken at night with a flash. The elf owl is perched on the end of a naked lim, right of center frame. The bird is positioned facing left, though its head is facing the camera. is gray and brown, with a darker left wing., which is the only wing visible in the frame. The owl's eyes are large and roundd with yellow irises and black pupils.

Nocturnal animals are active at night and inactive during the day, while diurnal animals sleep at night and are awake during the day.

©Agami Photo Agency/

Animals that have diurnal behavior are active during the day and sleep or are inactive at night. Many mammals, birds, and reptiles are classified as diurnal. Humans are typically diurnal, awake when the sun is up and asleep when the sun goes down.

The opposite of diurnal is nocturnal. Nocturnal animals are awake at night and asleep or inactive during the day. Most nocturnal creatures have special adaptations that allow them to survive in the dark. Animals like owls, bushbabies, and bats are nocturnal.

Crepuscular animals are active during the twilight hours. These animals are inactive during most of the day and night but become active around sunrise and sunset.  

Check out this article for a detailed breakdown of the difference between nocturnality and diurnality.

Are Cats Nocturnal? What Sleep Behavior Do Cats Have?

can cats see in the dark

Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are at their most active during dawn and dusk. They often sleep most of the day and are more active at night.

©Konstantin Zaykov/

Cats are neither nocturnal nor diurnal, they are crepuscular. Cats are most active at dawn and dusk. So if you’re wondering why your cat only wants to play, eat, or cuddle when you’re trying to sleep, this is why. As humans, we have different sleep behavior from our feline friends. When we are winding down for the day, cats are super energetic and active. And they do not typically follow a strict schedule. Some cats may be more active at night, while others are more alert during the day. If you’ve ever woken up at 3 AM to the sound of your cat spazzing out, running around, and playing with its favorite toy, do not be alarmed. This behavior is completely normal for cats.

Why Are Cats Crepuscular?

The reason cats are crepuscular comes down to evolution. Their wild ancestors were low-light predators, meaning their eyesight evolved to see well during the twilight. If you’ve ever wondered why your cat’s eyes glow when you take a picture or shine a light at them in the dark, it’s because their eyes can see effectively in darker environments. Their bodies are also programmed to conserve energy for these “hunting hours.” They sleep for long periods during the day and the middle of the night so that they are ready when the sun rises or sets.

Are Wild Cats Nocturnal?

Like domestic cats, wild or feral cats are crepuscular, being more active during the twilight. However, a feral cat can lean more nocturnal. If you’ve ever heard stray cats fighting outside your window, you can probably attest to that. Wild cats are more likely to hunt, breed, socialize, and even fight at night. Meanwhile, your furball is probably curled up on your feet. 

Are Big Cats Nocturnal?

Just like domestic cats, big cats, such as lions and tigers, are crepuscular. While cats, like lions, do most of their hunting at night, they are most active during the early morning or late evening. However, big cats are opportunistic and will hunt during the day if the opportunity presents itself. But domestic cats will also wake during the day to eat and drink.

What Do Cats Do at Night?

Singapura laying on the bed

Some cats sleep at night, while others stay up playing, eating, and cuddling. Some get the “night crazies,” staying up for hours running around.


Does your cat get the “night crazies?” Do they keep you up for hours acting like maniacs? Well, you’re not alone. Staying up late into the night or waking up super early is normal cat behavior. While some cats sleep most of the night, others will stay up playing, eating, cuddling, and acting like a loud noise machine with their purring. 

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

House cats may not need to hunt during the twilight hours anymore, but their instincts to conserve energy are still present. Cats sleep for long periods during the day and sometimes at night to conserve energy for their active periods. Cats can sleep anywhere from ten to 13 hours a day, with some even snoozing up to 17 hours.

How Long is a Cat’s Sleep Cycle?

Cats don’t sleep for one long period like humans. They break up their sleep into shorter chunks, lasting around 50 minutes up to two hours. The average cat nap is 78 minutes.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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