Cats are often labelled as nocturnal creatures but are actually crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk). They sleep during the day for long periods of time and some spend their nights and early mornings driving their owners up the wall making noise, attacking their feet, or meowing incessantly. Outdoor cats especially enjoy the nighttime as it allows for them to embrace their instincts with less human interaction. So, what do cats do when they are outside at night?
Claim New Territory
As any cat owner knows, they are very territorial animals. With everyone asleep, our feline friends can go out at night and claim new spots with minimal human interference.
Cars are a major threat to cats when they spend time outside and being able to explore with fewer cars on the road is an opportunity most cats won’t want to miss.
We also know how curious cats are and the darkness provides an ideal cover for them to explore new spaces and claim them as their own. They also may visit things they found interesting during the day, or on a previous night, but felt the moment wasn’t right to explore them further at the time.
The Thrill of the Hunt
Being the hunters they are, outdoor cats will often take advantage of empty yards and streets to go out on a hunt for prey. Their senses are sharper in the dark, giving them an edge when looking for movement in the stillness of the night.
Hunting at night has its ups and downs, as some animals may be sleeping, reducing the amount of overall prey available. Cats find a way though, as many outdoor cat owners know the feeling of waking up and opening the door only to find a small creature, dead, sitting at the doorstep. Sadly, keeping your cat full of food will not stop them from this behaviour as it is instinctual. They hunt for the thrill and because their bodies leap into action as soon as they see something move.
Seeking a Mate
Cats will go outside at night in search of love. Well… maybe not love as we see it, but they are searching for a mate. The cover of night is a perfect backdrop for a cat to find other cats without humans interfering. This is why it is so important to spay or neuter your cat, especially if you let it outside.
Hiding from Other Pets
Some cats will try to spend the night outdoors to get away from another pet. When we sleep, pets realize they can do as they please in the home and if one pet is bullying your cat, your cat may feel more comfortable outside. This is not a good situation to find yourself in and hopefully you can figure out a way to resolve it so they are less desperate to get outside when bedtime rolls around.
How Far Do Cats Roam at Night?
It is believed cats typically roam between an average of 40 to 200 metres from your home when they go outside. The reason for this broad range is that cats typically like to know they have a safe path home in case anything goes awry, however, if they spot prey or something curious at a distance, they may dart over a little extra further to get to that thing.
Cats go outside for stimulation and if there are plenty of interesting things near your property or right on it, they may spend most of their time there. If there isn’t much interest at home, they may wander further.
A Note on Outdoor Cats
We don’t encourage people to let their cats outside, especially in larger cities as there are numerous threats posed to them, from other cats to your neighbours. Some people really don’t like cats and will try to cause them harm. Wild animals such as coyotes or wolves are also major threats to cats living in rural areas. In most situations, keeping your cat inside is likely the best thing for it. With that said, not everyone’s situation is the same and we understand some people may have different arrangements.
One way to have the best of both worlds is to build a catio on your home. A screened in section of the home where the cats are safe from the outdoors, but still able to take advantage of being outside and feeling the breeze. We wrote a previous article about catios on our blog, click here to have a look!