Should You Leave On A Light For A Cat At Night?

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As pet parents, we all want to do what’s best to keep our feline family members happy and healthy. After all, cats are part of the family. Sometimes, though, it’s not easy to know what’s best for your cat.

For example, if you had a young child, you might leave a light on for them at night to reassure them and help them get around if they need to use the bathroom. But what about a cat? Should you leave on a light for a cat at night?

Quick Overview

01

Cats have excellent vision—even in darkness, they can see very well.

02

A cat’s whiskers, as well as their other senses, help them navigate darkness safely.

03

Leaving a light on for your cat is unnecessary, and could disrupt their natural body clock.

Do Cats Prefer Light?

cat sleep with blanket

Cats can see so well in the dark that it’s generally not necessary to leave the light on for them.

Cats have excellent vision, but they also rely on their other senses to help them get around when lighting is poor. Therefore, cats don’t mind if it’s dark. Their eyes are excellent at reflecting even the smallest amount of light, their whiskers will tell them if they are too close to an obstacle, and their sense of smell and sensitive hearing will give them a sense of direction and help to keep them safe.

Rather than leaving a light on for your cat at night, it’s absolutely fine to stick to using lights when you need them yourself and turning them off when you go to bed. This will save on energy costs, but it might also have some other benefits.

Also Read: Can Cats See Spirits, Ghosts And Angels?

Why Is Darkness Best For Cats At Night?

cat in the dark

Cats are active during the night and don’t find the darkness upsetting.

You might think you’re being kind by leaving the light on at night for your cat. But here’s why darkness could suit your cat (and you) better:

1. It Might Discourage Zoomies

cat in the kitchen

Leaving the light on at night might could lead to more activity from your cat rather than sleep.

No one wants their cat racing around in the middle of the night making lots of noise while they’re trying to sleep. If you leave a night light on for your cat, it might encourage more wild moments of zoomies or playtime, as their senses will be stimulated. Even if you turn the light out, though, we can’t promise that your cat will respect your need for sleep!

Also Read: Why Do Cats Crab Walk: Here’s What It Means

2. It Won’t Disrupt Their Routine

cat walking in the night during night

Leaving bright lights on overnight can affect your cat’s internal circadian rhythm.

Cats have a natural circadian rhythm, similar to humans. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland during the hours of darkness. Their body clock is aware of when it’s dawn and dusk, and they tend to keep a pretty regular routine. Unlike us, they tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, and it’s common for them to spend the daytime catnapping.

In humans, melatonin helps to signal that it’s bedtime. If you leave a light on for your cat at night, it might disrupt their natural sense of time and interfere with their routine.

Also Read: Do Cats Have A Sense Of Time?

3. Cats Can See In The Dark

cat walking at night

It’s recommended that you shouldn’t leave a light on for your cat at night as it encourages nocturnal behavior.

You might think that you’re doing your cat a favor by leaving the light on for them. However, for cats, light is completely unnecessary, since they have better night vision than us. They’ll be able to find their food, water bowl, litter box, and bed with no trouble at all.

A cat’s sight is so good because their pupil dilates and allows any available light, even small amounts of moonlight onto their retina, where sensitive light receptors called rods and cones are waiting.

Also Read: Can Cats See In The Dark?

4. You Might Get More Sleep

Turning off the lights at night might encourage your cat to sleep more when you’re sleeping.

If your cat is not stimulated by the light being on, they might be less likely to have sudden bouts of meowing, playing, or racing around during the night time. This could mean more sleep for you, which is never a bad thing!

Also Read: 11 Tips To Train Your Cat To Sleep All Night

When Is It A Good Idea To Leave A Light On?

cat in cat bed

New kittens might appreciate a nightlight until they get their bearings in their new home.

If you have a new kitten, they’ll be feeling a little unsettled and insecure after leaving their mother and litter mates. They won’t know their way around their new surroundings yet and they won’t be in a familiar environment.

So, it might be a good idea to leave a light on for your kitten for the first night or two, until they settle in. Blankets, soft toys, and some calming sprays might also help reassure kittens and provide comfort.

Also Read: How Many Hours Do Kittens Sleep?

Final Thoughts

cat in scratching post

In most cases, it’s best to turn the lights off for your cat at night.

When you have a loved one around the house, it’s normal behavior to show you care by leaving a light on. Whether your partner is working late and will be returning home in the dark, or your teenager is hanging out with friends until the early hours, a dim light left on can reassure everyone. However, when it comes to our feline family members, it could be a better idea to keep the lights off!

Also Read: The 12 Best Cat Beds

Frequently Asked Questions

Do cats prefer light or dark at night?

Cats are adept at moving around in the dark. They have excellent night vision, much better than ours. Their hearing and sense of smell can also give them information and their whiskers will help them navigate their surroundings safely.

Can I leave a cat in a dark room at night?

It’s not a problem to leave a cat in a dark room at night. As long as they have access to food and water, they will be fine. Cats can see well in the dark and are naturally active at times when there is low light. So, you don’t need to worry about how they’ll manage in the dark.

Are cats bothered by darkness?

Cats don’t tend to be bothered by darkness. This is because they rely heavily on their other senses, and their vision is much better than ours, even in darkness.

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About Dr Hannah Godfrey MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. She has a passion for soft tissue surgery as well as canine and feline dentistry, having completed additional training in both areas.

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