Anyone who owns a cat can attest to the fact that their furry friend enjoys slinking around the home under the cover of darkness. Come nightfall, cats turn into formidable predators that can and will bring in their dead prey for you to wake up to in the morning.
Other than preying on helpless victims of the night, cats are also known to go a little bit mad at night - thinking its play time at 3:am is not uncommon for housebound cats.
All this after-hours sneaking, preying, and playing might have you thinking that cats were tailor-made for the dark.
However, and very much unlike nocturnal owls, cats aren’t programmed with night vision. This article will dispel the myths and deliver the facts that surround cats and darkness.
Do Cats Like the Dark?
As we have already pointed out, yes, cats like the dark. The cover of darkness gives cats an extra sense of stealthiness which bodes well with their slinky characteristics and habitual movements.
Even in the middle of the day, cats often prefer to be tucked behind the sofa than out in the open.
Knowing that it gives them an upper hand against their adversaries, cats feel comfortable in darkness. However, cats excelling in dark environments does not mean they like total darkness.
Against popular opinion, they are not nocturnal creatures with highly advanced night vision - they still need a little bit of light to see. It is, therefore, incorrect to say that cats love the dark and to just leave it at that. Dark or light, there is more to this story than meets the eye for cats.
Why Do Cats Like the Dark?
Cats like the dark because they are crepuscular. This scientific label essentially translates (in layman’s terms) to being active creatures at dusk and dawn.
This doesn’t mean that a cat won’t make the most of the day or night if the time is right, it's just that, in general, they are most active in the twilight hours of the day.
In the wild, dusk and dawn are also great times to hunt. If your cat is particularly fond of going out on the prowl in the early hours of the morning and late into the evening, this is their natural instinct at work.
On the flip side, cats who love to lay around snoozing all day, don’t necessarily despise the light, they are simply trying to conserve their energy for the more fruitful hunting hours of the day.
Let’s not forget that domestic house cats are descendants of the fiercest land mammals on earth - lions and tigers. So, even though it isn’t necessarily for house cats to hunt for their next meal, their tenacious tendencies will see them trying their luck in the dark.
How Do Cats See In The Dark?
Cats are fascinating pets because they are so different from humans. One way that cats differ from us is their eyesight.
Their ability to see extremely well in almost totally black environments is one of their most important and defining factors. How do they do this you ask? Well, you’re about to find that out.
Light And Dark
We now know that cats can see well in the dark, but did you know that they can also see well in light environments too? The ability to see well in light environments will help to explain the why behind their undeniable love of darkness.
Cats’ pupils are highly tuned to expand and contract to allow the perfect amount of light into the eye. The pupil of a human eye can do this too but only at a fraction of the cat’s eye.
If you have ever taken note of a cat’s eye in broad daylight you will have noticed how narrow its pupils are.
They turn into tiny little sideways slits that ensure their eye isn’t flooded with excessive light that makes it hard for them to see. For this reason, they have no need for sunglasses.
As darkness falls a cat’s pupils will dilate, expanding to become round. Asides from giving them an undeniable cuteness, it is this dilation that allows them to see and hunt so well at night. In fact, it is proven that cat pupils can grow to 300 times their size.
Compare that to the human pupil that can only increase 15 times its size and you start to understand just how impressive your cat’s nighttime sight really is.
Can Cats See Without Light?
Despite their impressive night vision, cats still need some light to see. Put a cat in a completely blackened room without any trace of light and they will stumble around the place just like we would. After all, cats are mammals and their eyes can not function without light.
In saying that, cats only need one-sixth of the ambient light that humans need to see clearly. So put them in a room with no light except the faintest light of the moon coming in through the window and they will feel at home.
Another thing to consider is how heightened the rest of a cat's senses are. Their heightened senses allow them to function in low-light environments with an astute sense of authority.
Should You Leave A Light On For Your Cat?
One of the biggest myths that cat owners love to abide by is that it is necessary to leave a light on for your cat at night. This simply isn’t true.
The light from windows along with little bits of light from appliances like your tv and oven will give your cat all the light it needs to move about your home without worry.
Leaving a light on for just one night won’t send your energy bill through the roof. Do it for a year straight and you will notice the hit to your back pocket.
So there you have it. You now know that cats do in fact like the dark and the reasons why. Cats are fascinating pets that don’t ask for much but offer so much fascination and affection. Treat them right and you will become enamored by their movements, day or night.
At Love4Cats, our practice involves consistent collaboration with licensed veterinarians and reputable industry experts. However, it's important to note that the content provided on Excited Cats is not intended as veterinary advice. While we strive to enhance your understanding of feline care, the information presented on this blog should not replace professional veterinary guidance.