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Bringing a kitten into your home is a wonderful experience but it can raise many questions that may never have even considered before.
When it comes to sleep, we already know that cats are different from humans and I’m sure most of us have noticed that they tend to sleep more during the day and explore our house during the night.
But what about kittens?
Will they be able to navigate through the darkness?
Or should I leave a light on for my kitten at night? Cats are crepuscular animals, meaning that they have better night vision than humans. Keeping the lights off will help kittens sleep during the darkest hours and the residual half-light from outside should be enough for them to see in the dark.
If you’re a new cat parent or just curious if you should leave a light on for your kitten at night, then keep on reading! We’re about to cover everything you need to know in detail!
Can Kittens See In The Dark?
Before we get to discuss whether you should or shouldn’t leave the light on for your kitten or cat, we ought to learn more about their sight. You see most of us have probably heard or believed that cats are nocturnal animals, but that’s only partly true. Cats are actually crepuscular animals– let’s break down the differences.
First, let’s see what being nocturnal means and what does it say about our kitties. This behavior is usually associated with animals that are active during the night instead of the day. That’s the time when they hunt, mate, and avoid heat and predators.
Being nocturnal doesn’t mean that you can see clearly during the night as we see during the day of course. It means that nocturnal animals have special physical traits that give them a sort of advantage during those dark hours.
Cats use their ears to hunt and they use scent-marking to communicate with their environment. In fact, your cat’s smelling talent lies in their Jacobson’s organ. You’ve probably seen your feline companion use this organ when they sniff the air and then freeze for a moment with their mouth half-open.
This strange facial expression they take is called the Flehmen response and it’s important for mating, marking territory, and intraspecific communication. Basically, it’s, “a cat’s way of analyzing an unfamiliar and interesting scent,” says kitten rescuer Hannah Shaw.
Because cats are also predators and prey, having the ability to hunt during the night is an advantage. But not all cats are believed to be nocturnal, and there are those who support the idea that they’re crepuscular animals, meaning that they’re primarily active during the twilight period.
This belief comes from the fact that cats can’t see in total darkness, instead, they can see their way around in low levels of light. That’s why they are mostly awake to hunt during dusk and dawn. Whether your cat is a complete night owl or a moonlight romantic might be up for debate, but their vision is not.
Vision can sound a bit complicated, but I’ll do my best to explain it quickly. So, what makes cat and human vision so different is the retina. It’s a layer of tissue at the back of the eye and it contains cells called photoreceptors. These guys convert light rays into electrical signals which our brain translates into the images we see.
There are two types of photoreceptor cells, the first are rods that are responsible for night vision and detecting brightness and shades of grey. The others are called cones, and they’re responsible for day vision and color perception. I’m sure you can guess which cells our cats have in abundance.
According to research our cats, “have a superior ability to see in the dark because of the high number of rods in their retina that are sensitive to dim light. As a result, cats can see using roughly one-sixth the amount light that people need.”
This great advantage also means that our kitties have a slightly wider peripheral field of 200 degrees, while humans have 180 degrees. And while they’re great at detecting motion, their vision isn’t as clear, they’re nearsighted and they can’t see the same amount of hues and color shades we can.
Now you might think why you need to know how your kitten’s eyes are working in order to make them happy. Well, Jeremy Long, one of the authors of Seeing Through the Eyes of a Cat explains that “Learning about an animal’s visual system is an important step in understanding how that type of animal perceives the world around them, and how they behave within it.”
Do Kittens Need Light In The Dark?
Humans and cats alike have the pineal gland that receives information about whether it’s light or dark and it’s responsible for the production of the hormone melatonin. This hormone regulates wakefulness and it’s even used as a sleep aid for cats and dogs alike.
Having light when it should be dark instead, could cause issues with the production of melatonin. It could disrupt your kitten’s sleep, make them feel alert and uncomfortable, especially since most cats do sleep during the night and tend to play and explore their surroundings during dusk and dawn.
Some kittens as they grow will sync their sleeping patterns with their owners, while some will spend their night with play breaks in between their sleep. So, your kitten doesn’t really need light while it’s dark, and if you’re sleeping in the same room or/and bed I don’t think you’d like to have any light pointing its blazing eye on you!
Should I Leave A Light On For My Kitten At Night?
As we’ve established leaving a light on for your kitten at night or any time really, isn’t necessary. In fact, keeping your house dark during the night will help your kitty develop a sleeping routine. This way you’ll find that your kitten won’t be seeking your attention and disrupting your dreams.
On the other hand, keeping your blinds completely shut and having pitch-black darkness around the house could also cause problems. As we’ve talked about before cats are considered crepuscular animals, and they need some degree of light. Having a completely dark room means that they won’t be able to see much.
Especially for a kitten, this can be a stressful environment. They might have trouble reaching the litter box, finding the food and water bowl. The most dangerous situation would be if you didn’t see your kitten in time and stepped on it or kicked it.
If you leave in an area where it tends to be very dark, a dim light can help shed some light around the house without disrupting anyone’s sleep. You could also pull the curtains aside to let some natural light come into your home may that be the moonlight or artificial light from the streetlights.
How To Help A Kitten Sleep At Night?
As we’ve established keeping a light on for your kitten during the night isn’t a good idea if you want them to sleep. Similarly, to help your kitten develop a sleeping routine during the night you don’t need to keep them in complete darkness, and the light or the lack of it aren’t the only factors at play when it comes to feline sleep.
Play And Exercise
According to Sandy Myers, an animal behavior consultant from Narnia Pet Behavior Clinic in Naperville Il, “Cats in the wild are active at times when rodents come out, typically after dark,” she also states that “A cat naturally wants to spend her evenings hunting and playing predator games, even if she is a well-fed house pet.”
Even a small kitten no matter how cute and innocent has the need to explore their hunting instincts as they grow older. While there’s not much to prey upon in our homes, our kittens still need to satisfy this natural instinct. You might find your tiny fluffball roam around your house during the night, in what is known as, “midnight crazies”.
Their instincts may trigger this behavior but it could be regulated. You see, by the time you’re back home, it might be quite late, and this leaves little time for interaction, that’s necessary for your cat’s happiness. A trick to keeping your cat happy and avoiding nighttime crying is to play with it before you go to sleep.
So, if you want your kitten to sleep throughout the night, the Veterinary Centers of America advice is to consider, “whether the cat is getting sufficient amounts of social interaction and social play during the daytime.” They also add that “offering several social play sessions with chase toys, as well as some reward-based training exercises might help to fill the cat’s needs.”
Especially for those of you working during the day, it’s important to spend some time with your kitten and help them relieve their hunting instincts during the afternoon and evening hours. This way they should get tired and spend most of their night seeking dreams and not attacking your feet.
Like this little white rascal for example!
Cats are comfortable in an environment where there’s a constant routine in most things. Playing and socializing with you is part of it, but scheduled feeding could also help your cat feel secure, even when there are changes in your home. VCA hospitals also suggest that leaving your kitten eat as much as they want can cause obesity, bloating, and indigestion, which might disrupt their sleep.
Your cat’s type of food as well as the time of feeding could also help them through the night. Having a well-fed kitten means that they won’t wake up during the night to look for food. But if it so happens that your kitty does feel the urge to nibble on some food an automatic cat-food feeder could actually keep them from disturbing you.
This way they’re less dependent on you, and once they’re done with eating chances are that they’ll return back to sleep. Of course, overfeeding your kitten for the sake of sleep is never the answer. You could have a few toys that offer treats to keep them entertained until they feel sleepy during your play sessions or in the middle of the night.
Smaller and more frequent meals could also be great for your kitten and help them sleep better. But to understand what feeding schedule will work for your kitten and their needs you might want to ask for some advice from your vet.
Even though cats tend to be more active at dusk and dawn, domesticated cats could adapt to your sleeping hours. Creating a sleeping routine with a kitten is much easier than with an older cat and all you need is consistency in your training!
The best way to train your kitty to perceive night as a time of sleep is scheduled meals, afternoon, and evening play sessions as well as positive reinforcement.
Scolding your kitten or shouting at them will never teach them a lesson because you’re “inadvertently giving the cat attention which in the cat’s mind, is better than nothing and so it’s rewarding,” explains Mikel Delgado, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University of California, Davis.
By creating a schedule and turning it into a positive experience for your kitten you can train them to sleep when you want them to sleep. The trick according to Mikel Delgado is, “reward what you like and ignore what you don’t like.”
You might hear your kitty meow in another room, demanding your attention during the night and the last thing you want to do is cave in. Of course, it’s important that you make sure that your kitten is in a secure area with all their necessities at their disposal. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to find your precious fluffball stuck on a shelf they’re too afraid to climb down from the next morning!
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that training a kitten will take time and you should take baby steps with them. Choose treats they’re enthusiastic about and use them wisely. Ignore your kitty when it’s necessary and make their sleeping conditions pleasant.
What Is The Best Place For A Kitten To Sleep?
Most of us tend to seek comfort when we lay down to sleep. We try to buy mattresses that will offer the proper support, soft pillows to rest our heads on and cozy covers and blankets to keep us warm. We do everything we can to make our sleeping space welcoming.
Since cats are renowned sleepy heads, these comfort criteria should also be applied to them. Some of you might simply let your kitten sleep on the pillow next to you, or buried in your hair. I’d know because that’s what I did with mine! But for couples, for people that are restless sleepers, and for cat parents who are afraid they’ll hurt their small kitten it’s not the best option.
Of course, you could still let your kitten sleep in the bedroom. Cats can easily become attached to their owners and sleeping with them can be a great source of security and a time of bonding. You might want to consider a large crate, filled with soft blankets water, food, and a litterbox. This way your kitty won’t go around the house unattended and make you feel nervous.
With some persistent training, you could also keep your kitty off the bed without a crate, and teach them to sleep on their own. You could buy a soft cat bed that’s shaped like a house or a basket to help them feel protected. You can keep it next to you on the bed or your bedstand. Use treats and praise to help them stay in their bed. Keeping the door of your bedroom closed should also help your kitty from going outside and getting into trouble.
Now if you’d rather keep your bedroom to yourself then the next solution would be to choose a safe room for your kitty to spend the night. A crate could be a good option in this situation as well, or you could make sure that there are no possible dangers for your kitty to get into.
Create a space that has all the necessities a cat might need as well as some entertainment. Your kitten will need a cat tree that they can use to scratch their nails. This budget-friendly cat tree on Amazon is great for kittens since it’s not too big and it has a few levels to help your kitten become more confident with climbing. You could also place it in front of a window where they can observe the outside in the early hours.
Don’t forget to leave a few toys lying around as well, but make sure they’re safe and that they don’t have small parts your kitten could ingest. Create your cat’s sleeping space with the same care you did for yourself, so both of you can enjoy the sweetest of dreams.
Can You Leave A Kitten Alone Overnight?
Bringing a young kitten into your home will require your time and attention. Kittens are not like grown cats and usually, they have a lot of energy to spend. In this initial stage, it’s important to spend time with them by playing, cuddling, and simply being present, especially if you want a cuddly cat and a good friend.
That being said, as most of us have demanding jobs there might be times when we’ll be away from home for hours. You might even have to spend a night away for some other important reason. That’s why it’s essential that you create a space where you can leave your kitten without supervision.
This can be the same area you’ve created for your kitty to spend their night at. It should have a water and food bowl as well as a litter box. Try to keep the litter box away from the feeding area of your kitten because cats like to keep them separate (understandably!)
According to common vet advice, you should keep the area cat-proofed. This means that any sharp objects they can hurt themselves with, strings and electrical cords they good chew and consume should be removed. Kittens are quite small in size so they can get stuck into small spaces easily, so watch out for that as well.
As long as your cat has a safe environment with plenty of entertainment, with things to climb on and scratch, they can be left unattended. But while your kitten is still small it’s better to avoid living them alone for long hours because cats also need our presence and socializing to be happy.
Consider hiring a cat sitter or asking a friend to watch over your kitten if you have to be away. If your kitty isn’t happy with the environment and if they feel lonely it’s quite possible that they can become anxious and depressed even. So, before you decide on adopting one, make sure you’ll be able to commit to them and fulfill their furry expectations!
Cats are truly brave! I mean they’re not afraid of the dark even when they’re kittens. In fact, that’s when they seem to be having the time of their life apparently!
So, now you know that you can leave all doubts behind as you turn off the light in your kitten’s room. You could keep a dim light on or better let the moonlight be their guide since that’s all they need during their nightly cat-patrols.
Let us know if you have anything else to add about whether you should leave a light on for your kitten. Do you use a low light or no light? Do they sleep through the night or do they turn into your own personal poltergeist?