Cats love to roam, especially at night. This is because they are creatures whose instinct is to hunt when it is dark outside, especially at dawn and dusk. Those are the times of day that a cat is most active. If your cat is allowed to be outdoors, you may wonder what they do in the darkness of the night. You are not alone in this question.
The team at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital is here to clear up the mystery of what a cat sees outside at night. Let’s explore!
Why the Nighttime Exploration?
The reason why your furry one loves to go out at night is based on their genetics. Cats are not true nocturnal animals but crepuscular. This means they are most active during the early evening and morning, at dawn.
Cats are innate hunters and they have the greatest chance of encountering prey species at those times of day. Even though the age of hunting for their breakfast is over for most domestic cats, they still retain that instinct to roam and hunt at night.
What Do They Encounter?
Your small little cuddlebug may seem like a couch potato during the day, but you’d be surprised that their instincts kick in whenever they get the opportunity. In fact, they may have delivered you a “present” of a mouse or bird on your kitchen table, if they are allowed outdoors.
A study conducted by the University of Georgia collected the video footage of over 50 cats to see what it is they do, where they go, and what they encounter at night. They found that up to half of the studied cats spent their time hunting wildlife, like lizards, frogs, and mice. Other cats did a lot of exploring, too, but many of them stayed within a ½ mile of their home. Since cats are territorial, they tend to roam in their own neighborhood, on established paths they become acquainted with.
Their Impact on Wildlife
Obviously, outdoor cats have a heavy impact on wildlife. Cats, even a few, can deplete local songbird populations through kills and injuries, as well as their presence. It’s been suggested that the domestic cat has contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
The Risk to Your Cat
Even though you consider Fluffy to be a savage city cat, being outside puts them in danger. Outdoor cats only experience a 3-5 year lifespan as opposed to the lifespan of indoor only cats, 10-16 years. There are several threats to your cat when being outside, which include:
- Being struck by a car while crossing a road
- Encountering wildlife that can harm them
- Potential for cat fights
- Exposure to antifreeze and other toxic chemicals.
- Getting trapped in drains and other crawl spaces
- Becoming lost or getting stolen
Cat on cat aggression is also likely when a cat is left outside, which puts your pet at risk of injury and disease.
What Your Cat Sees Outside… Is It Worth It?
While kitty certainly loves to be out and about at night, the risks to their health and the health of other animals isn’t worth it. There are several things you can do to encourage at-home enrichment, such as giving your pet a window perch in front of a bird feeder or allowing them outside on an enclosed patio.
Ultimately, your pet’s best life is our aim and we are here for you. If you have additional questions about what your cat sees outside, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.