Should cats be kept in at night? How to keep your cat safe
It’s autumn again—the time of year when the days become shorter and the weather becomes colder. Find out more about cat safety at night, the reasons why we recommend keeping your cat indoors overnight, and why your cat is waking you up.
Should I let my cat outside at night?
Short answer – no. It is recommended to keep your cat indoors overnight to keep them safe. This is especially important during the winter months when the weather is colder and there is a risk of fireworks, which may startle your cat.
Is it safe for cats to be outside at night?
Unfortunately, there are many known dangers for cats at night. It can be safer in rural areas with less traffic and during the warmer months. Find out about the most common risks below.
Some of the dangers for cats at night
These are some of the most common dangers that can affect the safety of cats at night.
Cold or extreme weather
Dangerous weather conditions can affect cat safety at night. Extremely cold weather can lead to frostbite. Heavy rain or snow can affect cats abilities to find their way home.
Car traffic accidents are more common during the night. This is thought to be due to a higher risk of speeding and reduced visibility.
Other cats and predators
It’s normal behaviour for cats to hunt during the night, which makes them more likely to get into fights with other cats. This can lead to bite and scratch wounds, which can become infected. It can also lead to the spread of diseases such as FIV.
Other animals that are threats include foxes. Foxes are more active during the night and may cause harm to cats, especially those that are young or elderly.
Cats may also become injured trying to escape from other cats or animals.
Cats often seek warmth and quiet places. It’s common to find them accidentally trapped inside garages, sheds, or even car engines.
Although rare, humans may cause harm to cats on purpose. There is an increased risk of this when there are fewer witnesses around overnight in the dark.
Why is my cat awake at night?
It’s completely normal behaviour for cats to be awake in the evening. Research has shown that they are more active during dawn and dusk. In the wild, big cats hunt during the evening when it is dark, as their eyes adapt well and they have a big advantage over their prey.
Why does my cat wake me up at night?
Most cats sleep between 12 and 18 hours a day. This can increase as they get into their senior years. There are several reasons why your cat may wake you up at night.
- Your cat may be hungry. Try feeding them smaller meals more frequently, or use an automatic feeder.
- Stress and anxiety. To reduce stress, make sure your cat has access to the key resources they need. These are: access to food, water, a toilet area, a scratching area, a high perch, a play area, and a resting or sleeping area. Speaking to a behaviourist may be recommended by your vet if they suspect your cat is stressed.
- A medical issue. We would expect to see other symptoms if there was an underlying medical issue, such as vomiting, diarrhoea, or drinking more than normal. It’s always best to speak to a vet for advice if your cat’s behaviour or sleeping patterns suddenly change.
- Your cat may be bored. If they don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation during the day, they will be more likely to stay awake overnight.
How to keep your cat entertained indoors
- Provide daily play time with your cat to help with physical and mental stimulation. Spend time with them before bed to reduce the chances of them being active overnight.
- Make sure they have access to the key resources they need. These include fresh water, a safe place to hide, a scratching post, and a clean litter tray.
- Try to keep their routine as consistent as possible.
- Use an interactive feeder.
- Cats love to be up high. Give your cat a selection of toys and a cat climbing frame.
- Indoor cats will require more attention than cats who get outdoor exercise during the day.
How to get your cat to come home at night
A consistent routine is extremely important for cats. They are very sensitive to changes in their environment.
- If your cat asks to get out when it is already dark, try to distract them with some play time or an interactive feeder, and they should settle.
- If you have a cat flap, use one that you can lock in the evening.
- Get your cat into a feeding routine, and try to avoid letting them out after their last meal of the day. If they are not hungry, there is less chance of them returning before bedtime.
How to help keep your cat safe at night?
Here are some tips to help keep your cat safe if you find it difficult to keep them indoors overnight.
Give your cat a reflective collar
Reflective collars are useful if they are put on correctly. Make sure you can fit two fingers between your cat’s skin and the collar. A quick-release safety buckle is also recommended.
Microchip your cat
Microchipping your cat is recommended, even if they are indoors only. In England, from June 2024, it will become compulsory. It is possible that other countries will also bring in this legislation.
Make sure your cat is fully vaccinated
Use a GPS cat tracker
GPS trackers are usually attached to a collar or harness. They work by locating your cat via a satellite signal. This location is then sent to your phone or other device. They do have drawbacks, though, such as a short battery life, and may not work in certain areas, like garages.
Consider building a catio
Building a safe outdoor space that is completely enclosed is a good option for letting cats go outdoors, and it can be used during the day and overnight too.
Our Joii vets are available 24 hours a day for advice. If you have any questions about keeping your cat safe or your cat’s behaviour, call us now.