What Do Cats Do Outside at Night?

It is common for a domestic cat to sleep during the day and become much more active after dark. Cats enjoy the quiet of the night. With fewer people around, cats can act out their natural instincts outside at night.

Cats that go outside at night enjoy exploring the terrain and conquering new territories. They can roam more freely with fewer people on the streets. Cats also like to hunt at night because many prey are nocturnal. Some cats seem to hide from other, more dominant pets, while others seek a new companion.

Many cats relish the opportunity to roam after dark. However, it is not always safe for them.

This article reveals what cats do when the sun goes down and why they like the dark.

But we’ll also point out some dangers so you can decide whether to let your cat be outside while you sleep.

Why Do Cats Like the Night?

Your cat probably sleeps much of the day and gets active after dark. Studies suggest that feral cats are primarily nocturnal by nature.

In reality, however, cats are crepuscular. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Many cats enjoy the peace and quiet of the early morning hours.

After dark, humans are usually in bed and asleep. During the day, cats are exposed to constant sounds and smells.

When night falls, the streets outside are much quieter. This is usually a quieter and more pleasant time for cats.

Cats can see well even in dim light. Because of the special anatomy of cats’ eyes, they reflect very little light and absorb more of it. In many ways, cats’ vision is sharper at night.

If you walk the streets at night, you will undoubtedly see cats going about their business at some point.

These are primarily domesticated house cats that take advantage of the nighttime opportunity to explore the streets and claim them for their own.

Do Cats Prefer to Be Inside Or Outside at Night?

Some cats much prefer to be at home at nightfall than outside.

If your cat feels safe with you and has a designated territory, he will probably stay inside. This way, the cat will stay warm and safe from harm.

However, some cats prefer to roam at night. This is especially likely if the cat has a strong hunting instinct or has not been neutered.

However, as mentioned earlier, cats also enjoy the night’s peace and solitude.

If your female cat is in heat, she wants to be outside at night for obvious reasons. She picks up the scent of male cats patrolling outside.

For this reason, cats in heat howl and howl after dark. They want to attract the attention of a mate.

If your cat is a male and has not been neutered, he will also want to go outside. Un-neutered males are always very interested in reproducing.

Nighttime is the perfect opportunity to do this without humans getting in their way.

Where Do Cats Go at Night?

Some cats stay in your yard at night. But for most cats, that would be a missed opportunity.

Darkness provides the ideal opportunity to explore new territory. The better question, therefore, is how far cats roam at night.

Cats have varying degrees of curiosity, courage, and wanderlust.

The average roaming distance of a cat ranges from 40 to 200 yards from its home. It all depends on the trade-off between risk and reward.

If a cat finds its territory, prey, food, water, and stimulation close to home, it feels no compulsion to stray far.

Cats like to know how to retreat to a safe space if necessary.

However, if the immediate territory has nothing of interest to offer to a cat, it will feel the urge to move further away.

Likewise, cats that detect an attractive scent may follow it as far as they deem necessary. It is not uncommon for cats to walk for miles at times.

What Do Outdoor Cats Do at Night?

We have briefly touched on what cats like to do outside after dark.

Cat behavior at night can be divided into four categories: Exploring, Hunting, Hiding, and Mating.

Let’s now take a closer look at each of these activities.


Exploring and claiming territory is the most common activity of cats at night.

Cats can move more freely than usual when there are no people around and less traffic on the road.

These nighttime explorations are an excellent opportunity for cats to establish a new territory.

During the day, established cats will likely jealously guard the territory. Your cat may set her scent marks and stake out her territory when these are not around.

Cats like to explore their surroundings to satisfy their natural curiosity. However, time during the day can feel overwhelming for cats as they are surrounded by too many sights, smells, and sounds.

Maybe your cat’s interest was piqued by something during the day. She didn’t feel able to pursue that curiosity.

At night, when everything is quiet, a cat may spend her time exploring anything that has caught her imagination.


Many animals considered natural prey for cats, especially rodents, are active at night. Your cat knows this and can adapt its daily routine to that of these small animals.

Night hunting is easier for cats because they can better rely on their hearing and sense of smell.

These senses are sharper and more refined when the streets are quiet outside. Because there are fewer distractions, cats can focus on their prey.

Cats hunt by instinct, not hunger. An overnight food bowl will not deter a cat from hunting.

For cats, stalking and catching prey is as natural as breathing.


Some cats prefer to hide outside the house at night. This doesn’t mean your cat hates you, but it could indicate a problematic relationship with another pet.

Most multi-cat households have a natural hierarchy of dominance and subordination.

In most cases, everyone is happy with this order. As long as all cats have their territory, they can coexist peacefully.

Unfortunately, some cats never get along well with other cats. Dominance in cats can lead to tyranny and aggression.

Usually, owners will stop such a war as soon as they notice it. If you sleep in another room, this may not be possible.

If a cat does not feel safe without the protection and intervention of humans, she may seek a hiding place until her humans wake up.

She will then return when you are awake. She is sure you can handle any inappropriate behavior from a feline roommate.


Non-neutered cats prefer to look for a mate at night. However, that doesn’t mean you can let a cat in heat roam free during the day.

Nighttime is an opportunity to mate undisturbed, and it doesn’t take long for two cats to complete the mating process. Often, it is over after only 30 seconds.

After dark, it is easier to find that time when no human disturbs or interferes.

It is also easier for female cats to find a suitable mate at night. During the day, any cat can roam the neighborhood.

This can become too much for a female and lead to fights between the males. At night, some of these cats are confined to the house.

Is It Dangerous for Cats to Spend All Night Outdoors?

Many owners are uncomfortable with letting their cats roam outside at night.

This is partly due to human fears and concerns. We are hard-wired to stay home after dark and prefer our cats do the same.

Still, the concerns about letting cats outdoors at night are not unfounded. Nighttime can be a dangerous time for indoor cats.

If you leave your cat outside overnight, you must know the dangers. When in doubt, leave the cat flap open so your cat can come and go as he pleases.


Traffic accidents are a common cause of cat injuries and deaths. Many of the cats that are hit by cars suffer fatal injuries.

Traffic is less at night, and thus, cats are less likely to be struck by a moving vehicle. But the consequences of such a collision could be worse.

At night, cats are less likely to be watching the roads. During the day, when numerous cars make noise on the street, cats are more cautious.

After dark, when the roads are seemingly quiet, they may be more careless about road safety.

In addition, empty roads encourage many drivers to drive fast. The higher the collision speed, the more likely the cat will suffer serious injuries.

At night, drivers may also have limited visibility. Even the most alert driver can be surprised when a cat unexpectedly chases a mouse into the road.

If the car does not slow down or stop in time, tragedy can result.

Other Animals

After dark, prey is plentiful. This will not go unnoticed by other neighborhood cats, whether house cats or feral animals.

Your cat will likely compete with other cats for the hunting prey, which can lead to conflict.

Competition for prey is only one reason cats fight. Cats may also fight over territory or a mate.

If your well-behaved cat encounters a feral or stray opponent, he may be surprised at how vicious such animals can be.

It’s not just other cats you need to worry about. Many cities are home to nocturnal wild animals that can attack a cat.

Foxes, for example, are active at night in many cities. And even owls can be predators of domestic cats.

If another animal attacks a cat, immediate first aid may be needed. This is impossible if the cat cannot get home.

Likewise, an injured cat may retreat to an unknown hiding place to recover. This process can take several days and cause owners a lot of worry.

Cold Weather

Another problem with leaving cats outside overnight is exposure to the elements.

Unless your cat is genetically predisposed to enjoy cold weather, it can be difficult for them when the temperature drops.

In addition, cats abhor wet fur. Being caught in the rain is an unpleasant experience for any cat.

Cats are intelligent and adaptable. Most cats will find a way to find shelter.

Cats can wait out the unpleasant weather conditions at their leisure as long as it is not an already occupied area.

Unfortunately, cats don’t always choose the safest hiding places.

For example, your cat might retreat to a neighbor’s shed or garage. This can result in the cat being unknowingly locked up for an extended period.

Even more dangerous is the preference of cats to seek shelter under cars. The owner may not notice the cat when he starts his car in the morning. In this case, the risk of injury is apparent.

Likewise, the cat can pinch a body part, usually the tail. This can lead to fractures and breaks or worse injuries.

A free-roaming cat behaves the same way at night as during the day. She will enjoy herself more because there are no distractions.

It is a judgment call on the owner whether this is desirable. If in doubt, leave your cat home after dark, as this option is safer.

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I, Daniel Popovic (Place of residence: Germany), process personal data to operate this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in my privacy policy.
Data protection
I, Daniel Popovic (Place of residence: Germany), process personal data to operate this website only to the extent technically necessary. All details in my privacy policy.