So, you’ve just got a new kitten, and now you’re plagued with worries. Where should my kitten sleep? Will he be ok on his own overnight? Another common question new kitty owners ask is, should I leave a night light on for my kitten? Do they really need one? Let’s find out!
So, should I leave a light on for my kitten at night? Kittens don’t strictly need a light on at night because cats have much better night vision than us. Saying that it may be beneficial to leave a dim light on for the first few nights to help your kitten adjust to its new surroundings.
There are benefits to having a light on for you too.
It will also prevent you from accidentally tripping over your small little furball in the middle of the night!
So, you could be saving your kitten from yourself, too!
Nevertheless, you likely still have some questions.
So let’s delve into them, so you know exactly what to do when it comes to leaving (or not leaving) a light on for your new kitten.
Do Kittens Need Light At Night?
Kittens shouldn’t need a light on at night. However, it can be beneficial for the first few nights to help your kitten settle into its new home. Contrary to popular belief, cats cannot see well in pitch-black darkness. While they have been known to hunt at night, they are classed as crepuscular animals, which means they are more active during dawn and dusk.
Cats have more rod cells in their eyes (a type of photoreceptor cell) than humans, which allows them to see 6-8 times better than us in low light conditions!
They also have a layer behind the retina, called the tapetum lucidum, that reflects light back into the eye.
This increases the light available to the rods and cones and helps your cat to see more clearly, even with minimal light.
In addition, a cat’s pupils are vertical, so they can change shape and adapt to different light conditions rapidly.
So, what does all this mean?
Well, basically, cats only need a slither of light to be able to see.
So, if you leave the curtains open in your kitty’s room overnight, then you shouldn’t need a night light – the brightness of the moon will be more than enough!
If, on the other hand, your kitten is left in a room with absolutely no light, then they may benefit from a dim artificial light to help them navigate their surroundings.
Don’t leave a bright light on at night, as this can mess with your kitten’s natural circadian rhythm (the sleep-wake cycle). Like most animals, cats have a pineal gland that produces melatonin (a natural sleep aid). This tells your cat when it’s time to nap, which ties in with the changes in available natural light. So, by leaving a bright light on night and day, you could be interrupting the secretion of this hormone and preventing your kitten from sleeping properly!
If you’re looking for the kind of light to buy, then I’d strongly recommend this cost-effective dimmable set below from Amazon:
Humans are diurnal, which means they are naturally awake during the day and sleep at night.
Cats, on the other hand, are crepuscular, so they have two peaks of activity; one in the morning and one in the evening.
They also have a polyphasic sleep routine which means they sleep multiple times a day rather than having one long snooze.
However, they are surprisingly adaptable creatures that can learn to fall in line with their owner’s routine. It just takes a little time and patience!
Are Kittens Scared Of The Dark?
Kittens are not naturally afraid of the dark, but they can develop a fear of the dark depending on their circumstances.
Think about it, your beloved kitten was surrounded by its mother and siblings prior to being adopted.
He or she felt safe and protected from any dangers or lurking predators.
Then suddenly, it finds itself in a completely new environment filled with unfamiliar scents and strange people.
You do your best to comfort your little one, and eventually, he comes to trust you.
Then he is left alone in a dark room, all alone overnight!
Just like humans, cats can fear what they can’t see, especially if they are somewhere unfamiliar.
The good news is that your kitten will eventually get used to the darkness, especially if you leave the curtains open because this will provide a subtle source of light.
Troubles can arise when your kitten has had a bad experience in the dark before (think fireworks or loud banging!).
Cats have an associative memory which means they tend to quickly associate events, sounds, and movements with certain situations.
Just as a cat can come to associate the sound of a tin opener with dinner time, they can associate the dark with scary loud noises if that’s what they have been exposed to.
Even when no sounds are present, they will still remember the terrifying episode. If not dealt with, this can lead to anxiety which is a whole new issue!
Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Excessive vocalizations
- Continuously scratching at the door
- Changes in appetite
- Toileting outside of the litter box
Do Kittens Need Darkness To Sleep?
Kittens do need darkness to sleep and to maintain a consistent sleeping pattern.
You have probably witnessed your own kitty sprawled out on the sofa, napping away, during the day.
So, naturally, it makes us wonder if kittens really need darkness to sleep? The answer is yes.
Cats rely on the natural light-dark cycle to know when to sleep and when to be active.
So, darkness is important at night to help your kitten maintain a consistent sleeping pattern.
Kittens can sleep for up to 20 hours in a 24-hour-period, so their schedule may seem a little haphazard to us.
But in fact, they are still relying on light cues.
They tend to nap more during the day to build up their energy so they can hunt effectively in the evening and at night.
As crepuscular creatures, they are also much more comfortable in the dark than us!
Humans primarily use their sight to navigate their surroundings.
Cats, however, use all their senses much more effectively, particularly scent.
They also use their whiskers to detect objects nearby.
They may not look like much, but whiskers are specialized hairs that are as sensitive as human’s fingertips!
This is because the follicles are packed with blood vessels and nerves that constantly send messages back to the brain whenever there is movement or when a solid object is detected.
Because their natural body clocks differ from ours, you should expect a certain level of meowing and movement at night from your fur baby.
Especially in the first few weeks.
Once they get used to your routine, they should begin to settle down.
It can be upsetting listening to your little one yowling in the middle of the night, but it’s important to stick to your guns!
If you run down to comfort your kitten every time he makes a noise, you are just rewarding bad behavior!
That said, young kittens should not be left alone for longer than 4-6 hours as they can get themselves into all sorts of trouble!
When you go down, keep the lights dim and your voice soft; otherwise, you run the risk of getting your kitten overexcited!
Then, you will never get a good night’s kip!
How To Ensure Your Kitten Can Sleep Through The Night
Cats and kittens thrive on routine, so it’s best to set up a strict schedule from the beginning.
This will help your kitten eventually sleep through the night.
It’s important to be patient with your young kitten in the beginning, as it can take several weeks for any positive changes to occur.
Remember that your kitten is likely to cry out for the first few nights, but it is important to stick to a routine.
The best thing you can do is offer your little one a comfortable, safe environment.
They will get the message eventually!
If you are having problems getting your kitten to sleep, then it may be worth seeking the advice of a vet to rule out any potential medical conditions.
Optimize Their Sleeping Environment
Set up a quiet, comfy room for your kitten and leave the door open for them to investigate it in their own time.
Be sure to add a soft blanket, a few toys, food and water bowls, and a litter tray to make the room as appealing as possible!
If your kitten is old enough, you can also provide some vertical space with the use of a cat tree.
Cats love to be up high because it gives them a sense of security.
Finally, add an old t-shirt of yours to your kitten’s bed as your familiar scent will offer reassurance.
It may be tempting to allow your kitten to sleep in your bed for the first few nights.
While this is a completely personal choice, you need to be prepared to have a bundle of fur on your bed for years to come, as habits are hard to break!
Alternatively, you can set up a bedding area for your kitty in the corner of your bedroom.
Being close to you may offer your little one comfort without the risk of you rolling onto her or him in the middle of the night!
Establish A Sleeping Place
Kittens can be allowed to roam the house once they are fully litter trained, but make sure they know where the litter box is!
Introduce your little one to a new room gradually, and be sure to observe them in the first instance to make sure they don’t get stuck or injured on anything!
Wherever you choose to leave your kitty overnight, ensure all dangerous objects such as exposed cables and priceless vases are hidden away!
By this point, you should also have your kitten microchipped just in case the worst happens!
Remember that the choice of when to let your kitten roam the house is a personal one.
Just like humans, cats differ in personality.
So, it is up to you to decide when you think your little one is ready.
But bear in mind that letting your kitten out too early can lead to behavioral problems and potential unwanted injuries.
Here are a few other tips to help your kitten to sleep through the night:
- Play with your kitten before bedtime: Not only will your kitten love the attention, but the activity will help to tire him out.
- Consider investing in an automatic feeder or offer food ad-lib: Kittens need to eat much more regularly than adult cats. So, always ensure there is food available to prevent your kitten from waking you up in the middle of the night for a feed!
- Provide mental and physical stimulation: You don’t want to get your cat excited at bedtime by offering loads of his favorite toys! But, providing him with a few safe objects to play with overnight can be a lifesaver! A bored kitten is usually a very noisy kitten!
- Provide warmth: Kittens love a nice cozy, warm spot to curl up in! So, ensure you provide a couple of soft blankets for him to snuggle up in. A box, wicker basket, or laundry basket make perfect beds! You can also consider adding a water bottle underneath them for added comfort. Just make sure it is securely wrapped and not too hot!
Whether you decide to leave a light on for your kitten at night is going to come down to context.
If they are a brand-new kitten, new to your home, and unfamiliar with their surroundings, a dim light may be of great benefit.
Just ensure it’s not too bright nor shined directly on the area you intend for them to sleep in.
That being said, a light is not ‘essential.’
As we have covered here today, a kittens/cat’s ability to see in low-light conditions is considerably better than ours.
Do you have other questions about your kitten and their sleep? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can You Leave A Kitten Alone Overnight? [& If So, When & Where?]
- Where Should My Kitten Sleep At Night? [The Right Approach]
- Why Does My Kitten Wake Up So Early? [& How To Stop Them]
- Can Kittens Sleep Outside? [The Approach To Take]
- Why Is My Kitten Sleeping So Much? [How You Should Respond]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.