While we sleep about 7 to 9 hours a night, a cat sleeps roughly 12 to 16 hours out of every 24. Why is it, then, that they often seem to be underfoot and jonesing for action just when we want things calm? You’d think that with all that time snoozing, the chances would be high for them to be taking it easy when we are.
The reason is that while we are diurnal — most active during the daylight hours — cats are crepuscular — most active at dawn and dusk. In the wild, those times of day provide them with enough light to hunt prey but not enough to be so easily spotted by predators. It’s a biological safeguard.
But what it means in your house is that if the sun starts to rise at 5 am and your alarm clock is set for 7, your cat doesn’t care. She is ready for action as soon as the night’s darkness starts to lift. That’s why so many cats start slapping their owners around in bed as dawn creeps in.
It’s the same for dusk. Just as you’re trying to wind down from a long day, preparing dinner, or getting other chores done after many hours at your desk or away from the house, she’s feeling revved up.
How to sync your down time with your cat’s
You’re not going to be able to erase many thousands of years of evolution by the way you train your cat. She’s always going to have a biological urge to remain active at dawn and dusk. But if you spend some time with your cat every day — training her, playing games with her, stroking her, and so on — she will be able to adapt to your routine better than she might otherwise. Stick to a schedule, and it will go even better. Cats like predictability, and if she can count on you to keep her engaged and entertained at certain times of the day, she will be more likely to be able to make accommodations for your own biorhythms.
Also, perhaps you can adjust your to-do list a little bit. It’s hard at dawn, but at twilight, maybe the thing to do is make a point of playing with your cat rather than trying to get her to adapt to the fact that you want to prepare dinner at that time or just sit quietly. In other words, maybe for the sun-setting half of her daily crepuscular cycle, you can play to her natural propensity rather than the other way around. The concerted effort to pay attention to her at that particular time of day might help her act more cooperatively when you really need it.