Most people who own a cat have to leave the cat alone for the majority of the day while they attend work or school, so they don’t get to see what their cat does every day. Despite that, cats are creatures of habit that thrive on routine, and many of them repeat the same routines day in and day out.
A cat’s routine consists of sleeping, eating, drinking, and playing. Cats spend most of their days sleeping but also require a fair amount of exercise and play to stay mentally healthy and physically fit. Cats enjoy getting their meals at regular intervals and will sometimes become upset if they don’t receive either food or attention at expected times.
If you enjoy routine, you can get the most out of owning a cat. Read on to learn more about the routine of cats and how you can exploit it.
Do Cats Have a Routine?
Domesticated cats have a routine, though the routine a cat keeps may vary from individual to individual depending on their lifestyle. A housecat that is strictly kept indoors may have a different routine than a barn cat who works for his supper.
Regardless of how they live, the routine of most cats falls into these categories:
- Sleep: Sleep dominates a cat’s life, with most cats averaging between fifteen and twenty hours of sleep a day. (Source: Purina) Cats are also nocturnal, which means as a part of their daily routine, they tend to sleep the daytime hours away and do their exploring and play at night when they would naturally be hunting in the wild.
- Drinking and feeding: Cats prefer to be fed several times a day and will quickly get used to being fed at the same time each day if a routine is established. This will lead to the cat harassing its owner for food if this routine isn’t kept up. Some cats also prefer to drink running water and will get their owners to run sink faucets for them to drink out of in addition to their water bowls. (Source: Cornell University)
- Litterbox: A cat’s daily routine includes at least one trip to the litterbox, and it is part of a cat’s routine to cover up its droppings or urine with litter in an attempt to mask their scent. Cats prefer to have a clean litterbox as part of their daily routine, and some will become very resentful if it is left uncleaned – to the point of using the bathroom elsewhere in the house.
- Hunting and play: While a cat may spend most of its daily routine either sleeping or lounging around on the verge of sleep, a cat will spend most of its waking hours hunting (or pretending to hunt in the case of housecats) and playing. Cats play by chasing random inanimate objects to make pretend games or by pretending to fight with and attack each other. (Source: International Cat Care)
While these activities make up the usual daily routine of a cat, cats also form much of their daily routine around the activities of their owner. For example, if you feed your cat every morning before work, your cat will likely be following you around from the moment you wake up until the moment you head for the food bowl. Cats get used to having things a certain way each day.
Cats that can come in and out of the house may also develop a schedule of wanting to go outside at certain hours, such as dawn and dusk. This corresponds not only to a cat’s bathroom habits (which indoor/outdoor cats will usually conduct outside) but also to times of day when prey animals such as mice and birds are easiest to catch. Dusk and dawn bring low light conditions that are perfect for a cat to catch a mouse in.
What is a Cat’s Daily Routine?
In many cases, a cat’s daily routine will start with them waking up their owner since a cat is nocturnal and is usually up for hours before a human gets up for the day. At this point, most cats will either want to be greeted and fed or to be greeted and let out of the house.
Once a cat has used the bathroom, eaten, and groomed itself, it usually settles in for several hours’ worth of napping. This is especially true if the cat has been allowed to roam and play all night long, which means it will keep its nocturnal habits. It is possible to train a cat to play during the day and sleep at night with its owner, but it requires resetting their natural sleeping schedule.
It’s important to remember that a cat doesn’t sleep for hours and hours on end. Instead, a cat will take several “cat naps” throughout the day, taking breaks to run around and play or hunt. If a cat is encouraged to sleep during the night with its owner, it will often spend more time during the day playing than if it can play all night.
Cats tend to be most active in the morning and evening and are most likely to be found sleeping in the heat of the day. That means if you want to tire your cat out so that it will sleep through the night, you should incorporate some heavy play sessions into the afternoon routine to help get them worn out and ready for sleep. (Source: Ohio State University)
Why Does My Cat Run Around in the Morning?
Many cat owners notice that their cats may be especially rambunctious first thing in the morning, ironically when their human owners may be slightly less conscious. Why is it that cats are so energetic at the crack of dawn?
This is for two major reasons: cats are nocturnal, so the chances are the cat was already awake for hours before dawn, and cats become attached to their owners and become excited when they wake up. For the cat, this means that they now have a playmate and also have someone awake to feed them—it’s a win-win!
Cats also tend to run around first thing in the morning as a way to stretch their legs and prepare themselves for an early morning hunt. Even domesticated housecats still possess these old hunting instincts and prepare to hunt at dawn just like their lion and cheetah counterparts do.
How to Help Establish a Daily Routine for Your Cat
If you want to establish a daily routine for your cat to make them more comfortable and to make it easier to care for them, there are several steps you can make to simplify the process.
Here are some tips for setting up a daily routine for your cat:
- Do all cat-related chores on a daily routine of your own. Making sure to feed your cat at the same time each day and change their litterbox at the same time will make your cat feel happier and more secure. It also helps ensure that you don’t accidentally forget to feed them or clean the litterbox!
- Get your cat used to coming back in at the same time each evening. If you let your cat out during the day, get them used to coming back in each evening to eat supper. That way, if they ever don’t show up, you know that it is unusual behavior. This also encourages outdoor cats to stay within range of the house.
- Play with your cat at the same time each evening. Building a play session into your indoor cat’s daily routine where you tease them with a toy or laser can help keep them trim by giving them some needed exercise and can also cut back on boredom-related behaviors such as climbing curtains or aggressive play-fighting.
If you set up a daily schedule for your cat, you can encourage the behaviors you want and discourage the ones that you don’t.
Cats Thrive on Daily Routines
Whether routines are set up by their owners, or they come up with the routines themselves, cats prefer to keep the same daily habits. By setting up daily routines for your cat yourself, you can help train your cat to keep the kind of habits that make them a reliable companion.