Do Cats and Dogs Like to Sleep in the Dark?

Ensuring pets get a good night's sleep is crucial for their well-being. While dogs generally tolerate sleeping in the dark well due to enhanced night vision, cats often prefer dark, cozy spaces for lower stress levels. Some pets with poor vision or trauma may dislike the dark, but a comfortable sleep environment, positive reinforcement, and treats can help alleviate their anxiety.

When you go to sleep at night and you have a pet, oftentimes, that pet sleeps somewhere nearby and you strive to create a comfortable environment so they can get their best sleep too. Having just the right atmosphere is key in helping your pet get the sleep they need to thrive.

“A good night’s sleep is important to ensuring our pets have the energy required to live a happy, fulfilling life,” says Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor for Rover. “Well-rested [pets] are energetic and playful when they are awake, instead of sluggish or sedentary.”

One factor to consider when going to bed alongside your pet? Light. Perhaps you’ve wondered whether your dog or cat prefers to sleep in the dark or light. Ahead, we’ll explore just that.

Do dogs like to sleep in the dark?

So, do dogs like to sleep in the dark or light? As Greenstein notes, dogs can be surprisingly apprehensive about a lot of everyday experiences, like car rides or loud noises, but most dogs aren’t afraid of the dark. 

“Dogs actually have more visual acuity than we do at night,” says Greenstein. “Plus, they rely on their other super-keen senses like smell and hearing to help them navigate proficiently when the lights are out.”

It’s not so much whether or not your dog “likes” to sleep in the dark—it’s whether they can tolerate it. If they have no or low anxiety and have good vision, then they should do fine in the dark.

But if you notice that your dog is newly anxious at nighttime, then it’s always wise to check with your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical concern like decreased vision or a neurological condition, says Greenstein.

Do cats like to sleep in the dark?

While preferences of any kind depend on the individual pet, in general, studies have shown that cats often enjoy a cozier refuge, says Greenstein. That’s because having a hiding spot (as basic as even a simple box) is linked with lower stress levels.

Cats do indeed enjoy dark, cozy spaces—so they may like and even prefer sleeping in a dark room.

Why do some dogs and cats hate sleeping in the dark?

In some cases, dogs and cats don’t enjoy sleeping in the dark. For example, Greenstein says some pets with poor vision are more likely to bump into things or fall in low light, which might make them a little more apprehensive. 

Additionally, some pets with a history of confinement or trauma in dark places may also have negative associations.

How to help your dog or cat feel safe in the dark

Do you have a pet who’s fearful of sleeping in the dark? To help them feel safe, just like with humans, it’s important to make sure their sleep space is conducive to relaxation, says Greenstein. 

That means a soft, comfortable spot to curl up and a quiet environment without loud noises. Greenstein also says calming words and positive reinforcement with treats are “tremendously helpful.”

“It’s a good sign if your [pet] is sleeping soundly or showing signs of deep REM slumber, like twitching or moving or making faint noises, while fast asleep,” she says.

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FAQs

Do dogs need a light on at night?

“For elderly pets or those with poor eyesight or mobility issues, I would recommend providing a nightlight and keeping them in familiar rooms whose layout they are used to,” Greenstein advises.

Where should my dog sleep at night?

Greenstein says a dog’s bed should be kept away from high-traffic or noisy areas of the home so they don’t always feel like they have to be on high alert. This could translate to a quiet bedroom where you sleep for the night.

How do dogs know to sleep at night?

Did you know that dogs have circadian rhythms, similar to people? That’s what alerts them that it’s time to go to bed. Also, Greenstein says age, health status, activity level, daily exercise, and day length can all impact their level of sleepiness at a given time.

Should I let my cat sleep in the dark?

“By and large, there’s no reason cats can’t sleep in the dark, especially given how well they can see in low light,” Greenstein says. “In fact, many cats prefer dark and cozy hiding spots to cuddle up for naps.”

Do cats like sleeping with lights on or off?

Have you ever wondered, “Do cats like to sleep in the dark or light?” Greenstein says studies have found that cats do enjoy sleeping in the dark and prefer to tuck into dark, small spaces to sleep.

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