Everyone knows that cats can see much better than we can at night. However, it’s not that strange of a question to wonder if cats need a night light to use their litter box overnight.
The short answer is – no, cats typically do not need a night light to help them see and use their litter box.
At least, my cats have never needed any light to help them find and use their boxes over the years.
I threw this question out to a few kitty-owning friends too and they all said the same.
If your cat is pooping or peeing outside of their box overnight, it’s likely to be due to another reason other than visibility.
Don’t panic though, I have a lot of experience solving litter box issues. I think I’ll be able to help you get to the bottom of this behavior and resolve it.
Do Cats Need Night Light at Night?
There is a misconception that cats have some sort of night-vision. This isn’t true, they can see a lot better than we can – but in total darkness, they’ll be just as “in the dark”.
According to several sources, cats only need one-sixth of the light that we do to be able to see well enough to go about their business.
That makes a huge difference in how much they can see at night. Just the moonlight or general light pollution in built-up areas is generally enough for cats to roam freely at night.
This is why most cats – and this includes mine – can walk around the home ok at night. I don’t close any of the curtains downstairs, so there is some night light coming in through the windows.
In fact, if I’ve ever had to get up in the night I can just about find my way down the stairs and around my home without even turning a light on.
The only real risk is tripping over my cat! But on a serious note, this means they can see just fine to find their litter box in the night.
If your home is totally dark, maybe you have shut out blinds or no street lights outside your home, you may need to provide a night light.
Reasons Why You Cat Doesn’t Use Their Litter Box at Night
Generally speaking, there are a few core reasons why cats stop using their litter boxes.
It’s very likely going to come down to one or more of the following reasons:
Their Box Is Too Dirty/Smelly
Cats are clean animals, they like a clean toilet area – and who can blame them!
If they’re not using their box overnight in particular, it may be because they’ve already used it and the smell is making them turn away.
What to do – Clean out their box last thing before you go to bed, and/or add another box for them to use overnight.
They Have an Underlying Health Issue
When a cat suddenly changes their behavior, it can be down to either a traumatic event or a health issue.
Most health issues related to litter box issues are usually minor. Something like a UTI can cause them to urinate more often, or they might have an injury making it uncomfortable to get in and out of their box.
What to do – Get them checked out by a vet.
They’ve Gone off the Litter
Have you recently changed the brand of litter you’re using? If not, there’s still a possibility your cat has decided they don’t like the litter.
Cat’s do things like that.
What to do – Try a different litter, pick one with a finer consistency, and less odor if possible.
It’s Too Dark
This might be the reason behind your cats not using their tray if it’s only happening overnight. As I explained above, cats can see very well at night – but they do not have night vision.
If the room or area where their box is located is pitch black, they probably can’t see it clear enough to use it.
What to do – Use a dim night light or move their box somewhere with better lighting.
Related – Do cats really need two litter boxes?
What Are the Best Places for a Litter Box?
A lot of cat owners put their kitty litter box in the best place for them. Which usually means somewhere discreet where visitors will not see it.
You have to take into account your cat’s preferences if you want them to use it though. And, I’m sure you’ll agree, having a litter box where it can be seen is worth it if it means they’ll use it.
Typically, the best places for litter boxes are:
Another aspect of cat toilet etiquette includes being somewhere quiet and private. So, think about somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic nearby, no noisy machinery, etc.
They can also be spooked and quit using a box. A friend of mine suddenly ran into problems with her cat going to the toilet outside of their litter box last year.
To cut a long story short, we discovered it was because the box was located in her laundry room.
Which is a great place, but if her washing machine or tumble dryer was running her cat wouldn’t go in there.
Apparently, for the most part it was just a coincidence that no noisy machines were spinning when her cat used the box.
But once she was spooked a couple of times, she went off the idea of going in the laundry room to do her business.
Easy access really means two things; one is that the box or boxes are easy to find. The other is that they’re easy to get in and out of.
I’ve seen some elaborate litter box designs over the years that were built into plant pots or blended into the walls.
Only for the owners to find that their cat wasn’t willing to put in the effort to use a tray in that exact spot. Another thing that cats can decide to do!
Which Rooms Are the Best for a Litter Box?
This largely depends on how your house is designed and where the quiet spots are in your home.
The most common locations for litter boxes are:
The Bathroom – This makes perfect sense, a kitty going to the bathroom in the bathroom! From a practical stance, bathrooms are one of the quietest rooms in the home. You just need to remember to leave the door open at all times.
A Closet – As long as you can provide clear access (some people actually use cat flaps) a closet is about as quiet and out of the way as it gets.
Utility/Laundry Room – If you’re fortunate enough to have a laundry or utility room (we currently do not) then this is also a good spot for a litter tray.
Be aware though. As I mentioned above, a friend’s cat was spooked by a loud dryer next to her box and stopped using it.
A Tip – For elderly cats, you also have to take into account their mobility. This was the only time I increased the number of boxes in my home. To help my senior cat have quick and easy access.
If you’ve been trying to resolve litter box-related behavioral issues I hope the information in this article helps.
Cleaning up cat mess is one of the worst tasks a cat owner faces, I know this all too well.
But try not to stress, it’s really not too hard to solve litter box issues if you go through the steps I covered in this article.
Now you know that cats do not have some kind of magical night vision too. They can see more than you, but might still need a little night light to get about in your home while you’re sleeping.
It’s worth investing in a night light to help them out if you think they need it.
Plus, you never know, it might just help you avoid tripping over them in the night if you need to get up too!
Image credits – Header photo by Caleb Woods, Black cat photo by Eduardo Mallmann, Utility room photo by Pau Casals, Bathroom photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash