Is it possible that kittens are afraid of the dark? The fear of the dark, or night phobia, is common amongst children and even adults.
The association of darkness with fear is so widespread that some cat owners wonder if they should keep a light on at night in case their kittens are scared of the dark too.
Is this plausible… or are we just projecting human fears into animals?
Most kittens are not afraid of the dark as their eyes can adjust to the darkness, allowing them to see even in low-light conditions. It is more likely that kittens are scared of being alone rather than being in the dark. That said, although it’s uncommon, it’s not unheard of for kittens to be scared of the dark.
Here, we’ll examine this topic further and find out the many ways a cat owner can help a kitten that has a fear of darkness.
The reasons why a kitten is scared of the dark
Just like humans, kittens can be afraid of what they cannot see.
If you leave your kitten in an enclosed area that is completely devoid of light, your kitten will be just as blind as you are. It’s easy to be afraid when you don’t know what’s around the corner, and when you’re unable to navigate without bumping into alien objects.
Older cats can become scared of the dark when they associate it with bad experiences. For kittens that have yet to accumulate experiences into their memory bank, the fear of darkness is best attributed to the feeling of being “lost”.
However, if there is some light that penetrates the room, a healthy kitten’s eyes can adjust to the darkness. As compared to human eyes, the eyes of cats, with its elliptical shape, large corneas and abundance of rod cells, are better built for night vision.
Hence, if your kitten has a fear of darkness, there’s a possibility that it is scared of the dark due to poor vision or other eye problems that hinder its ability to see in low-light conditions.
The main sign that a kitten is scared of the dark
Kittens can be scared of many things – loud noises, a new environment, strangers and a trip to the vet. It really depends on the kitten’s personality, which admittedly comes in a huge variety.
When a full-grown cat is scared, the signs are usually clear. It will run away, hide, show aggression or freeze in place. With kittens, on the other hand, it’s harder to tell especially if they’re still tiny and just fumbling about.
However, one of the clearest signs that a kitten is scared of the dark is crying.
If you notice a pattern of your kitten letting out sorrowful cries whenever the light is switched off, there’s a possibility that the cries are caused by the darkness.
But first, you should eliminate other potential and more common reasons why your kitten could be crying – such as hunger, loneliness, pain or sickness – before making a firm conclusion that your kitten has a phobia of the dark.
After all, as mentioned before, cats are adapted to see in low-light conditions.
How to help a kitten with a phobia of darkness
Comfort the kitten
If your kitten is living alongside its mother that it seeks comfort from, you could switch on a source of light and let the mama cat do its job.
If you’re fostering an orphan kitten who’s crying due to a fear of the dark, you’ll want to comfort the poor kitty immediately. You’d know your kitten best, so do what makes your kitty stop crying and start purring.
Stroke it gently, give it a cuddle, swaddle it with a micro-fleece blanket, or brush it gently. You may also talk to the kitten and soothe it with your voice, or distract it with a toy or a yummy treat.
Don’t leave the kitten alone
When a child is feeling scared of the dark, the child is likely to ask to be accompanied by someone. The same logic applies to a kitten.
Being alone makes a kitten feel vulnerable. Perhaps it’s their natural instincts that manifest here; out in the wild, the concept of safety in numbers apply. Animals that are alone are less likely to survive an attack by predators.
Instead of leaving your kitten alone in an empty room, set up a corner in your room and kitten-proof it. Build a warm and cozy nest, and ensure that the kitten has access to everything it needs, including its water bowl and litter box.
It’s also perfectly fine to let the kitten sleep in bed with you if it’s big enough to do so, but keep in mind that you might not be able to change your mind in future. Once your kitten marks its territory on your bed, you could have yourself a permanent sleeping arrangement.
If letting the kitten sleep in your room is not feasible for whatever reasons, you can try other methods on the list.
Introduce light into the room at night
This is one of the most obvious solutions.
You can install a dim nightlight in your cat’s sleeping room and switch it on at night. While your kitten does not want pitch-black darkness, it will not want blinding light either, so the keyword here is dim.
Too much light at night may disrupt the rhythms of your kitten’s body clock, causing it to become disoriented.
Alleviate your kitten’s fear of darkness
If you’d like to tackle your kitten’s fear of darkness head-on, you need to ensure that your kitten feels safe in the dark.
Here are some steps to take:
- Get your kitten a proper bed. This could be a padded cat basket or an improvised box with a blanket.
- If the kitten is recently separated from its mother, bring familiar scents belonging to its mother (such as from a blanket or stuffed toy) into its sleeping area.
- You can also try using a cat pheromone diffuser which will release synthetic pheromones that can de-stress and calm the kitten.
- Put the kitten’s bed somewhere quiet, away from the noises originating from inside the house and from outside the window.
- Give your kitten spaces where it can hide. If it’s not sleeping in an enclosed area, leave some boxes or tunnels in the room where your kitten can run to when it’s feeling scared.
When introducing anything new to your kitten, do so slowly.
Also, allow your kitten to explore its room and get familiar with its surroundings. If the room is large, consider switching your kitten’s room to a smaller one so it’ll be easier for your kitten to explore the entire area.
When your cat feels comfortable and safe in its room, it’ll also feel more confident at night and in the dark.
Bring your kitten to the vet
As mentioned, there may also be something wrong with your cat’s vision that renders it blind at night. You’ll want to look out for excessive eye discharge, unusually dilated pupils or eyes that appear discolored or foggy.
If you notice these symptoms or any others – like excessive crying – or just have a feeling that something is wrong, it doesn’t hurt to bring your kitten to the vet for a check-up.
Your veterinarian can alert you if something is wrong, and even if your cat is in the pink of health, you can get advice that is tailored to your special little one.