Are Maine Coon Cats Nocturnal?


Anyone who has ever owned a Maine Coon will know that they are unlike most other breeds. Apart from being a very attractive cat to look at, the reason why they have become one of the most popular domestic cats in North America and Europe is because of their personality.

Having owned Maine Coons for over twenty five years, I know a thing or two about this breed and can say with all honesty I will never own another breed of cat. Don’t get me wrong, I love all cats (in fact, all animals) but the Maine Coon is just perfect.

They make for an ideal family pet, as long as you are in a position to give it the attention it needs (which is quite a lot). They are mischievous, naughty and playful – all qualities that your children will love. My son is 12 now and has been brought up with our Maine Coons (who are both now 14) and they have made him a cat-lover also.

One question that seems to keep coming up is related to their sleeping patterns as they are known to sleep quite a bit during the day. So, when do these cats actually sleep and what do they do at night?

Are Maine Coons nocturnal? Maine Coons, like all cats, have the ability to be nocturnal if given the opportunity. Typically, domestic cats are kept inside at night-time so we don’t see this behavior but if left to their own devices they would hunt during the night-time and sleep for much of the day.

The cat has an adaptive eye that allows it to adjust for both daylight and low-light to allow it to operate in both environments.

Are Maine Coons nocturnal?
Charlie and Harry

The Maine Coon may be known as the Gentle Giant of the cats but that doesn’t mean they can’t move fast, in fact – they can move very fast. Usually, you’ll notice this speed when you’re trying to catch them for their annual vet check-up however their speed and agility (despite their large size) are one of the reasons why they make such a good hunter.

What Does Nocturnal Mean?

Before we get into the meat of this question, let’s look at what we actually mean by ‘nocturnal’. In its simplest form, an animal that is nocturnal is one that sleeps during the day and is active during the night.

Typically, animals that are nocturnal will have a greater reliance on other senses and if there is a reliance on eyesight then the eye will be larger to allow more light in – in the same way that a lens of a camera will be opened up wider in low light. A nocturnal animal will usually have highly developed hearing, smell or eyesight to compensate for this lack of light.

The cat, compared to us, has better hearing and a sense of smell than us but it is its ability to see in low-light that primarily enables it to be nocturnal if it so wishes.

What Does Crepuscular Mean?

I want to just make it clear what this means as it is relevant when talking about nocturnal animals. An animal that is crepuscular is one that is mainly active in twilight (dusk and dawn). This is not the same as a nocturnal or diurnal (which is the opposite of nocturnal) animal.

Why an animal would be crepuscular could be down to the movements of its prey. The animal would be active when its prey is most likely to be around and it could be that their quarry is either about to go out or come back home during that time.

Another reason why an animal might be crepuscular is down to temperatures. It could be that the environment they are in is too cold during the dead of night and too hot during the day (perhaps a desert environment).

When Do Maine Coons Hunt?

The Maine Coon will hunt whenever they get the chance to hunt! Of course, being domesticated cats they will usually find themselves inside for the majority of the day. The amount of time they spend outside will decrease the older they get as their appetite for exerting themselves diminishes a little.

Are Maine Coons nocturnal?
Harry hoping he catches a bird!

The Maine Coon will hunt at night, if allowed out and if not, it will hunt inside! How is this possible you may ask? Well, with the help of yourself. By playing with them and by simulating hunting they will hone their skills and be quite content with doing this instead of hunting the real stuff outside. Even if you do this though they will still hunt outside given the chance.

Ours have brought us in a number of different little presents over the years including a variety of different field mice, small birds, and even a few rabbits. The Maine Coon is a natural hunter and you can’t train this behavior out of them – and nor should you try. It’s their natural instinct to do this and it is partly responsible for keeping the cat so content.

What Do Maine Coons Do At Night?

The Maine Coon will either sleep, play or hunt during the night. Mostly dependent on what you allow them to do really. Ours have a cat-flap so they can come and go 24/7 – although these days they mainly only go out for toilet breaks 🙂 The exception is if it is hot and sunny. There’s not much the Maine Coon likes to do more than lay flat out in the sunshine.

Are Maine Coons nocturnal?
Charlie outside enjoying the sunshine

If they’re not outside you may find them curled up on the end of your bed although usually the Maine Coon likes to keep a bit more distance so may find a warm spot on the floor or on some discarded clothes somewhere. The exception was my first Maine Coon, Oscar.

He was not content with the floor or the end of the bed. He wanted to get into bed with me! Actually, I didn’t have much say in this as if I didn’t open the cover to let him in, he’d wait a bit just sitting there, staring at me, until he’d finally just burrow under the covers.

He would spend several hours curled up next to my chest, purring. I was actually fine with this until one day he thought he’d bring a little present he’d caught outside in with him. I actually woke up to find a half-eaten field-mouse about two inches from my mouth!

Are Wild Cats Nocturnal?

Although there aren’t any Maine Coon cats that are known to live in the wild, there are dozens of wild cat breeds who thrive without human interaction. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the average lifespan of a wild cat is about the same (in some cases more) than a domesticated cat!

Wild cats are nocturnal, of course and the nocturnal behavior is more evident than our semi-caged domestic variety. The domestic cat doesn’t need to hunt at night to survive, the wild cat does.

What Animals Are Nocturnal?

Just for a bit of fun I thought I’d add this little section to list some of the animals that you might not have realized are actually nocturnal:

  • Catfish
  • Coyote
  • Cricket
  • Flying Squirrel (err, what?)
  • Gerbil
  • Koala Bear
  • Mouse
  • Raccoon
  • Scorpion
  • Tasmanian Devil
  • Wombat

Conclusion

Hopefully this has shed some light on why the Maine Coon is actually a nocturnal creature and in fact all cats are. We obviously don’t see this behavior as we tend to keep them awake during the day by playing with them during the day so they are most likely too tired to go out hunting at night 🙂

A young Maine Coon though, given the opportunity, will spend more time than you probably realize out at night, hunting. If your cat doesn’t have the opportunity to go outside you need to make sure you’re spending a lot of time with them playing.

You’ll see them acting in the same way they would if they were hunting in the wild. You’ll move a bit of string slowly and they’ll get down low and their eyes will dilate to let in that extra bit of light.

Their backside will do a special wiggle and they’ll push off from their hind legs, jumping on the prey (err string) in a fraction of a second. Their reflexes are a lot quicker than mine, I have the scratches all over my hands to prove it!

If you’d like to know more about this amazing breed of cat, do check out my Complete Guide to the Maine CoonOpens in a new tab., where you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know (plus some great pictures).

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Matt

I'm Matt Pettitt, joint founder of the Pets Knowledge Base alongside my wife, Jane. Since I was just 2 years of age I've had pets in my life - which I don't mind admitting is 47 years! I strongly believe that when you introduce a pet into your family you should do everything you can to give it the best life possible. I've learned a lot during the past (almost) five decades and this blog gives me a medium to share everything I have learned ( both good and bad) about pets. If you'd like to know more about us, and how to contact us - take a look at our About page here!

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