Midnight Mischief: How Full Moons Drive Cat Behavior

From increased veterinary visits to roaring zoomies, cat owners and professionals often remark on how the full moon affects cats. But why?

Published January 14, 2024
cat looking out window at night

Full moons have always been associated with strange behavior. The term “lunacy” even comes from the Latin word for moon, luna. So if your feline friend’s antics seem to align with the lunar cycle, you might wonder if cats are affected by the moon. The answer is probably, but because scientific research is pretty limited on the connection, I’ve brought a little “woo” into the cat world with some of my own theories.

Study Reveals More Cat Emergency Visits on Full Moons

“Brace yourselves, folks,” our ER veterinarian announced as they shrugged into their fresh white coat. “It’s a full moon tonight.” A smattering of “oh nos” and “we’ve got this!” swept through the clinic floor because we knew exactly what that meant: it was about to be a very busy night.

It might sound farfetched, but I’ve worked in veterinary hospitals for over 10 years and have seen it first-hand — there’s just something about full moons that brings out the “wild” in our domestic pets. But I’m not the only one who has experienced this. In fact, one long-term study proves that it’s a common pattern.

This case series, involving 11,940 pets over 11 years, revealed that the risk of emergency room visits for cats is 23% greater on days around the full moon. Does that mean you should keep a closer eye on your cat during full moons? It wouldn’t be a bad idea…

Full Moons Provide Cats With More Light

cat looking at giant full moon

A lot of people think that cats can see in the dark, but that’s actually not true. They can, however, see well in low lighting because they’re naturally crepuscular. This means that cats are awake at dawn and dusk, which is when they do all their hunting. Full moon nights are six times brighter than those with quarter-moons, so it’s possible that cats are more active or even more playful during these evenings because they have better visibility.

RELATEDWhy Cats Aren't Nocturnal and When They're Supposed to Sleep

How the Full Moon Makes Cats Act

A lot of cat owners say that their cats act downright wacky during full moons. They can show signs of:

If any of these last longer than a few days or worsen, it’s important to see your veterinarian to have them rule out any other causes. And if your cat’s behavior does change every month on the full moon, take measures to keep your cat calm.

Quick Tip

Feline pheromone sprays are an easy and non-invasive way to infuse some chill into your cat’s life during the full moon or any time.

RELATED: 6 Reasons Why Cats Meow at Night

What to Do If Your Cat Acts Weird During a Full Moon

If your cat starts acting strange on a full moon, it’s possible there’s a connection between the two. But there could be something else going on. If they seem to be in distress, are breathing heavily, or can’t urinate, bring them to your veterinarian right away. Even if they are busy with emergency cases that night, they’ll triage your pet and give them the appropriate care in a timely manner. You might need to wait a little longer, but it’ll be worth it for the peace of mind.

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Midnight Mischief: How Full Moons Drive Cat Behavior