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Why Do Cats Prefer a Routine? Vet-Reviewed Facts & FAQ

Vet approved

	Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Anyone who owns a cat, or has previously, knows they are essentially creatures of habit. We may sit back and watch them, thinking their lives are a bit boring, but to them, things are exactly as they should be. The food bowl is filled at the perfect time. If it isn’t, we’re alerted and put in our place for not doing our job. They sleep around the same time each day. They even expect you to do certain things at the same time. This is all due to their internal clock which oddly enough, adapts to the life you set forth for them. When things change, they aren’t happy. Let’s learn more about cats and their routines so you can better understand the felines living in your home.

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Cats & Stress

tired sick cat lying on bed
Image Credit: Natata, Shutterstock

Just like with humans, stress is hard on a cat. It can even make them physically sick. If their daily routine gets interrupted, it’s easy for them to get stressed out. You may not realize it, but your cat becomes expectant of certain things. If you change their litter each morning, they adapt to that and expect a clean box around the same time each day. If you fill their food bowls at the same time, they learn that routine as well. When things shift, or something in your life changes that affect their routine, your kitty can become ill. This is due to the stress changes can cause in your kitty.

While there haven’t been tons of studies done on the psyche of cats, that doesn’t mean that experts and even cat owners can’t pick up on a few things. Cats need to be grounded. Even feral cats and big cats live their lives on a routine. They hunt at the same times each day. They sleep at the same time. They even keep to the same geographical areas. This is why big changes at home can bother your cat so much and why you should attempt to help them by maintaining a schedule so they can be happier and healthier.


Establishing Your Cat’s Routine

Veterinarians will suggest getting your cat on a routine. This is especially true if you’re experiencing any behavioral issues from your feline. Let’s take a look at a few daily tasks you can schedule for your cat to help them avoid stress and maintain the balance they need.

Feeding Schedules

cat owner feeding her pet cat
Image Credit: Milles Studio, Shutterstock

Has your cat ever woken you up in the middle of the night to let you know a feeding was missed? Dealing with a ticked-off kitty at 2 a.m. isn’t fun for anyone involved. Especially the cat. Their routine is off and they think something is wrong. This is why they come to climb on your head or give you a scratch. A set feeding schedule is the best way to deal with these types of issues. Make sure your cat is getting their meals around the same time each day. They will learn to expect it. Cats prefer to eat little and often but should still not be overfed in terms of total amount given per day.

Food is a cat’s main motivator. When you’re at home, feed your cat at a certain time and offer them a little affection in the process. This will also help the two of you bond. If you work outside the home, and can’t be there for every feeding, a timed feeder can step in and handle feedings when you aren’t there. Your cat may miss the interactions between the two of you but they’ll understand that even while you’re gone, they are being cared for.


Most cats enjoy keeping to themselves, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a set time during the day for activity. This is a great way to give them the exercise they need and keep them from getting bored. When a cat gets bored, it will find something to get into. At least once or twice a day, grab your cat’s favorite toy and have fun. If you initiate play around the same times each day, this will help you and your cat bond and help them exude any pent-up energy they may have. Don’t be surprised, however, if when playtime rolls around your cat seeks you out ready to have fun.

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Tony and Cheetah playing on Hepper Hi Lo Cat Scratcher

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Cuddle Time

Whether your cat is a cuddler or one of those that will only allow a few pats here and there, make sure you schedule in time to give them that affection. Whether it’s cuddling up for bed or snuggling on the couch for a few minutes, making time for your kitty throughout the day will help them destress from things that may have been upsetting for them. Even the most independent cat needs a hello and a cuddle now and then.

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Final Thoughts

While you may not realize it, keeping your cat in a routine is one of the best ways to establish a good relationship between the two of you and keep them healthy. Cats simply don’t like change. If you want to be a great pet parent, try to ensure their needs are met, consistently, each day. In the end, your cat will thank you and you may even find that life with your cat becomes easier and more rewarding.

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Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock