Tonawanda News


January 28, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: When do you sleep?

Tonawanda News — Knowledge is power and my favorite form of knowledge is vocabulary. When I took a field course in Costa Rica for three weeks studying rainforest animals I committed to memory a few terms that I use often when talking about animals and pets and when they sleep.

In college I was also taught that one of the best ways to not only remember, but to truly understand a concept is to teach the idea to a friend. This is probably one of the reasons why I still have the following party-worthy words ready to go at a moment’s notice. As soon as I learned them, I began sharing.

Understanding your pet’s behavior directly relates to understanding your pet’s health. Since about third grade we’re all familiar the word “nocturnal.” Nocturnal animals are those animals that are active during night and sleep during the day. 

Sugar gliders, rats, hamsters, bats and owls are popular examples. A slightly less-known vocabulary word would be the term that describes the opposite: those animals that are active during the day and sleep during the night.

It is silly to think that humans, who are mostly “diurnal,” seldom know that word for their behavior. There are many examples of diurnal animals, we see them every day when we are awake.

If you can take one thing away from America’s favorite series of vampire-themed fantasy, twilight is an activity time as well. “Crepuscular” animals are active during twilight, such as dawn and dusk. The word crepuscular is derived from the Latin crepusculum, meaning “twilight.” Knowing if your pets are truly crepuscular might resolve your original thoughts of your animals being lethargic. The more likely answer is that they are active when you are sleeping.

Want to know why your cat starts kneading your arm at 5 a.m. or why your dog starts tugging on your blanket at 5:45 a.m.? It has to do with their activity level.

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