Summary: Domestic cats might, exceptionally and unusually, be temporarily scared of the dark despite being strongly predisposed to venturing out in the dark because they are crepuscular by nature.
It is a strange question because cats can see well in the dark, as we know (click this to see what they see). This should make the dark less scary. It probably does, but like humans cats can associate certain circumstances with a bad event which can make them fearful on a re-occurrence of those same circumstances. So, for example, if a cat went outside in the dark and was severely frightened by something they may be reluctant to go out into the dark again. However, I would suggest that this would be a temporary situation. Perhaps a cat might be a little more cautious but would forget the event, or their natural desire to go out in the dark to hunt would overcome any reluctance because of a bad experience. I do not believe that a domestic cat could become frightened of the dark in their own home because the surroundings are so familiar and reassuring.
Another interesting question is, “Can Cats Be Scared of Men?”
The answer is probably yes but not because of the gender of the human, necessarily, but because of an association with a man and a bad experience. If I’m correct it means that domestic cats can distinguish between women and men by appearance. This makes sense because cats are very good at learning by observation. Free-living cats learn how to hunt from their mother.
Perhaps a domestic cat might associate the voice of a man, and other general sounds that a man might make (compared to women), with a bad experience suffered at the hands of a man. This might make a cat fearful of men but not women. A man’s footsteps might be dinstinguishable from those of a woman.
It is also distinctly possible that a cat might be scared of a particular man because they were abused by that person. Once again it would depend upon the cat recognising the individual, which is entirely plausible. In the interests of equality, I have to do state that cats can become scared of women for the same reasons. However, whether it is men or women, it’s going to be quite rare.
Cats do have good memories, including good long-term memories, in my opinion. My assessment would be supported by anyone who has left their cat at a boarding cattery for two weeks while they go on holiday. When you return your cat recognises you instantly. They recognise your voice as you approach them even though they can’t see you. In fact, cats remember people many years later. Christian, the Harrods’ lion, being reunited with his human companions is a good example. Domestic cats recognise sounds and can label them.
Cats avoid places that they consider to be dangerous or hostile. They might recognise a place as dangerous by the unknown sounds that emanate from it. Or the movements and events that take place at a certain place which the cat considers to be dangerous. These are all part of the same process and which supports the view that cats might, exceptionally, be scared of the dark.
However, I think that it needs to be stressed that it is unlikely that a cat will be scared of the dark. It must be extremely rare for this to happen. Cats have a natural affinity for the dark, to go into it and to explore it. They are driven to do this. It is part of them and in the DNA.
The question is human-centric in that people are not infrequently scared of the dark. But cats do not have this innate fear of the dark as humans tend to have. It is the opposite for them: they love it.