We all know cats are weird. They knead things they shouldn’t, perch in the most uncomfortable positions, love you the one day, hate you the next… and then there’s the sleeping thing. Sure, sleep is a necessary, natural, normal behavior. But twenty hours a day? When it comes to napping, cats are the undisputed masters of the animal kingdom, preferring to snooze their way through the day than do almost anything else. While it’s understandable (who wouldn’t like to curl up in a warm spot and catch 40 winks whenever they want), it can sometimes cross the line from cute to concerning. If you’re starting to worry about just how much sleep your cat should be getting versus the amount they actually are, you’re not alone. The good news is that you’re probably worrying over nothing. Cats aren’t people, no matter how much some of us think they are. They don’t have the same sleep cycles as us, and they don’t have the same regular bedtime hours as us. Unless their siestas suddenly start lengthening in a dramatic way, there’s every chance that their sleeping habits are perfectly normal – at least for a cat. If you’ve ever asked yourself why do cats sleep so much, here’s what you need to know (and no, before you ask, it’s not because they’re lazy. Probably).
What’s Normal… and What’s Not
If you’re not quite sure if your cat’s strange sleeping schedule is normal kitty behavior or not, then here’s some good news straight off the bat – there’s a very good chance it is. As MSN notes, cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day, but there’s a huge difference in sleep habits between individual cats. Kitties who don’t like to miss a beat can get away with as little as 12 hours of sleep a day, whereas their more relaxed counterparts will happily sleep through 20 hours or more. Both are normal. There’s also a difference between the sleep habits of kittens compared to adult cats. Just like babies, kittens need plenty of shut-eye so they can use their energy for growth and development. Left to their own devices, kittens can easily rack up 22 hours of sleep a day, with each period of brief activity followed by yet another few hours of sleep. It might seem odd that a healthy, normal cat will only keep their eyes open for four hours a day, but remember, cats aren’t people. They march to the beat of their own drummer. If they suddenly exhibit a significant change in sleeping habits, and if that change is accompanied by any other changes such as increased/decreased appetite or thirst, then it’s a good idea to get them checked out by a veterinarian. But if their sleeping habits are consistent, and if they’re being provided with enough stimulation during their waking hours to waylay boredom, it’s very likely that your sleepy companion is just doing what comes naturally to them.
Are Cats Night Owls?
You’ve probably noticed that your cat gets a surge of energy at certain times of the day – namely, at dawn and dusk. For much of the rest of the day, it’s very normal for cats to only wake up if hunger strikes, they get thirsty, need a bathroom break, or decide that a change in position might be nice. Their habit of coming alive at night has led to a common assumption that cats are nocturnal. But that would be much too conventional. As activewild.com explains, true nocturnal animals like owls, bats, moths, and raccoons who hunt, mate, and do their business at night rather than the day will usually have special adaptations for nighttime living, whether that’s extra-large eyes to help them see more clearly in low light, or a heightened sense of hearing or smell. None of that applies to cats, largely because (and contrary to popular belief) they’re not nocturnal at all, but rather crepuscular. According to hillspet.com, crepuscular is a rather fancy zoological term for animals or insects that are active in twilight (i.e. between dusk and dawn). This explains why your cat might spend much of their day curled into a ball at the bottom of the bed, but transform into a whirling dervish come evening and early morning. Even if they’ve never had to hunt for their own food, instincts run deep. Before they started living cushy lives as domesticated aristocats, cats would hunt during the early morning and evening before spending the night and day recharging their batteries and staying well away from any natural predators who wanted to make a meal of them. That same schedule of hunt, eat, sleep might have lost its relevance, but as far as cats are concerned, it’s still the only way to be.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
As we’ve learned, the main factor driving your cat’s unconventional sleeping schedule is biology. Whether they know it or not, cats are crepuscular, and that has consequences, both for their sleep habits and, in all likelihood, yours too. But why else do cats need quite so much sleep? Take your pick…
They’re Conserving Energy
During their brief waking moments, cats don’t just take a leisurely stroll around the house. They run, they jump, they stalk, and they stretch, all of which use up a huge amount of energy. It only stands to reason, then, that they’re going to try to conserve as much energy as possible outside of the twilight hours when their genes kick in and transform them from couch potatoes to Olympians.
Whereas the extra hours of daylight in summer tends to encourage us to stay up longer, in cats, it has the opposite effect. The main reason for that is simple – they’re hot. And when cats get hot, they don’t get to jump in the pool or strip off a few layers. What they can do, on the other hand, is avoid raising their body temperature any higher than it needs to be by indulging in any excess activity – hence their very wise decision to take a siesta.
There’s just no pleasing some cats. Much as they dislike being too hot, they’re also not too fond of cold, wet days either. Like their habit of getting active during dusk and dawn, this particular aversion stems back to their days as wild things, when cold, wet days meant little chance of a catch. Rather than waste their energy embarking on a doomed hunting mission, they’d simply curl up somewhere comfortable and wait for the conditions to improve – something they still do instinctively to this day.
Your cat might look the picture of innocence as they slumber away in the land of nod, but the reason they’re resting is slightly less pure than appearances would suggest. While they sleep, they’re re-stocking the energy reserves they’ll need for their next big hunt. That next big hunt might involve crying impatiently at your feet as you wrestle with a tin of cat food, but the impulses of old are too hardwired in their genes to refuse.
It’s All Your Fault
According to sciencefocus.com, some evidence suggests that humans might have a bigger impact on their cat’s behaviors than we previously thought. During a study conducted by Italy’s University of Messina, it was found that cats who were kept inside at night in smaller homes tended to mirror their owners sleeping habits more closely than cats who were allowed to roam freely around a large house and garden. In other words, the more interaction you have with your cat, the more likely they are to share your sleeping habits.
They’re Just Pretending
It may look like your cat is in a deep sleep, but most of the time, their senses are still on high alert. While they do sleep deeply in spurts, those spurts tend to last no more than around 5 minutes The rest of the time, they’re just snoozing, during which they’re aware enough of their surroundings to jump into action the moment they need to. Watch their tail and ears the next time they’re asleep – if you notice them twitching, it’s likely that they’re just resting their eyes with a little nap rather than sleeping soundly.
Can There Ever Be Too Much of A Good Thing?
When it comes to cats, there are no hard and fast rules about how, when, and how much they should sleep. Cats are very much in tune with their own bodies – they eat when they’re hungry, drink when they’re thirsty, and sleep when they need to. Sleep is vital to every living creature, directly impacting health, mood, and longevity, as cats are fully aware. Try and dictate to them when they should sleep or how many naps they should take over the course of a day, and all you’ll achieve is a headache. Unless you notice a sudden change in their sleeping habits, don’t worry about how much they’re sleeping… instead, worry about what they’re doing when they aren’t. During their brief walking moments, cats need plenty of stimulation – remember, no matter how cute they are, these are born hunters. Unless you want a seriously bored kitty on your hand, giving them the opportunity to tap into their desire to chase, stalk, and run is vital. As it’s better to work with your cat’s natural rhythms than against them, the best time of day to get them involved in some activity is the evening, during which time they’re naturally more active (dawn could also work, but unless you want to set your alarm clock for 4 am, evenings are usually preferable). A durable scratching post, a laser pen, and a feather dangler that they can chase and catch will all go a long way to keeping your cat healthy and happy. With any luck, they’ll be so worn out from their evening play session, they won’t wake you up with an early morning case of the zombies.
When to Worry
While it’s natural for cats to spend most of the day dozing, any sudden changes in sleeping patterns might suggest a problem. Once you’re attuned to what’s normal for your cat and what’s not (bearing in mind that sleep requirements vary significantly between different cats), be mindful if they suddenly start spending less time sleeping than usual, or seem to be having more prolonged bouts of deep sleep. A sudden, drastic change could suggest an underlying medical concern, especially if ts accompanied with any other changes in mood, appetite, or habits. As petsradar.com notes, if you’ve only recently welcomed your cat into your home and haven’t yet had an opportunity to become familiar with their sleeping habits, it can be a little more challenging to know if there’s cause for concern or not. If you’re at all worried, try giving your cat a little stoke next time you catch them taking 40 winks. Although they won’t necessarily spring into action, they should at least open their eyes to check out what’s disturbed them. If they’re in such a deep sleep that they don’t react, try it a few more times over the course of the day – if the same things happen repeatedly, it might be time to book them in for a health check up. It’s also worth monitoring how often they change position, and how long each bout of sleep lasts. If they sleep steadily for 12 hours or more without changing their position or getting up to use the litter box or take a drink, take it as a call of action to make an appointment with a veterinarian.