Feline Wellness

Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?

March 11, 2024

YAWWWWN *big stretch * Did you know that cats sleep an average of 15 hours a day?

Cats are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. This is because their natural predators are usually out hunting in the day or night time. Cats are quite smart so they hide out and sleep at those times and go out while their predators are resting. This is hereditary behavior. Oftentimes, though, pet cats will adjust to their human’s schedule and sleep through the night and keep their owner company during the day. Cats are highly adaptable creatures and will adjust their sleeping schedules to their match meal times as well. Some cats, especially kittens over eight weeks old, are active at night, too, because they have so much energy to burn. Senior cats and newborn kittens, on the other hand, usually sleep even more than 15 hours per day. 

Energy Conservation

The main reason why cats sleep so much is to conserve energy. Their energy levels ebb and flow throughout the day. Cats are predators and need to rest in order to have enough energy to stalk, pounce, and hunt their prey. Particularly because the animals cats prefer to eat - rodents and birds - are fast and elusive, cats expend a lot of effort in catching their food. They need to rest and recharge in order to have enough stamina for the hunt. 

Cats generally sleep in 15-30 minute increments - this is the famous “cat nap.” About 75% of their sleep is a shallow slow-wave sleep. Basically, they are half asleep and still alert. Their eyes may be closed, but their senses of smell and hearing are still active and they are ready to react if necessary. They may be resting or just dozing off. Although they appear to be asleep, they are likely aware of their surroundings. In this stage, the cat will usually position their body so they can spring to action in an instant if a predator appears. Their tail is often curled under their body, ears are raised and alert, and limbs are tucked in. 

Only 25% of cats’ sleep is deep, REM-level sleep. They may be dreaming - flicking their little tails, making biscuits, or even making suckling motions and sounds. Cats really couldn’t be cuter if they tried! This type of deep sleep typically lasts only 5 minutes at a time and then the cat goes back to their “cat nap” stage. 

Stimulation and Boredom

Similar to humans, especially when there's nothing good to watch on TV, cats sleep more when they are bored. If there’s nothing better to do, why not take a nap? To keep your cat stimulated and engaged, provide an array of enrichment toys to occupy their time. Wand toys, puzzle toys, cat trees - there are so many products available to keep cats active and entertained. The more fun they have, the more they will want to stay awake and play! 

Let your cat work for their food. Since a cat’s instinct is to hunt for their food, make a game of meal time. Instead of just setting out a bowl of food, tire them out with a game first. Let them pounce, chase, stalk, and hunt a toy. Once they “catch” it, feed them their meal. They will feel like they “earned” their dinner and it will satisfy their predatory instincts. It will also tire them out and prepare them for another nap.

Stress and Sickness

While cats sleep A LOT, sometimes you may notice your cat sleeping more than usual. If that happens, your cat may be feeling stressed or sick. 

Hiding out or being less active are common among cats who are scared or anxious. If you just moved to a new place or have company over, your cat may not feel safe. Sleeping may help calm them down. 

If your cat is spending a lot of time under the bed or in the closet, they may not feel so hot. Cats hide out when they are in pain or under the weather. Cats try to conceal their pain and often don’t let their owners know they aren’t feeling well. 

You know your cat better than anyone. So if they are acting differently, take them to a vet. Better safe than sorry! 

Since cats spend so much of their lives asleep, make sure their waking hours are full of love and fun. Play with them as often as you can. It will do wonders for both of you, keeping you happy and healthy and creating a solid bond between you.

Love, Nala