Cats and Sleep: How Much Do They Really Need?
By: Tuck Sleep | Jun 6, 2018
Curled up, stretched out, or with fluffy tails across their face, no one can deny that cats are professional sleepers. Spending more than half the day asleep, our feline companions can count themselves among the ranks of sleepiest animals.
Keep reading to learn more about feline sleeping patterns and how you can help your cat get better sleep.
How much do cats sleep?
Cats sleep between 12 to 16 hours a day on average. Domesticated cats hail from those in the wild, who as predators can enjoy the luxury of sleeping more. For prey animals, on the other hand, staying awake is literally a matter of life and death.
Your particular cat’s sleeping patterns may vary, depending on her age and health. Kittens need more sleep – up to 20 hours – because they are spending so much energy growing into cathood. On the other end of the spectrum, older cats start to slow down around age 7 and need more rest, especially if they have arthritis or joint issues.
Are cats nocturnal?
While cats do spend a lot of time awake at night, they are more properly categorized as “crepuscular” than “nocturnal.” This refers to them being most active at dawn and dusk.
In the wild, cats do much of their stalking at night, so domesticated cats still have it in their instincts to be active in the twilight hours when their prey is out and about. They are more likely to spend time dozing during the day, conserving their energy to hunt at night. Cats also have to eat multiple small prey in order to satisfy their appetite, so they catnap in between their hunts.
However, like dogs, domesticated cats are prone to adjust their sleep schedule to fit their owner’s schedule – sleeping more when you’re not around and less when you are.
Do cats experience sleep stages like humans do?
Cats do progress from slow-wave sleep to REM sleep like humans and other mammals, but the time they spend in each stage, as well as a full sleep cycle, is much shorter.
Cats spend about 6 minutes in REM sleep, while humans will spend between 90 to 120 minutes in REM sleep per night. Look for twitching whiskers and eyelids to catch your cat dreaming.
Outside of REM, the majority of the time they’re in a sort of light sleep where their noses and ears stay on alert – ready to wake at a moment’s notice to hunt or protect themselves. During this stage, cats are able to sleep in an upright or sitting position simply by tensing their muscles.
Is my cat sleeping too much?
Cats with fewer toys and playtime will sleep more out of pure boredom. However, if your cat seems excessively sleepy or lethargic when they are awake, it could be a sign of a health problem such as anemia or hyperthyroidism. They could also be in pain from feline arthritis.
Cats also tend to sleep more when they are overweight, so feeding your cat a healthier leaner diet can increase their energy and reduce their tendency to oversleep.
Don’t be alarmed if your cat snores. Some short-nosed cats, such as the Persian, Himalayan, and Exotic Shorthair breeds, are prone to snoring.
How can I help my cat sleep better?
1. Feed your cat a healthy diet.
Cheaper foods tend to contain fewer nutrients. As a result, your cat will be less frisky and more lethargic. Give your cat better food to ensure more restful sleep.
2. Give your cat plenty of playtime.
Cats like to play. If you don’t give them what they want, don’t be surprised when they wake you up at 2:00 am by pawing at your face. You can keep them engaged during the day by placing a bird feeder outside a window. Then, place her kitty condo by the window at night so she can be entertained while you sleep.
3. Make a firm decision about inviting your cat into your bed.
If you choose to let your cat sleep with you, like 62% of cat owners do, get a mattress large enough and with decent motion isolation so you’re not roused by her collar jingling during a dream. Cats are also very territorial, so think hard and know for sure you want to let her sleep with you. Once you allow cats into your bedroom, they’re not going to leave without a fight.
4. Do not give in to your cat’s pawing.
If you want your cat to learn to leave you alone during the night, ignore her pawing. If you give in and start playing with her, she’ll learn that she can win and consider herself the dominant one in the house.
5. Feed your cat at night.
Cats tend to sleep well after a feast. If your cat bothers you while you sleep, you can use a timed food bowl to feed in to her natural instincts.
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