If you’re a cat owner, you know that your cat can sleep just about anytime, anywhere. You probably also know that your cat seems to sleep most of the day. The truth is, your cat sleeps at least twice as long as you do. Have you ever wondered why?
How Much Sleep Do Cats Get Per Day?
Most cats sleep from 13 to 16 hours each day. There have been no real scientific studies on the amount of sleep cats need each day, and every cat is different in this respect, just as every human is different in the amount of sleep he or she needs daily.
Indoor cats, for example, are less active and need to sleep less than those who live outdoors. However, indoor cats usually get a lot of sleep, maybe because they are bored.
Outdoor cats are expending more energy than indoor cats, hunting for food each day. During their sleep cycle, they would need to replace that expended energy. This isn’t to say that outdoor cats end up getting more sleep than their indoor counterparts, however.
From an evolutionary standpoint it makes sense that our indoor, domesticated cats, who have evolved from the outdoor hunters their ancestors were, would require the same amount of sleep to replenish expended energy. They carry the same genetic code as their ancestors and, like their ancestors, sleeping helps cats to conserve their energy between meals.
When Do Cats Sleep?
It might seem to you that your cat sleeps all day and runs around the house at night, waking you when you’re asleep. This is definitely true.
Cats are usually most active at sunrise and sunset, during the twilight hours (this is known as being a crepuscular predator). These hours historically provide the best cover for predators, as it is dark between dusk and dawn, which would explain why cats are genetically programmed to be more active during this time. Before breakfast, it would stand to reason that a cat will be more active, then once she has eaten, she will be ready to sleep, maybe even until close to the next mealtime.
Why Do Cats Sleep So Much?
In addition to the amount of sleep required being in a cat’s genetic code, cats sleep a lot for other reasons:
- They are conserving energy. In between meals, today’s domesticated cats are conserving energy just like their ancestors did when they hunted for meals in the wild.
- They are affected by the weather. Rainy days and colder weather equal sleepy cats, just as the rain and cold affects us humans’ sleep cycle sometimes.
- They aren’t always sleeping deeply. Cats may be sleeping lightly (which is why that’s called a cat nap) or sleeping deeply. One thing you might notice about your cat is that she will place herself in a defensive position, one from which she can spring up quickly if needed to defend herself. When she is sleeping lightly or dozing, she is on alert. Cat naps last from about 15 minutes to an hour.
- They may be sleeping deeply after the cat nap phase. The cat nap phase of sleep as mentioned above, lasts from 15 minutes to an hour, after which your cat will go into a deeper sleep. (Kittens skip the cat nap phase altogether and just go straight into deep sleep). While your cat is sleeping deeply, she may twitch as she is dreaming about hunting, playing, and other active pursuits. During sleep, cats can still notice smells and sounds, which has kept them safe over the years (think about it – a deeply sleeping cat who didn’t notice sounds or smells could easily and quickly become dinner for a predator in the wild).
- They may be older or younger. Older cats, not surprisingly, tend to sleep more than younger cats. Kittens also sleep more than adult cats.
Do Cats Dream?
The answer to this is a simple yes. You’ve probably noticed your cat dreaming. While she is in a deep sleep, her paws and whiskers twitch and you may notice here eyes moving back and forth in a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state. Cats are likely dreaming during REM sleep, and during non-REM sleep, their bodies are repairing themselves and growing further (this is the replenishing sleep mentioned above).
Kittens tend to dream more than older cats. As cats grow older, dreaming decreases.
What do cats dream about? While we can’t ask a cat to verify, it is likely that they are dreaming of hunting prey in the wild. Birds, mice and other critters are probably featured heavily in the dreams of cats. Cats are like humans, and dream about things that they encounter in their daily lives.
Cats may also sleepwalk. However, this phenomenon has only been seen in cats with brain damage near the brainstem. It is believed that damage to the locus coeruleus in the brainstem caused the cats to physically act out their dreams once REM sleep began.
Is My Cat Really Snoring?
Some cats, like some people, snore when they sleep. This happens when the cat’s airway is obstructed by extra skin from the soft palate. Snoring can occur in very relaxed cats, in cats with respiratory problems or allergies, and often in shorter-nosed breeds like the Exotic Shorthair, Himalayan and Persian cats.
Note Your Cat’s Sleep Patterns
If you notice a major change in your cat’s sleeping patterns, it could indicate a physical problem. Is she sleeping a lot more than normal, or a lot less? More sleep could indicate an illness, and less sleep could indicate another type of physical problem like hypothyroidism. Make sure to take your cat to the vet as soon as possible if you notice any of these changes.