9 Fun Facts about Feline Sleep

If you share your home with a cat (or cats) as I do, you know cats sleep a lot.

In fact, you may envy your cat at times as you work your way through your chores and she dozes in a patch of sunshine coming through the window. Cats certainly seem to be the animal kingdom experts of sleep.

16 Hours a Day

Experts vary on how many hours a day most cats sleep. Some say 12 to 16 hours a day while others say up to 20 hours out of every 24. Each cat has her own routine, of course, and how much she sleeps will depend on her other activities. However, a good average is about 16 hours a day. Compare that to our measly 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day. Cats have it made!

Age Makes a Difference

Kittens are both more active than adult cats and yet also sleep more. The difference is kittens, when awake, play fast and hard, and then sleep deeply. Many adult cats may be awake but just observing their world, conserving energy rather than using it, and as a result don’t need as much sleep as a kitten does. Geriatric cats, those in their mid to late teens, sleep more hours each day than they did as a younger adult cat. A newborn kitten and an old cat, especially one with health issues, both may sleep up to 20 to 22 hours a day.

Activated Sleep is Exercise

If you have watched a kitten sleep you may have seen her paws twitch or tail lash about and wondered what kind of a dream a kitten with no life experience could have. It’s possible the kitten was dreaming but the more likely answer is the kitten was having a period of activated sleep. During this type of sleep the kitten will kick, jerk, move her legs, tail, torso, head, and she may cry or whimper. These motions help her develop muscle strength as she’s sleeping. This type of sleep is healthy and common in kittens but gradually fades away as the kitten matures. If you see kicking and mewing in an adult cat, she’s dreaming.

Cats Need that Sleep

When cats are active, either hunting (for real or pretend) or playing, they are fast, strong, and use up a great deal of energy. Not many creatures can go from complete relaxation to a full run in just a couple of heartbeats as a cat can. These fast paced movements require a great deal of energy, however, and cannot be maintained for long. Sleep helps the cat recharge her energy reserves.

Different Types of Sleep

If your cat appears to be sleeping while the household is active around her, she’s probably not actually sleeping. She’s dozing or having a cat nap. If you watch closely, she’ll twitch her ears at a noise or open one eye just a slit when someone walks past. While not actually sleeping, she’s still conserving energy.

Not Nocturnal but Crepuscular

Most cat owners tend to refer to their cats as nocturnal which means the cat is awake and active at night. While cats can be more active at night than we generally are, cats are instead by nature crepuscular. This means they are more awake and active at dawn and at dusk. They tend to sleep more (and more deeply) during mid-day and in the dark of night but at dawn and dusk, they’re awake, active, and hunting that mouse or the favorite toy.

Cats Can Sleep Anywhere

While most cats prefer a safe sheltered place for deep sleep, they can cat nap anywhere and at anytime. My two cats tend to prefer comfort while sleeping and like a soft blanket or cat bed, but on a hot day it’s not unusual to see them stretched out on the tile in the hall where it’s cool. Some cats sleep in the bathtub. Kittens have been known to fall asleep in a shoe, boot, or purse. If a cat is tired, she will sleep anywhere at any time.

Cats Can Snore

The snores that emanate from your significant other may annoy you but a cat’s snore is downright cute. When cats are in a deep sleep and completely relaxed, the soft palate can relax as well causing the cat to make small snore-like sounds. It’s nothing to worry about but instead shows that your cat is in a deep sleep.

Alleviate Boredom

A cat who is bored is much more apt to sleep than a cat with something fun to do.  If bored, she may end up sleeping more than she needs to and that could lead to flabby muscles and weight gain. A cat tree to climb, a few toys, and interaction with you will help keep your cat awake for more of her day.

Cats are nothing if not adaptable; one of the reasons why they’re such a popular pet. If you tend to be more active at certain times of the day, your cat may well adapt her activity and sleep habits to match yours. You may find her having a quick light cat nap close to you but ready to wake up and interact with you as soon as the time is right. Don’t feel guilty if this happens; instead, enjoy her company.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Signs
Should You Play Music For Your Dog?