The answer to why cats sleep so much

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘cat nap’, but what’s the deal with all the snoozing they do – and can cats sleep too much? Our feline friends sleep around twice as much as we do, clocking up an average 15 hours a day. Kittens and older cats doze even more, getting up to 20 hours of sleep. So, around two thirds of a cat’s life is spent snoozing. We asked our FRONTLINE® experts to explain why.

Cats are crepuscular

This fancy word means they’re most active at dawn and dusk. To us, their sleep cycle makes no sense as they seem to rest all day and go mad when we may be at our least energetic, but everything becomes clear when we remember that cats are natural predators. The types of prey cats hunt are more active during those twilight hours when there’s enough light left for our cats to spot them. 

Cats who live mainly indoors can adjust their sleeping habits to fit around their feeding schedules and to spend more time with their favourite humans. We might find they wake up to play and be sociable for a couple of hours in the morning, before everyone in the household heads out for the day.

Cats conserve energy

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Our feline friends are hardwired to give chase and hunt, mainly at night. In the wild, they need to do this to survive, and all that stalking, chasing and killing burns a lot of energy. House cats still have this wild streak, and even when playing will stalk and pounce on prey in the garden or on toys around the house. Hunting takes a lot of energy, with short but very intense bursts of activity, so cats need plenty of sleep in between.

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Cats are affected by the weather

Like many of us, cats don’t generally like the cold and the rain. When the weather is bad, they’re more likely to curl up and catch forty winks. When cats are cold, they tend to sleep curled up. They’ll stretch out more when the weather is warm and they don’t need to conserve heat. Even indoor cats will snooze when the weather isn’t great, despite the fact that they wouldn’t be going out in it anyway!

Cats can stay alert while sleeping

Cats have lots of light sleep. About 75% of their sleep time is what we call snoozing, with a cycle lasting from 15-30 minutes. During this phase, cats get the rest they need, but they’re alert enough to spring up and into action at a moment’s notice.

They like to sleep where they feel safe, which explains why they’re often found up high or curled up in a small space. It’s easy to spot when a cat is sleeping lightly – their ears twitch and turn towards interesting noises and their eyes aren’t fully closed. They can doze like this even when sitting upright.


Cats also have deep sleep

The other 25% of cats’ sleep is much deeper. During this time, their body heals and regenerates itself, so cats need this sort of sleep to stay healthy. These are shorter phases of sleep, around 10 to 15 minutes at a time, although older cats may spend as much as 30-40% of their rest time at this level.

When cats sleep deeply, they usually close their eyes tightly and even cover their face with their tail. It’s during deep sleep that our cats dream – if their paws or whiskers are twitching, there’s a good chance they’re dreaming. They can also experience rapid eye movement in this sleep state. Once the deep sleep is done, they move back into snoozing until they wake up.


Cats are consistent

Cats tend to stick to similar sleep patterns, so it’s worth having a chat with a vet if you notice a change in your cat’s sleep pattern – whether they’re sleeping a lot more or less than usual. Sleeping more can mean your pet is in pain or not feeling too good, while sleeping less can indicate certain health conditions. It’s always worth checking these things out with a vet.

So, in short, cats sleep a lot, have their own sleeping pattern (that doesn’t generally match ours) and adjust it according to the weather. There’s only usually cause for concern if a cat becomes a lot more or less sleepy than usual. So, enjoy watching your cat napping now you know what’s going on. Find out more about the quirks of our feline friends and how they behave on our cat pages.

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